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[Alternate Endings] Untangling the snarled plot threads of W–Two Worlds

By @anonybean

In the beginning, W–Two Worlds had everything going for it: clever premise, solid leads, scorching chemistry, slick direction, emotional resonance, and a series of insane twists. Ah, yes. The twists. There’s the rub.

It’s not that I don’t like a good twist or two (or twelve). I actually appreciate when a writer creates an intricate tangle that only he or she can feasibly untie. I do mind, however, when the story gets so knotted that it resembles what happens when a child who doesn’t understand shoelaces manufactures a huge snarly ball and cinches it so tight you’d need an ice pick to pry it apart. By the end of W–Two Worlds, that’s how I felt about the plot. It had become the dramaworld version of a giant ratty sneaker-lace snarl that I wanted to attack with an ice pick.

Rather than leaving viewers with a bittersweet, carefully crafted conclusion, the dénouement instead left us feeling that not only could Yeon-joo never really be happy again, but that she was now stuck in a version of reality in which the great love of her life doesn’t even remember enough of their timeline to appreciate fully what she’s been through.

And let’s talk about the great love of Yeon-joo’s life, shall we?

While I freely admit that Kang Chul’s character is swoony in some of the best ways, the fact that he shot her father out of bitter vengeance was enough to curb my enthusiasm for his particular brand of swagger. That plot point proved a hurdle too high for me to get over—not that Yeon-joo seemed to find the leap too difficult.

But the moment Yeon-joo saw Kang Chul after saving him from drowning and the first words out of her mouth are not, “You shot my father!” I knew I was no longer onboard. At that point, the drama lost more than just my emotional trust. It also lost some of its tension.

Think what a wonderful conflict would have resulted if these two passionate characters spent the rest of the drama chasing down their archvillain, the black-hooded No Face (to be clear, I mean the first—and in my retelling, the only—version of this character) while also fighting conflicting feelings for one another.

Together, Yeon-joo and Kang Chul would save their two worlds while simultaneously butting philosophical heads and spitting bitter recriminations (“Who are you to decide my fate?” / ”Yeah, big shot? Well, who are you to shoot my father?”).

Meanwhile, their clear romantic attraction would crackle above it all, tugging them together even as they emotionally stiff-arm one another in desperate, misguided attempts to maintain emotional distance. Of course, it’s hard to maintain emotional distance when you’re working together to save the multiverse.

In that respect, I’d actually be fine with maintaining the couple’s short-lived “marriage” in the manhwa penthouse. Nothing sets a love-hate relationship popping quite like forced skinship to keep up appearances. Thus their fake marriage, rather than providing our main couple a haven of sweetness, would instead serve to box our couple into physical proximity when their mutual bitterness would otherwise have forced them apart.

In our new drama, Yeon-joo and Kang Chul become a reluctant, two-worlds, badass crimefighting duo whose sole purpose is to rid both worlds of No Face, the creepy, unpredictable walking identity crisis with a gun.

Fortunately, our star-crossed lovers are not alone in the fight. While staying physically rooted in the “real” world, Dad will assist in every way he can. Though he admits culpability in having created No Face, there’s still no love lost between him and Kang Chul—especially since, as you may remember, Kang Chul shot him.

Our plot now has a clear endgame, and our characters have discernable emotional arcs. Together, they will catch No Face while moving past their mutual bitterness. Kang Chul must forgive Yeon-joo for hijacking his autonomy, and Yeon-joo must forgive Kang Chul for shooting her father. Above all, Dad and Kang Chul must reconcile, and not just for the sake of the two worlds they’re trying to save. They must do so for their own sakes—as well as Yeon-joo’s! Thus our central trio progresses from a fractured trio with divided loyalties to a true team who will stop at nothing to protect both the multiverse and one another.

It’s my belief, however, that sacrifice—and only true sacrifice—would allow these characters to be redeemed. Not sacrifices that result in death, mind you. I want Yeon-joo to have a truly happy ending, and she can’t be truly happy if she loses either of these two. I’m talking about sacrifices that would betray Kang Chul’s willingness to die saving Dad… or vice versa. I’m not picky on the details, because no matter which direction the story takes, the result would be some pretty intense irony. Since both Dad and Kang Chul launched the drama by trying to kill one another, the idea that either would die for the other just twists the heart right up.

In whatever way this plot point shakes down, it must also serve to wrap up the internal manhwa storyline and thus give the comic’s readers closure—something our actual drama, as it was written, failed to do. (Does the manhwa world end? Does it go on happily without Kang Chul? We need to know!)

This alternate ending wouldn’t require a total rewrite. In fact, some of the drama’s most moving scenes would actually serve our purposes quite well.

Consider when Kang Chul gets shot in the alternate world, and Yeon-joo must save him and flee the manhwa. In our new version, when Yeon-joo kisses him to escape from the doorless hotel room, Kang Chul’s emotional shift would not be bewilderment over having been kissed by a stranger; instead, his bittersweet response to Yeon-joo’s kiss would serve as a clear sign that despite his bitterness over her interference with his suicide, he’s clearly emotionally moved by her.

And the fact that Yeon-joo knew her kiss would move him? That shows that she knows it, too.

Oh, you guys. What might have been. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it. But I like to think that somewhere in the multiverse, there’s a world in which that’s exactly what happened.

 
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@anonybean, thanks and wow, that's a great alternate ending! I confess to being so annoyed by the insane twistiness of the plot, and the overarching power of Noface compared to the limits our good guys had to work within, all of which could not quite be explained by any logic of the dramaverse, that I gave up. I watched sporadically and without enthusiasm. Your ending, however, would have kept me hooked until the end. 😆

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I watched all the way to the bitter end. And I do mean bitter.

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I dropped that drama exactly when that marriage thing started because of exactly the reasons you pointed out. So the only thing I can shout out to your version in total appreciation and bewilderment what could have been and what i would have liked to see:

F**k Yeah!!!

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What might have been!

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I'm sorry to ask (I'm not sure how to read this^^) but is your comment a grammar correction?

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Oh no, sorry - I didn't realize it would sound like that. I'm just commiserating with you and agreeing that this show could have been so much better if given the chance for changes. ☺

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Oh alright^^ I'm sorry, i was just a little confused there. But even if it were (a correction) i would have thanked you anyway for helping me improve my english^^

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Okay..I wouldn't call the chemistry in W as scorching...cute, yes but not hot.

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The rollercoaster emotional ride with this show was really tiring. It started with excitement, then confusion and ends with me wanting to throw few things to my monitor LOL.

I still wish Su Bong was characterized as a stronger sidekick who really kick ass and actively helping the main characters instead of a sidekick used only for gags.

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Yes! Due to length constraints, I didn't even go into my dashed hopes and dreams for the supporting characters, who certainly weren't given enough credit or enough to do. I thought it would be fun to cast Assemblyman Han as the sort of villain who took himself Very Seriously, but was really only a threat to the manhwa universe. He would bash around and make noise, but just serve to gum up the works for our main trio. In that case, it would have been fun to see our secondary characters team up and work to take him down, clearing the path for the trio's ultimate showdown with No Face.

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I did not like where the story was heading after episode 7 but just like you @anonybean, I also watched all the way to the bitter end, hee.

I loved your version of retaining the first/original No Face, as well as the "drama" you wanted to happen between Kang-chul, Yeon-joo, and Yeon-joo's dad. Anyway, thank you for writing an interesting and creative alternative ending 😊

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Yes, the first No Face is so creepy yet feels original. I remember how it raised so many interesting identity-related questions at the first few eps. I wish they retained "him" as the villain instead of having "him" hijacked Dad's body by the second half.

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The actor playing Yeon-joo's dad was good though. Totally hated his character in in Train to Busan, hee.

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Great alternative ending, @anonybean. This drama still pains me with its wasted thematic potential. I completely agree with all your points.

Although I emotionally checked out when Kang Chul shot Yeon-joo in that bathroom (ep. 3) - long before the father-shooting incident (end of ep. 5). I don't care what he thought would happen. He was willing to risk her life(!) just to test his hypothesis(!). Consider this for a second: he didn't try to prick her finger, which would have worked just as well as we later learned from her cooking incident. No, he shot her point blank with a real bullet! Seriously?

After that I pretty much don't care what happens to him. And she just goes and forgives him for it over a cursory apology and keeps protecting him! How is that sane? She doesn't stop to consider that such behavior is serious grounds to reconsider her opinion of him: surely this cold-blooded shooter isn't quite the upstanding citizen she'd seen in her father's comic.

So I would start the tension you are proposing earlier, and the father-shooting would then be something that solidifies her doubts in the real Kang Chul's positive character.

And it also gives more depth to the theme the show did touch, but didn't develop to the full potential: what happens when a badly(poorly) written world comes to life - the two-dimensional characters who disappear when they have nothing to do, the invincible villains who were not given enough thought by the author to actually make any sense. This ambivalent behavior by Kang Chul would help drive the point that when you write a character who's good on paper, but whose behavior contradicts that goodness (in having no qualms about using extreme violence to serve his purpose, for example), you end up with a two-faced monster when he comes to life.

Given this altered setup, we would have Kang Chul's arc follow a trajectory of him having to make active choices and corresponding decisions/actions to become the kind of person he wants to be for real going forward.

The father's arc would be about facing and correcting his shortcomings as an author and making his writing less about his ego and more about emotional realism and human condition.

And Yeon-joo's arc would be about learning to see real people behind place-holders in the comic and in the real life and learning to deal with authority figures (like her father and her professor, and Kang Chul too) with less blind fear/adoration and more active participation and equal footing.

Ah... what a drama it could have been!

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Wow, I actually FORGOT that he shot her. You are so right!

"This ambivalent behavior by Kang Chul would help drive the point that when you write a character who's good on paper, but whose behavior contradicts that goodness (in having no qualms about using extreme violence to serve his purpose, for example), you end up with a two-faced monster when he comes to life."

Yessssssss. Now, HERE'S the drama we all need.

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I remember him shooting her because of the huge disbelief I felt at that moment. It was kind of hard to believe in the true love he was supposed to feel for her after that. Another thing - it was very hard for me to watch at the beginning of every episode the very graphic scenes of his family being murdered, it was difficult to enjoy the rest of the episode with the memory of bloody bullet holes on the forehead of the innocent victims still fresh in my mind. I would have preferred a narration of the event instead of it being shown to me so often (they showed it also many times in the middle of episodes, as memories). It was too heavy for a show that was trying to be also romantic and sometimes cute.

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I like the arcs for the characters. Definitely a proper trajectory and along more in-character-logical lines was needed for each of the 3 main characters. Wish more could have been done with side characters too.

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literally signed in to like your comment because i would 1000% watch your version (despite how annoyingly airheaded yeon-joo is written). WOW that would've made for an amazing drama. all the character growth... oh man i'm getting shivers just thinking about it!

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Well done! While lots of things about the way this drama went in the second half needed fixing, I would feel much better if KC got his memories back...they lost me with the Kang Chul 2.0 etceteras started popping up!

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I liked low-key Kang Chul 2.0 better, but without his memories, I really didn't understand his connection to Yeon-joo.

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Great ideas. The writer herself was stuck on this idea that creator and creation are at odds and thus dad and Kang Chul couldn't both end up alive. As an artist, I think that's a pretty misguided relationship. Your ending where dad and Kang Chul are willing to sacrifice for each other is the opposite: creation and creator save each other. It's really a shame the writer was so stuck on that duality.

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This is sooooo good, @anonybean! I agree with everything you said. I still didn’t mind the noble idiocy/amnesia plot in the seventh episode… that is until Kang Chul 2.0 got on the romance train again.

It was so inorganic. It felt like he didn’t really love Yeon-joo but since he learned from the manhwa that he loved her BEFORE, he just kinda accepted that and all. I wanted him to fall in love with her AGAIN but instead all we got was angst. I know, I understand, the stakes are high and most of the time in the drama was spent on trying to BE ALIVE and romance can take a backseat but I just hoped for more build-up. Something that I can believe in. Instead, it was like, okay, so the romance is back, you guys! But nope, no time to dawdle and make it feel organic. It was like I was forced to like the romance still because they’re ~inevitable~ no matter what so let’s just get on with the show. That’s not how you do it, Show. Still, I wanted a happy ending for them but it wasn’t because of the romance, it was because I wanted Kang Chul to be a ~real boy~ in the ~real world~ being ~happy~ and being happy meant Oh Yeon-joo.

I think it all unraveled from there, not only on the romance front, but in everything, as you've eloquently stated and discussed.

I still like this drama because it was really engaging but I don't want to sit down and think about it because I know my liking of it will fall apart once I really get on the nitpicking. Hahaha

Great submission! Loved reading it and I wish this could have been what happened huhuhu

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Honestly, this drama had the best setup and the most wasted potential of any drama I've watched. And if you ask me, Kang Chul didn't spend nearly enough time having an existential crisis. Instead of immediately thinking "oh, I can cross between worlds,"he should have spent more time thinking "oh, I'm basically paper and imagination. What am I even?"

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That too! It was too quick. There was angst but in the wrong places!

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Remembering those scenes, I too was rattled by how yeon joo didn't confront kang chul about shooting her dad but then I suddenly remembered yeon joo's stupid dad provoking kang chul unnecessarily, at that time it did make sense to me as a viewer(the fact that kang chul shot him out of pure rage, not the fact that yeon joo didn't seem to mind it).
But I was STILL onboard all the crazy hijinks until, the plot derailed towards the end & I found out I wasn't the only one left with no idea about what the heck actually happened, or what they served at the end was a conclusion that made no ultimate sense in the universe of "dramas with senseless endings", I swear I found the ending of arang & the magistrate better.

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I almost forget that the wrost ending in last year belongs to this drama.

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No that honor would go to Cheese in the trap. the absolute worse.

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No, Cheese In Trap didn't have a wrost ending, since it turn to a mess after few eps.

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I came prepared to fight because I personally think W is the best drama ever written.

But you made a lot of really great points. My one issue with this writer is that her female characters are weirdly passive and spend a lot of time hooked up to IVs while the action passes them by. (I mean this literally, BTW, have a look at her other dramas and count how many times her female leads pass out. It's insane). So she never writes dramas where the male and female leads have a true partnership, which is the scenario you described. She came the closest in this but fell short. Yeon-Joo was always just a supporting part in a man's story, whether that story was her father's or Kang Chul's. My inner feminist was disappointed by this and I'm often surprised this writer is female.

My other issue with this drama was also that Kang Chul never regained his memories, especially when she could have restored them with a stroke of a pen after their reconciliation. Having him fall in love with her again was emotionally satisfying but then, as you said, I felt like he was missing half their relationship.

But, to me, these were quibbles in what I thought was a work of pure genius. The ending was complex and left my mind reeling but once I thought it through I loved it.

Ultimately, this was Kang Chul's story. He was the one who gained self-awareness and he was the one who was controlling it. W ended exactly the way he wanted it to - with the main character dead so there could be no sequels. If he'd lived in the Manwha then there was always the potentiality of more story and with that potentiality, the world would continue to exist. He wanted the story to end completely and it did. With no lead character and no author, it was finally completely over. The Manwha world is gone.

The reason the show was called W was because there were two parallel worlds, ours and a second one. The manwha was a bridge between the two like the two Vs overlapping in the letter W. That world continues to exist but the bubble universe version of it is gone.

As for her father, he was ultimately killed by bad writing which I completely loved. By writing a poorly-crafted antagonist, he was the story's antagonist. Everything Kang Chul went through was because of him. That's why he lost his face because there were never two of him, there was no manwha antagonist. He was always the bad guy.

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"I came prepared to fight because I personally think W is the best drama ever written."

Love this passion for the story. It's definitely my favorite premise. I wish expectation and reality had aligned more closely.

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This really helped clear some things in my head... thanks!!

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W is an allegory that questions if humans truly have free will and the lengths a human will go to possess it. In W, KC represents humanity and its desire to control their own life. Writer/Daddy (Creator) represents a god. In this drama, KC thinks he truly has control of life but realizes that he does not. Once the Creator realizes that KC is self-aware his response is to end the world. KC response is to kill 'god' in order to assert his existence and free will.

Though not well-executed, the Creator used the world of W to deal his own issues. He became the person he always wanted to be in reality through his characters. He liked being able to manipulate the characters so much that once they no longer served a direct purpose, the character ceased to exist. This placed Creator and KC at complete opposite odds. Kang Chul wanted to control his own life and destiny. Having the Creator be a collaborator in ridding the world of No Face still places him as an authority in KC's life, and essentially gives the Creator another position of authority. The Creator becomes father-in-law and teammate as well.

The fight in W, and where the writer lost sight, is not between No Face and whoever else, it's between Creator and KC. No Face was a poorly introduced plot device that made the story fall apart. So, for me, I think had the story stuck closer to creator versus character, W would have been analogous to a Greek tragedy than a mushy mess t.v. series.

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I can see the Greek tragedy underpinnings.

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Seriously like in the start I was thinking it would be the best drama I ever seen and then in the mid way it turns into a total disaster

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This alternate story arc seems so... conventional. It gives the viewer exactly what they would expect, like a menu from a not very good chain restaurant. I much prefer the original story line.

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