TL;DR: Premier week was so amazing that I watched the episodes twice, and I don’t think you understand what kind of miracle that is.
So, way back when I heard that writer Song Jae-jung was going to be back in dramaland this summer, I was excited. Queen In-hyun’s Man is in contention for my top favorite kdrama ever, and Nine: Nine Times Time Travels and The Three Musketeers have definitely earned their slots on my recommendations list. When I found out that W was going to be another speculative fiction drama, my hope skyrocketed. And after a lackluster first half of 2016, I really wanted W not to disappoint me.
I’m dying, dear reader. I’m absolutely, positively dying. *rolls about in delight*
Portal fantasies have held a special fascination for me ever since The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and playing with the fourth wall, when done well, is a surefire way to gain my admiration. W knocked it out of the park this week in so many ways, from the stunning transitions in and out of the comic world to Yeon-joo’s many meta moments to narrations about character backgrounds/roles to Chul’s chill-inducing question: who the hell are you?
The second time I watched these episodes, that was the moment that stuck with me most. Chul is more than just a comic book character—but is he a “full” person? He has agency and even the ability to, if not break the fourth wall, then to recognize that something is there beyond what he thinks his world is. Is this a completely new development? Or has it been going on for a while? Because Sung-moo’s obsession with killing Chul is not just an “I’m tired with creating the same intellectual property for a decade, let’s wrap this sucker up and move on to something new”—it’s the utter conviction that he has created a monster. How long has Sung-moo been aware that the world he made is “real”? How long has he been stewing in this dark conviction that he is a god to his creation? What happened before the show started that has driven him to this point?
I doubt that Yeon-joo’s appearance in the comic is the first time something like this has happened, though she is likely the catalyst for Chul’s “break” at the end of episode two. Yeon-joo has stolen my heart with her fangirl devotion to W and her ability to make the leap to “holy shit, I went into the comic!” It’s so refreshing to have a supernatural story where the heroine isn’t constantly gaslighted and put in danger in order to further the hero’s man pain. No, she knows what happened—she might not know why, but it did, and that actually puts her in an advantageous position when it comes to the hero.
She knows that his world has certain conventions, certain rules, that it must follow by its very nature, including how to “end” a chapter. She is privy to conversations she wasn’t present for, thoughts he never shared, and actions he never witnessed. She has seen him at his worst, his weakest, and she watched him and cheered for him when he chose to devote his life to the singular cause of revenge. That kind of intimacy could be terrifying in the wrong hands—like Sang-moo’s.
If there’s one thing this writer is good at, it’s giving inanimate objects a life/will/rules of their own and making them terrifying. So what is W? Is it its own entity? Chul’s ability to change the car crash into would argue that the comic is at least somewhat running by its own rules. Sung-moo can’t force it to bend to his will entirely anymore–is that because Yeon-joo has changed Chul somehow? Has her presence sent out ripples that will force W to diverge further and further from what Sung-moo wants?
Or has Sung-moo been losing control of W for a while now? Is he being forced to work by W’s rules? While we don’t know what led up to Chul being stabbed on the roof, the second murder attempt by the nurse and the third murder attempt via GIANT TRUCK are both on dependent on the story beforehand (recovering in the hospital and being out for a drive, respectively). Is it just Sung-moo’s artistic integrity keeping him from doing a “rocks fall; everyone dies” ending? (For example, an earthquake collapses the hospital or Chul has an aneurysm or a previously unknown heart defect and drops dead.) Or is Sung-moo trapped within the framework of W and can only attempt to murder his monster in story-plausible, rule-following ways? Provided his monster doesn’t manage to save himself, of course.
My anticipation for this week’s episodes is killing me, as are these questions: If Yeon-joo can bring back clothes from the comic book world, will she be able to bring Chul with her? And if she does, will the killer follow?
Who is the killer within the comic? I’ve seen a couple people speculate that it is Sung-moo, which would be fun since it would mean that Sung-moo has been aware of the reality of W for several years now. (I’d also love to see “real world” fan theories about who it could be. Does Yeon-joo have a favorite suspect?) But what if he’s not? What if Sung-moo is more of a by-the-seat-of-his-pants writer and doesn’t actually know?
What if he has created a nameless, faceless, anonymous assassin…and can no longer fully control what they do?
By the Numbers
- Bullets fired: 7
- Dead bodies: 4
- Murder attempts: 3
- Years spent in prison: 1
- Months passed by: 2
- Minutes passed by: 30
- Bechdel Test: 2 episodes passed