Dramaworld: Episodes 7-10 (Final)
girlfriday: Wait, so I’m pretty sure Episode 6 ended with everyone dying, but now they’re all miraculously better. Claire climbs up from the ledge of the building, and Joon has a wee little bandage where he was shot with the arrow that put him in a coma.
javabeans: Well, it’s Dramaworld, where deaths are mostly plot conveniences. Claire barges into the florist shop run by Seo-yeon’s friend and eyes him suspiciously, eventually deeming him too minor of a character to be the killer. Off she goes to the makeup shop, where the employee gives her a PPL makeover, killing two trope birds with one stone.
girlfriday: Claire is understandably confused to find out that Seth bought the restaurant, but he convinces her that it’s all in service of the happy ending between Joon and Seo-yeon.
javabeans: Seth is acting suspicious with his restaurant fixation, but I’m adding Mom to the list, since she’s awfully fine with Dad having killed himself to hand his position over to Joon. Has she never heard of the concept of abdication? Meanwhile, all the lovelines are getting screwy with Seo-yeon suddenly making moony eyes at Seth, her savior from the fire, and Joon doodling Claire’s name idly.
girlfriday: I don’t like how Seth saves her once from a burning building and Seo-yeon magically forgets she’s in love with Joon.
javabeans: Yeah, tropes should be fun to riff on, but shouldn’t make characters seem brainless. I like this concept of Dramaworld having a magnetism for certain actions and reactions, but these characters have to have free will or they aren’t really aren’t people.
girlfriday: I think you could make the argument for Joon and Claire, because it was at least developed in some way, but the Seo-yeon/Seth loveline confuses me.
javabeans: One thing I’m wondering is if this Dramaworld world — the events happening right now, including Claire’s sleuthing — is airing on TV somewhere out in the real world, and how much of it is making it to broadcast. Because obviously when Claire was just a fan, she didn’t know about Seth, only the main storyline. So are we to think that people are watching these developments and… just… accepting them?
girlfriday: Maybe it’s like that drama Aurora Princess, with the crazy writer who just killed people off on a whim.
javabeans: But Claire’s a real character now, and she’s talking to Seth very openly about the trappings of Dramaworld and its laws, and how does that work in the final product? I’m so confused. I don’t know if I should think harder about this or less hard.
girlfriday: Less. Definitely less. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think that Taste of Love is off the rails right now, though yeah, it’s totally confusing.
javabeans: Claire says that things have gone askew (as more earthquakes rumble through) and she points out that a murder mystery has no place in the sixth episode of a romance drama. BUT IT SHOULD BE EPISODE THIRTEEN. We started the show when Taste of Love was on Episode 12! I thought she was a fan. Shouldn’t she know better?
girlfriday: Whoops, yeah that’s an oversight.
javabeans: So Claire gets drunk and Joon drops by and they have A Moment, and Claire is very aware of the meta implications of having Moments with the drama hero, and gets all handsy with his face.
girlfriday: She starts babbling about how this is all her fault and he wasn’t supposed to save her, because she doesn’t matter.
javabeans: Meanwhile, sneaky second lead Ga-in gets increasingly upset with Seth, because their deal is going awry. Seth killed Dad and meant to shoot Claire, so that Ga-in could have the hero and Seth could have the heroine. She demands that Seth make it happen the way they planned.
girlfriday: Joon finally picks up on some of Claire’s drunken rambling and realizes that she started the fire, and gets angry with her for taking away the restaurant and shouts, “I almost fell in love with you!” Um… who says that? That’s a confession?
javabeans: Ack! I’m so bad with these confession scenes, they make me cringe, ack stop the intimacy stoooop. Maybe that says more about me than the show. Admittedly, don’t dramaland confessions tend to be all roundabout and angry like that? I remember Joo-won making me swoon with his “I don’t want to be jealous of a dead man” in Yong-pal, so ha.
girlfriday: True, true, but usually it happens after like 7 HOURS of screen time, not 30 minutes, so there’s that.
javabeans: Then Seth shoves Ga-in off the roof and happily continues his plan to take over Dramaworld. Ha, Episode 8 starts off with Seth charging into a sageuk set (or I guess world, here) and a whole rap-dance sequence kicks off. Yang Dong-geun time!
girlfriday: LOL, this is so random.
javabeans: Rapping Magistrate Yang Dong-geun, how odd is that? He’s so perfect though, with his rapping background and the fusion K-pop sequences in his last drama, Three Musketeers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He was so awesome in that drama. Too bad more people didn’t watch it.
girlfriday: Oh yeah, where he was the nose-picker! This is definitely the best cameo though, by far.
javabeans: Remember how he was at the Dramaworld premiere and the party, and we were all, “Let’s go say hi”? And then we didn’t even though he was sitting alone, because I could see the scene playing out in my mind, where we’d go up to him, say, “We love you! You’re great!” and then just smile awkwardly and wonder if we could slink away without making things uncomfortable for everyone involved.
girlfriday: I don’t know how anybody talks to famous people. I will never forget his shiny pants though. So back in the contemporary Dramaworld, Seth continues to act suspicious at Ga-in’s funeral, and draws attention to the fact that Joon isn’t there. Joon loiters outside his old restaurant, and suddenly starts… seeing ghosts? That’s not the kind of drama this is!
javabeans: I suppose we could be in Taste of Who Are You Ghostess now. Seth’s manipulations are totally blurring the rules here, so that could explain all the genre-mashing. Like how at the funeral, some spy-like person tries to deliver a secret-filled briefcase to Claire.
girlfriday: Pfft, is Joon doing his father’s memorial rites with frozen dinners? Back at the funeral, Claire wonders if it’s really possible that Joon is the killer, and goes to confront Joon about it. It’s the strangest scene — they’re yelling at each other, with her accusing him of being a killer, and they’re pelting each other with frozen foods the whole time.
javabeans: It’s tonally interesting, in that the emotions are running high but there’s this layer of farce over it. Like Joon crying in front of his altar of frozen foods, and the long shot makes me laugh even though obviously he’s not trying to be actively funny.
girlfriday: It makes no sense, until the food fight escalates and Claire slaps Joon across the face with kimchi. Oh, they did all that to do a parody of the daily drama Everybody Kimchi?
javabeans: Is that… a thing? The food-throwing definitely seems weird.
girlfriday: The kimchi-slap is a scene from a daily drama and I only know it because it keeps getting parodied, like on SNL Korea and stuff.
javabeans: In an American show they would’ve capped that angry food fight with a makeout session, but this is a K-drama(ish show) so they end up drinking soju. They start to have this talk about why he broke it off with the other girl, and Claire tries to stop him from making his confession. Hilariously, part of his confession is “Even when I hated you more than anything…”
girlfriday: I like this confession scene much better than the last one. It’s just more believable. Claire puts the brakes on the romance though, because now she knows that if Joon isn’t the killer, someone else is.
javabeans: And then to explain everything, she… shows him his drama? Dun dun dun! You gave him the red pill without his consent!
girlfriday: Ack, is the world going to implode? It doesn’t though, and by morning Joon is still holding the phone. Did he marathon his own drama all night?
javabeans: Hey, maybe it really is addicting. I love his outrage: “I’m a… television character! And kind of a jerk!”
javabeans: Don’t you kind of think Claire is being cavalier with his meltdown? He’s totally freaking out that he’s not even a real human person, and she’s like, “Eyes on the prize, the show’s ending soon, chop chop.” Like he should be fine with the idea of waking up in a new drama, with his memory wiped blank again.
girlfriday: Yeah I think this is an existential crisis of epic proportions, from his point of view. Plus I’ve always found the memory-wiping part super creepy.
javabeans: Seth gets into his creepy romance-hero mode with Seo-yeon, and asks if she doesn’t feel a familiarity with him. Ha, then we cut to a bunch of her past dramas with Joon, where Seth is always the extra in the background. Did you laugh at the alien spaceship romance?
girlfriday: Hee, I love the progression. Seth is disappointed that she only remembers him from this drama, while he’s carried a torch for her for who knows how long.
javabeans: At least she doesn’t seem to be that into his attentions, which suggests she’s not entirely without a mind of her own. I laughed when she tried to cut into her steak and couldn’t do it, because I thought they were going to parody how drama heroes always cut up the steaks for their ladies, like women can’t manage to cut a damn steak on their own, but it turns out Seth is a terrible cook and the steak is still frozen.
girlfriday: Claire takes Joon to Seth’s apartment, seeking his help (I’m amazed she still doesn’t suspect him, but okay), and Joon is dumbstruck at all the drama stills on the wall from his past shows with Seo-yeon.
javabeans: It’s kind of cute how he’s just openly flirting with Claire now, since there’s no point denying it I guess. She says how she’s invisible in her own life, and he gets all swoony saying, “I’m looking at you right now.” Claire forces her attention back to their mystery, and finally connects the dots, recalling how Seth has always been so into Seo-yeon… just as Joon discovers Seth’s secret room with the serial killer wall and the portal into sageukland.
girlfriday: In the restaurant, Seo-yeon finds it weird that no one else has arrived for their shift, and Seth says creepily that he’s got something special planned. Under his breath, he mutters, “Because today is the last episode…”
javabeans: Enter his random sageuk army! Ooh, interesting revelation: Joon wonders what happens if Seth’s coup as the leading man is successful, and Claire realizes that if Seth usurps that role, the next drama will have Seth and Seo-yeon as the leads… and no Joon. That’s a great twist! It should’ve been a cliffhanger.
girlfriday: I know! So while Seth has Seo-yeon held captive in the restaurant with his army of sageuk officers, Claire and Joon enlist the help of the second lead, who naturally jumps at the chance to help Seo-yeon. Seth stops beating about the bush and just has Seo-yeon tied to a chair, and tells her that he loves her before leaning in for a kiss. But then an arrow comes flying in to interrupt them just in time.
javabeans: Aha! I guess we know the answer to Joon’s question earlier, about whether being a master archer in a past drama would mean he’s still got the skills.
girlfriday: Seriously, this is Dollhouse!
javabeans: Crossed with the Matrix! Joon asks Claire what her world is like, and she says it sucks because you never know how things turn out. I’m pretty sure he interprets that differently than she means. They burst into the kitchen for a confrontation, and the boys fight while Claire gets kidnapped. Seth rages about how he can totally work his way up to leading man, arguing that the girl loves him back, ignoring how she’s thisclose to throwing up in her own mouth at the thought.
girlfriday: Joon bursts in like the big hero to stop him, but somehow Seth can control him by introducing a new trope. He snaps his fingers and starts the karaoke machine, and Joon can’t stop himself from standing there and singing a song. THIS IS SO WEIRD.
javabeans: He literally just sings while Seth forces a kiss on the girl, and she spits in his face, and then there are earthquakes as Dramaworld is imploding… what the hell is going on. I mean, it’s hilarious, but also really really weird. Seth gets angry that this world isn’t cooperating, and decides that if Dramaworld is just as crappy as the real world, then it can just be destroyed already.
girlfriday: Joon looks distraught while singing, like he can’t control his own body, but when Claire asks him to fight for her, he manages to snap out of the trance and gets back into the action.
javabeans: Claire urges him to kiss Seo-yeon and make the ending happy, and frankly I don’t see how this forced “true love’s kiss” is any different from Seth’s, but she’s insistent that this is the only way to save the world. The world keeps quaking, and then Joon bypasses the heroine to kiss Claire instead. Yay-noooo-yay! Did they save the world? Or destroy it?
girlfriday: I’m happy that he kissed Claire instead of Seo-yeon, but I’m so confused about the rules of this world. I don’t think they destroyed it, because they look over, and Seo-yeon is kissing the second lead. O-kay?
javabeans: I liked Florist Boy so that’s fine with me, but I’m confused about the mechanics of what this all does to the world and its trappings. I think we’re supposed to stop asking questions now, though.
girlfriday: Lol, the four of them sit down to a nice dinner with Seth tied up in the corner. What?
javabeans: What happened to all the sageuk fighter boys? Were they really necessary? Claire gets choked up thinking that the drama is over now and everyone will forget what happened but her. Joon says she can stay here or he can go to her world, but the best she can do is say that maybe he’ll remember her. Then the credits to Taste of Love start rolling on her phone, and the background music blares over their conversation. They can barely hear each other, and Joon shouts, “I love you!” just as his drama ends… and Claire and Seth get zapped back to the real world.
girlfriday: Where Dad socks Seth, making him scurry away in fear. Apparently only a night has passed in the real world, but Claire hugs Dad tightly and says she missed him.
javabeans: Then life resumes as normal, with Claire working in her sandwich shop with Dad, watching Joon’s drama on her phone as he runs across the screen in a tux… and then bursts into her front door? What?
girlfriday: What the heck? He says that Dramaworld needs her, and then belatedly realizes that he’s in the real world… and faints from the shock.
javabeans: Annnnnd scene! It must be an open/cliffhanger ending to set us up for a potential sequel, and given the richness of the world, I’m sure they could make another series out of the idea. It would have to be an entirely different premise, of course, but you could use the worldbuilding to keep going, for sure.
girlfriday: And have the other Dramaworlds crossover with this one.
javabeans: Given where we started out, I was surprised at how complex the plot got, with all the contortions and manipulations, but as a web format, it worked pretty well. The constant twists were well done and well-timed as episode cliffhangers, and I liked the general length of 15-minute episodes. I’ve seen web dramas where the episodes were much shorter, and wasn’t really satisfied with 5- or 8-minute lengths, and going any longer could feel like it wasn’t written for the web format. (I’m thinking Splish Splash Love, for instance, which was outstanding as two hourlong episodes, but didn’t really feel like the 10-episode cuts did much for it.)
girlfriday: Yeah I do want more web dramas to write to this length, and make each episode have a clear ending, instead of taking content written for TV and chopping it up in increments.
javabeans: For sure, comedy with mystery is a great genre for it — you need that extra something to suck you in and keep suspense high, and I liked Dramaworld’s tonal sensibility (most of the time): tongue-in-cheek, sometimes deadpan, self-referential. There were parts that had me cringing from the cheesiness, but overall I thought it was a pleasant surprise. And I do think it feels like the production values were very high, even though from the director’s comments at the premiere, it sounded like they actually managed on quite a limited budget.
girlfriday: Yeah I think the twists kept it fresh, and I liked that each episode packed in a lot of story. And of course, the meta-upon-meta was fun for fans too.
javabeans: And if they do make a sequel, I think I’ll much prefer Joon being a funny sidekick/partner than a stoic object of affections, because even though I know his character was supposed to be that stiff cliche of a chaebol, I only started to like him when he started getting dorky toward the end.
girlfriday: Maybe his big crisis is that he woke up in a drama where he was the second lead!
javabeans: Dramaworld 2: How the Chaebol Got His Groove Back?