W: Two Worlds, Episodes 5 & 6

TL;DR: In which I am SUPER excited about the identity of The Killer and a “god” gets into an argument with his creation about free will and what makes something or someone real. Creators everywhere are a bit nervous after both of these events.

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Upon reflection, it is amazing to me just how very little action there was in last week’s episodes. Both of them were instead dominated by long conversations: Chul and Seung-moo in episode five and Yeon-joo with Seung-moo or Soo-bong in episode six. It is a wonder what high emotional stakes can do and also a testament to how important the aftermath of trauma can be.

It makes me wish even more that we had this kind of processing from Yeon-joo after Chul shot her back in episode three. Episodes five and six proved that exploring that kind of emotional fallout can be crucial for character and plot development, and I’m a little miffed that Chul’s decision to shoot Yeon-joo hasn’t been addressed yet. It was still a huge risk and a lucky guess on his part—what if she hadn’t been immortal?—but more importantly, he terrified her to the point of fainting.

So while I appreciated their hospital scene (particularly Yeon-joo extending her hospitality since she knew how uncomfortable it had been for her to be in world without a place to stay or money) and their first mutually enjoyable kiss, I still can’t quite ship this couple in my heart of hearts. If anything is going to keep them from reaching my personal OTP status, it’s going to be this. I need Chul to really apologize for what he did, but I have a feeling the whole bathroom scene was just a setup for revelations about Seung-moo.

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I was shocked and delighted when Chul revealed that the first person he pulled through to save him was Seung-moo. And then I was horrified when Seung-moo used the opportunity not to save the dying man in front of him, but to stab him again. I just—wow, what a moment. Especially when Chul followed it up with a scathing rant about how Seung-moo had clearly created him—rich, handsome, powerful, heroic—to be everything Seung-moo wasn’t. Seung-moo, Chul argued, was a pathetic, broken monster who, when confronted with his living, breathing creation decided to finish off the job of killing him.

Which was why it was even more important to me that Seung-moo got to tell his side of the story. Ooof, what a story that was, about a man hitting rock bottom, losing his wife and his daughter, and deciding to just call it quits on a project that wasn’t working, that wasn’t going anywhere fast enough. A man who was a little alarmed to wake up, hungover, in the morning, and discover that…it wasn’t over. That, somehow, this fictional character still clung to life, to hope, so Seung-moo decided to have mercy, to give it another chance. His fortune turned around radically, but at a price: he became increasingly frightened as this fictional character started taking control of more and more of its story. Seung-moo thought he was losing his grip on sanity. He told his friends, who laughed at him, went to therapists, who didn’t help him, and even tried to run away a couple times.

Only to come back to it so he could earn enough money to make his daughter set for life to make up for the shitty childhood he gave her.

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I think Seung-moo was breathtakingly reckless to taunt Chul (perhaps recklessness is the one trait they both share?), and I hate (in a good way) that Chul ended up shooting him. What Pyrrhic victory that was, for Chul to claim his free will in defiance of his creator’s original designs…only to end up with the mantel of monster that Seung-moo had insisted was his. Chul recognized that bitter irony of turning himself into The Killer he had hunted so long, and it was the final straw in his existential crisis.

Seung-moo’s compassion afterward was something I was pleasantly surprised by. I liked that he really does know Chul, and he knows that if Chul had wanted him 100% dead, he would be dead. While I’d argue that giving Seung-moo a minuscule chance at survival doesn’t exactly absolve Chul of attempted murder, the fact that Seung-moo tried to get rid of “The End” is a strong argument for an armistice between them.

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Sometimes I still feel like Yeon-joo isn’t getting quiet enough screen time for her emotions to play out. Episode six made great strides to rectify this deficit between her you’ll-get-over-this-it’s-just-a-manhwa conversation with her father’s editor and her discussion with Seung-moo about what happily ever after actually means.

(What can happily ever after be in the context of this show? If Chul leaves the manhwa permanently, won’t everyone in the comic world be frozen for eternity? What does it mean for Yeon-joo that she is now a main character there? If she chooses to stay there with Chul and there is a “happily ever after,” will she and all the rest freeze there in that moment of completion?)

I’ve been on the fence about whether or not I was going to believe the theory that Yeon-joo was the original artist for Chul. That brief scene we saw of her drawing as a child could have been at any point early on in W’s run, so Yeon-joo could have been drawing dad’s character instead of Seung-moo getting inspiration from her. (Or the two of them conjuring him up together.) But what finally converted me to Yeon-joo’s goddess-hood, if you will, was that our first glimpse of the police boat speeding toward the bridge to save Chul was when Yeon-joo came up with the idea—not when Soo-bong drew it.

Seung-moo has lost his connection to W. Yeon-joo has realized hers. That smile on her face when she realized she was back in prison? That was glorious. We have an entirely new avenue for storytelling, and I am excited.

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I’ve really enjoyed Gwynne’s commentary on some of the show’s meta moments. Seung-moo is not a meticulous plotter—that much has been hinted at before, and last week’s episodes clenched it. It was such an awful moment for Chul to find out that person who murdered his family isn’t actually a person—it was a plot point, a walking boogeyman designed to give him a tragic background so he could be a proper hero, so he could have a goal to endlessly chase after but never catch while Seung-moo milked his cash cow long enough to set Yeon-joo up for life.

Under normal circumstances, that would just be a sign of weak plotting likely to be remedied when Seung-moo was ready to wrap things up properly—but the world of W has a life partly of its own design.

And that means we have a nameless, faceless killer, hunting for Chul, because that is the sole reason for its existence. How can you arrest or put on trial or kill or even stop a murderous force? What are the victory conditions for this situation?

I don’t know, and that uncertainty is delicious.

(Crack theory, if The Killer stops being an entity: As the “new” goddess of W, Yeon-joo will be able to start grounding/building a character for The Killer, allowing Chul to find clues about it in a “logical” way, so she can eventually give it the face/name of one of the characters in the manhwa. Though that is an ethical quagmire all its own.)

By the Numbers

  • Stabbings: 1
  • Shootings: 1
  • Months passed by: 2
  • Fight scenes: 3
  • Manhwa volumes: 33
  • Bechdel Test: 4 episodes passed (as of episode 6)

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