W–Two Worlds: Episode 5
I feel like there are no rules in this drama, which is terrifying and thrilling all at once. Is this the story of a hero, or a monster? Is this drama about creating your own happy ending, or is it about discovering that real life has no such thing as neat narrative arcs, or meaning, or purpose? Really, depending on which side of the bed you woke up on today, it could feel like either extreme. Maybe happily-ever-after is just what you make of it… or maybe happy endings are a construct that never existed in the first place.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Kang Chul’s entire world literally comes to a grinding halt the second he becomes aware that he’s a manhwa character. After stepping through the mysterious webtoon frame connecting the manhwa world to the real one, Chul comes out on the other side and walks down the street in the pouring rain, still in a haze over the earth-shattering events he just witnessed.
Across the street, something catches his attention: It’s an ad for W the webtoon, with a giant image of Kang Chul plastered to the side of a bus, asking if he’ll finally catch his family’s killer. Chul is so shocked that he crosses the street in the middle of traffic, not even registering all the honking cars.
He comes face to face with his own… face… and looks stricken to see the proof so plainly, that he is a fictional character. He reaches out a shaky hand to touch the sign, like he’s still not sure that it’s real.
And because he’s smart, Chul goes straight to the nearest bookstore to track down his own manhwa. What he encounters is more shocking than he anticipated though—an entire display filled with volumes, all featuring him on the cover.
It takes him a moment to work up to it, but he rips open the first volume and sees character introductions for him, and the people closest to him. The story opens the way we opened the drama, in the Olympics shooting match where he won his gold medal. As Chul reads the part about his family’s brutal murder, he wells up with angry tears.
He rips open volume after volume, and we get clever exposition on Chul’s intervening years this way: Prosecutor Han got elected to the National Assembly, and though his public face was charismatic, behind closed doors he continued to hunt Kang Chul ferociously.
Chul sought out top fighter Do-yoon for martial arts lessons, saying that he had the feeling that he’d be gaining more enemies soon and wanted to protect himself. Chul only wanted training from the best, and the boys developed a natural friendship as they trained.
Chul went after the city’s biggest criminals himself, fighting crime lords and their henchmen with Do-yoon by his side. That’s how he regained the public’s favor—by using his crime investigation show W to clean up the streets.
The more Chul’s popularity grew, the more people turned on Assemblyman Han, accusing him of orchestrating a witch-hunt on Kang Chul all those years ago. But still to this day, Assemblyman Han believed that Chul killed his own family and deserved to rot in jail.
By that point in his own story, Kang Chul has caught up with all thirty-three volumes of the manhwa, and he throws the last one down onto the pile with a thud. He sits there numbly on the floor of the bookstore for a long time, until the employees finally ask him to leave because they’re closing.
He asks dispassionately if this manhwa is popular, and the employees say it’s been a bestseller for over five years. He scoffs at that, calling it funny. I have no idea how he has the presence of mind to find humor in the irony. He gets up to leave, and when the clerk offers to bag the books for him, he says, “I don’t need them. It’s a story I already know.”
At the hospital, Yeon-joo stares at the webtoon image of Kang Chul on his plane, saying to himself that he might be shaken if she said she loved him one more time. (I love that she gets to see these private moments after the fact!) She relives their kiss as she thinks of him.
Su-bong calls and says that the technicians checked all the equipment at Dad’s workshop, but everything is in working order and the server is fine too, so they don’t know what caused the sudden freeze-out. Su-bong is so freaked out that he couldn’t stay in the workshop alone, and tells Yeon-joo that he’ll return when her dad shows up.
When she’s called in for a surgery, Yeon-joo scrubs up as her friend Seok-bum comes by, asking randomly if she has a fiancé that she never told him about. He says that someone is here looking for her saying that he’s engaged to her, and Yeon-joo says he must be mistaken since she has no guy in her life to be engaged to.
She’s about to go into surgery when it dawns on her that there IS someone who goes around saying that he’s her fiancé…
She comes out to the lobby where Seok-bum is talking to a man in black, and when she arrives, the man turns around. It’s Kang Chul, of course, and Yeon-joo gasps, her jaw practically hitting the floor. Chul winks at her, ha.
Seok-bum asks if they really know each other, and Chul answers yes before confidently marching up to Yeon-joo and leading her away by the hand. She’s so stunned that she just watches everything he’s doing like she must be imagining this, and when she finally finds her voice, she asks if she’s been sucked back into his world. She stammers that no, this is her hospital with her friend Seok-bum, and Chul says, “I came here, to your world.”
He tells her that his world stopped—everything but him. He doesn’t know why he’s the only one not frozen in time, and wonders if it’s a perk of being the lead character. He says he left it all and came here, and spent all the cash he had in his pocket to read all thirty-three volumes of his manhwa.
He understands now how Yeon-joo knew him so well, and guesses that she was a devoted reader who’s followed him for seven years. “Do you know how much I regret it now? I should’ve listened to your warning then,” he says without bitterness. He thinks back to her warning in prison that he’d be unhappy if she told him the truth, and says he never could have imagined that the truth would be this.
But he adds, “I know now, how much you were thinking of me with your silence then.” He says that’s why he came, to say goodbye one last time. She gives him a quizzical look, and he smiles faintly and thanks her for being so considerate to the end. He says that she’s a really good person, and is qualified to become a really good doctor.
Yeon-joo searches his face, not knowing what to make of any of this, when she’s interrupted by a phone call asking her to come down to surgery. She asks Chul to wait here for her and not go anywhere or do anything, and to just think of her as his guardian.
He laughs and asks if she’s mimicking him, and she points out that here he has no money, no ID, and no house, which is a predicament she understands well. She says she’s not rich like him, but she’s a real doctor here, with money and a home. Aw, he looks genuinely touched by her words.
She pleads with him to just stay right here and wait for her, and he manages a faint smile to reassure her that he will. Why does it look like his eyes are crying though? Satisfied, she turns to go.
But at the last second Chul pulls her back towards him and leans down to kiss her, this time slow and soft and lingering. Humona.
When he finally steps back, Yeon-joo still has her eyes closed like she doesn’t want to wake up from this moment. It’s incredibly endearing.
She does eventually open her eyes again, and then she starts to panic, wondering why he’s suddenly being like this. Chul says that after reading the manhwa, his unhappiness increased about ninety-nine-fold, but there was one good thing that came out of it. He says that he felt like he was always the one at a disadvantage, but then he got to see Yeon-joo’s true intentions too: “So it’s probably best not to act coy.” Embarrassing!
Yeon-joo gets the second call from the nurse and has to go, but urges Chul to wait for her, and to seek out her friend Seok-bum if anything happens while she’s in surgery. Chul says that Seok-bum acted prickly when he said he was her fiancé, and makes sure that he isn’t her boyfriend. Yeon-joo reminds him that she already told him she didn’t have a boyfriend.
I don’t like the way Chul’s face falls when Yeon-joo leaves…
Yeon-joo is on edge all throughout her surgery, and Professor Crazy Dog is doubly annoyed at her tardiness because her name is Oh Yeon-joo, and he’s currently mad at all Oh Yeon-joos of the world because his favorite manhwa is being ruined by one.
Kang Chul doesn’t stay and wait for her, of course, and seeks out Dad’s workshop instead. When no one answers the doorbell, he breaks in. Despite knowing that he’s about to enter his creator’s workshop, it’s overwhelming when he sees his face pinned up on every wall. There are conceptual drawings of every detail of his life, from his car, to this penthouse suite, to his best friends.
What haunts him the most is a sketchpad on Dad’s desk, with early conceptual sketches of Kang Chul’s face, as he worked out the facial features—more proof that he was made, not born. Chul catches his own reflection in the window and snarls at what he sees, and it sends him into a rage. He throws the sketchpad and starts tearing apart Dad’s office in a fury, until he sees something that makes him still.
He walks over to the wall where Dad has hung a series of pictures of him with his daughter, as a child, a young girl, a teen, and then a doctor—where she is clearly recognizable as Yeon-joo.
He’s stunned and thinks back to how Yeon-joo saved him over and over, how she was invincible in his world, and that she said she was a fan who wanted him to get a happy ending. He looks at that photo like it’s a cruel joke, and storms out.
Meanwhile, Yeon-joo’s surgery finally ends, and she fails to sneak out before Crazy Dog chews her out for being insubordinate lately, which he traces to the moment he told her he was her dad’s fan. As usual, Crazy Dog ends up ranting about W instead, angry at her father for suddenly turning his thriller manhwa into a romance. Hilariously, Yeon-joo argues back that a hero can sometimes fall in love because he can’t be working all the time: “He’s a person too!”
Crazy Dog is appalled that she’s arguing with him about this, and huffs that it’s not love—it’s just a passing fancy. It’s Yeon-joo’s turn to get huffy, and she asks why it couldn’t be love between Chul and Yeon-joo. Crazy Dog keeps asking for proof, and she just touches her lips and says she can’t tell them.
The staff assumes she knows some spoilers, and Crazy Dog goes extra crazy at the thought that Kang Chul might end up with Yeon-joo when he’s supposed to marry So-hee, who’s stuck by his side for ten years. I seriously love that they’re having a shouting fanwar about this—it feels like my life.
Yeon-joo gets riled up as she argues that there’s been no indication that Kang Chul sees So-hee as anything more than a friend, while Crazy Dog calls it ludicrous to assume that the story would veer from the formula. Yeon-joo: “How can you say there’s a formula for people’s feelings?! Why are you interpreting Kang Chul however you want when you don’t even know? Kang Chul likes ME!” Pwahahahaha.
Everyone in the room turns to look at her like she’s crazy, and Yeon-joo hangs her head when she catches her slip. Crazy Dog says that Yeon-joo seems about the maturity level of his tween daughter who’s currently going through her fangirl stage, and offers to introduce them so they can be friends.
Yeon-joo is so impatient to get out of there that she asks to get yelled at even more later, and just runs out with Crazy Dog screaming after her. Kang Chul is nowhere to be found, of course, and she wonders what he meant by “final goodbye.” She tries calling Dad, but his phone is still turned off.
Dad finally turns up at his workshop, and trudges inside to pour himself a drink. He checks his phone to find panicked texts from Su-bong saying that Yeon-joo has gotten sucked into the manhwa world again, and then when he reads Yeon-joo’s text looking for him, he calls her back.
Yeon-joo answers in a hurry, but before Dad can say anything to her, Kang Chul walks out from his office. Aaaah! Dad drops his glass of scotch, understandably terrified. Yeon-joo can hear Kang Chul’s voice on the other end, and realizes that he’s found her father.
Chul says that they’ve met a few times before, and that they have a lot to talk about. At last Dad stammers, “How…?” Chul says that’s really a question for him: “They say you made me.”
Chul pulls out a chair for Dad and wants to talk, not really giving him much of a choice in the matter. Dad shuffles over warily, eyeing the box-cutter on the desk as he nears. He looks pretty shifty, but he manages to grab the box-cutter and swing at Chul.
Chul dodges quickly and disarms Dad, slamming his head down onto the desk. Yeon-joo gasps as she hears their struggle on the phone, but can’t do anything to stop them. Dad continues to attack, so finally Chul bonks Dad on the head with the butt of his pistol, sending him to the ground.
He picks Dad up and throws him into the chair before lowering his gun right in Dad’s face. Chul: “Be grateful to your daughter. I’m treating you gently for her sake. While you were anxious to kill me, your daughter worked hard to save me.”
With her cell phone still on the call with Dad, Yeon-joo grabs her desk phone and calls Su-bong to hurry up and get to the workshop, because Kang Chul is here and confronting Dad right this minute. She has to say it twice for Su-bong to comprehend, and he stands up in the middle of a PC-bang shouting, “KANG CHUL IS HERE?!”
Yeon-joo urges him to get there fast, and to tell Chul that she’s on her way and has something to tell him. She hangs up and runs out of the hospital, and Su-bong sits there having a mini-freakout before grabbing his snacks (do you have time for that?) and rushing out.
Thankfully Chul really does want to talk, and withdraws his gun. He looks down at his hand that Dad scratched up in their scuffle, and muses with interest, “I bleed.” He notes that Dad isn’t invincible in this world: “Just an average person, who hurts and bleeds. That’s normal. That’s fair. It was always me dying and bleeding—unfairly.”
We flash back to the night that Dad drew him getting stabbed on the rooftop. After finishing the bloody drawing, Dad had reached for his scotch with a satisfied look, when suddenly a hand came reaching out of his monitor and grabbed him by the collar. It wasn’t Yeon-joo that he pulled in there?!
Chul remembers now that it was Dad that he pulled in the first time, and we see Dad standing on the roof looking horrified, while Kang Chul pleaded with him to call emergency. Not only did he not make the phone call, but he turned around to go pick up the killer’s knife.
Kneeling over Chul’s body, Dad had said in a shaky voice, “Let’s end this,” and stabbed him right in the gut. Ack!
Even after getting stabbed, Chul forced the bloody knife out of his gut and turned it on Dad, shoving it into his chest. Dad fell back in terror, but they were both shocked to see that he was unharmed—it was then that Chul saw he was invincible.
In the present, Chul says that Dad was the one to deliver the deadly blow, and no one seemed to know that there were two separate killers on the roof that night. He’d had a hunch that the second killer was the one who kept trying to kill him without reason, not that he knew then what Dad was to him.
Chul supposes that Dad got everything he wanted out of him like fame and fortune, and when he had no use for the character anymore, he thought to kill him off heartlessly. Chul finds it amusing how famous Dad is, because he found out a lot with a quick internet search, like how he was always an alcoholic and an unsuccessful husband and father who spent many years as a talentless no-name artist.
In flashback, we see Little Yeon-joo sitting in the corner drawing while her parents argued over Dad’s drinking for the millionth time. OMO—she’s drawing a boy holding a gun, and though it doesn’t look like Kang Chul (because it’s a kid’s cartoon drawing), it’s got to be him.
Chul doesn’t know that detail though, and says that Dad created a character who was the exact opposite of himself in every way—strong-willed, young, famous, successful—a strong man. He laughs to recount an article that said he was named Kang Chul (meaning “steel”) for that reason, and he surmises that Dad was living vicariously through him.
Chul continues narrating that it didn’t last long though, because Mom and Yeon-joo eventually left him, and Dad was such a weak person that he fell apart instantly. And because Dad didn’t have the strength to kill himself, he had Kang Chul commit suicide on that bridge in his place: “Because the only thing you can control in this world is me.” Dayum.
Chul says he’s had nightmares every night since that he was drowning in the Han River, and it’s only now that he knows—he really did die that day, until Dad changed his mind and rewrote the story.
Dad finally speaks up to argue that point, because he didn’t change his mind at all. He says that he killed Chul on that bridge, but Chul was the one who held on, like he was begging to live. And because Dad had affection for the character, he softened and chose to let him live. He says now that that was his critical error, because after that, Kang Chul became a monster.
Yeon-joo is heartbroken as she hears Dad scream that he gave Kang Chul everything—all the characteristics he wished he could have. Dad says that Chul is trying to understand the world with the brain that HE gave him: “Does that make sense? You’re nothing but a drawing!”
Dad says he thought he was going mad at first, and went to a therapist, and told his friends. But no one believed him. He even thought of running away because he was so scared, but then he couldn’t because of Yeon-joo.
He admits that he didn’t do anything for his daughter while she was growing up, but he was doing well and the manhwa was successful and making money, so he told himself to hang on a little longer. Dad decided to continue the manhwa until he made enough so that Yeon-joo could live comfortably for the rest of her life, and on the phone Yeon-joo sighs to hear this from her dad.
Dad argues that Chul isn’t the only one having nightmares, because he dreamt nightmares every night too, but held on with the belief that he could end it soon. But every attempt to kill Kang Chul has been thwarted, and then Chul even went so far as to pull Yeon-joo into his world.
That’s why Dad stabbed him, in the hopes that this curse would end. He rants, “You are an illusion. You’re not anything! You’re just a character I created! So why are you showing up in front of me and pretending to be a person? Why are you pulling my daughter into this and continuing the story however you please? You’re just a character, do you hear me?! A predetermined setting that I created!”
Dad actually eggs Kang Chul on to try and shoot him, insisting that he won’t be able to because Dad created him to be a just, righteous character who can’t murder anyone. Dad looks almost triumphant as he declares Chul a law-abiding hero with a conscience whom everyone loves, because he made it so.
Ohmygah, DAD! STOP IT. You can actually see the defiance spark in Kang Chul’s eyes, as Dad full-on gloats that even Chul being here now isn’t of his own free will—it’s because Dad created him to be strong-willed and relentless. Dad says his mistake was in making Chul so strong-willed that he kept fighting his own death, but he says even that is his own doing as Chul’s creator.
Dad: “You have never once stepped outside of my settings for you!” Dad grabs Chul’s gun and sticks it in his own chest, urging him to go ahead and shoot. Yeon-joo pleads with Dad to stop, even though he can’t hear her.
Chul struggles with the pistol in his hand, but in the end Dad was right about him—he can’t shoot, and the realization brings tears to his eyes. Aw buddy. I’ve never been sadder for someone to learn he’s not a cold-blooded killer.
He wipes away his tears quietly and then switches to Plan B: He holds the gun up to Dad and orders him to draw the ending of the manhwa that he originally intended, before making him commit suicide on the bridge. Chul guesses that his desire to catch his family’s killer was so strong that it brought him all the way here, and orders Dad to draw the killer’s face so that he can go back to his world and finish the story in a way that makes sense. Chul says his friends are still stuck back there, neither dead nor alive, and he can’t just leave them there.
Dad says there’s nothing he can do now, because a storyline has to make sense to Kang Chul for it to play out in the manhwa. Chul says the ending he wants is simple: catch the killer, bring him to justice, and live a normal life. He holds Dad up at gunpoint and orders him to draw.
Dad picks up his pen… but then he puts it down and admits that he doesn’t know, because there is no culprit—it was just a story point that he added in order to make the hero strong. Just a tragedy in a hero’s backstory, like a go-to trope.
Chul’s eyes fill with tears and he asks how that’s possible. But Dad says the crime has to be unsolved to make him a hero; solving the case would mean the end of the story. Dad argues that if Kang Chul were happy, no one would buy his story, and he doesn’t have clues because there never was a culprit in the first place.
Chul looks broken at his words, and asks angrily how there could be no culprit when Dad killed his entire family and framed him for the crime. It dawns on him that he was trying to kill him because the story can’t have a happy ending. Chul supposes that if none of this had happened, Dad would’ve continued drawing and being successful to the end of his days.
Kang Chul’s voice breaks as he cries, “And I never would’ve known the reason, running after a killer who could never be caught, suffering from insomnia every night, getting hurt and broken. Endlessly suffering and repeating it over and over. Do you even know what I’ve been through? Things that you would never be able to endure. You made me go through it all, thinking yourself a god with that tiny finger, without any responsibility, while I remember every single moment of pain.”
Dad just answers quietly, “That’s fiction. That’s a writer’s job.” But Chul argues that he’s not just a writer, because Dad saw him living and breathing and still tried to kill him. He says that’s Dad’s true nature—violent and cruel, just hidden because he holds a pen instead of a knife.
Chul raises his gun again: “Your true nature is a son of a bitch, and it’s as if you have already committed murder.” Dad shuts his eyes, waiting for the shot. Yeon-joo gasps and begs him not to shoot while trying to hurry, and Su-bong arrives outside the gate, panicked.
With the gun cocked, Chul trembles and clenches his jaw, determined to fight his nature and shoot. Tears trickle down his face and he can’t bear to do it. Su-bong cries out for Dad, and Chul lowers his arm and tells Dad to think of a way to fix this before he returns. Yeon-joo breathes a sigh of relief.
As he turns to go, Chul says that Dad was lucky today, but then Dad has to go and stick his foot in his mouth again. He says that Chul can’t shoot him, because that’s how his predetermined settings are. Are you TRYING to push him over the edge??
It works, because Chul snaps, and in one swift motion, he pulls his gun out as he whirls around again. Time slows, and Dad looks up with fear in his eyes as Kang Chul aims his gun with a snarl.
He shoots, and Dad looks down at his bleeding chest in shock. He falls to the floor… Ack, is he dead??
Wait, did he actually kill his creator? He can’t be dead-dead, right? Where do we go from here? Does Kang Chul just write his own story now? I fully expected Yeon-joo and Su-bong to arrive just in time to save the day, like they would’ve in any other drama. But they didn’t, because this drama is crazy. I honestly did think that Dad was asking for it when he kept egging Chul on to shoot him, almost taunting him about not having the free will to act outside of the set characteristics Dad had “programmed” him with. I mean, the guy defied death by developing free will so strong that you can’t even control your own creation, and you’re pushing his buttons and daring him to rebel against you? By the end of the episode, I’m fully convinced that Chul shoots Dad out of rebellion more than revenge—it’s an assertion of his free will to do the one thing that his creator insists he can never do by design. I’m simultaneously impressed that we went that far, sympathetic to Chul, and horrified that he shot Dad point-blank like that.
Thematically, it’s the ultimate reversal to have the monster that Dad created shoot him—a self-fulfilling prophecy, really, because Dad was so convinced that his creation would devour him that he treats Kang Chul with disgust and superiority, rather than pity or love. It’s Dr. Frankenstein through and through, and I’m scared for how dark Kang Chul will go now that he’s faced with the truth that his life and all its attendant tragedies are utterly meaningless. It’s probably not that far off from a normal existential crisis, where people wonder what the point of anything is in life, except it seems so much worse to have a man tell you that he made you suffer your whole life just because it sells books, and that you were destined to never solve the one mystery that was your driving force throughout young adulthood because then he’d run out of ideas for how to continue your story. It feels so… empty.
Frankly, I’m amazed that Kang Chul could hold it together in this episode at all, given the kind of mind-boggling things he learns about his own existence. Despite it being a slower episode on the action front, I was riveted by his first day in the real world, and the slow unraveling of horrifying truths. I wasn’t expecting him to confront his creator right away like this, and I certainly didn’t expect to learn that it was Dad that he pulled into his world the first time. Stabbing a dying man with a knife is very different from drawing a character into deadly situations, and I don’t disagree with Chul when he calls Dad a killer. I’m sympathetic to Dad’s fear that he created a monster, but now he’s no different from a monster himself—he’s turned into one in his obsession to “right” his wrong, and seems willfully blind towards Kang Chul’s feelings. It’s probably the way he justifies his actions—insisting that Chul isn’t real, because if he were, Dad would have to admit to being a killer.
I thought it was so clever of Chul to pick up on his character traits as being the very opposite of his creator’s, and to understand that Dad lived vicariously through Chul at a time when his own life was falling apart. It makes perfect sense that Dad becomes obsessed with controlling this one thing (though I guess you could argue that in a normal webtoon, you often aren’t worried about your characters going rogue on you), and it was heartbreaking when Chul cried that he had to endure all the things that Dad as a real person could never endure himself—to him those are real scars and memories, and it’s ironic that Dad put him through so much knowing that he was strong enough to handle it, when he himself broke down and gave up so easily in his own life.
And then of course there’s the big twist—that Kang Chul’s true creator might be Yeon-joo, not Dad—bringing a whole new dynamic into play. It hasn’t been confirmed, but if it’s true (both Dad and Yeon-joo being able to travel to Chul’s world and change the story seems to support this), this might explain the difference between Kang Chul and the other characters in his world. Everyone else was created by Dad, but maybe Chul belongs to Yeon-joo. Maybe it matters that she created him out of love because she wanted a friend or a hero, or maybe it matters that she wants sincerely for him to get a happy ending. So despite Dad’s wishes, maybe Chul is on a path to happiness because Yeon-joo wants it that way, and what she says goes? In any case it opens up a whole host of interesting ideas, especially for the romance. If there still IS a romance left to salvage, yunno, after he followed up swoony kisses by shooting her father in cold-blooded murder. The sentences this drama makes me type, I swear.
- W–Two Worlds: Episode 4
- W–Two Worlds: Episode 3
- W–Two Worlds: Episode 2
- W–Two Worlds: Episode 1
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