W–Two Worlds: Episode 2
I already love this show. I loved it yesterday, but I was fully prepared for a slowdown in the second episode, in case all the cool parts were blown on the awesome start out of the gate. But not only does our heroine get cuter, our hero gets smarter, and the conflict becomes riskier, twistier, and just plain fun. We thought we were headed into a story about a father and daughter changing the fate of a comic book hero, but… is it possible that it’s the reverse, and he’s the one changing the course of their lives?
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Our heroine Yeon-joo, surgical resident and daughter to legendary manhwa artist, gives us a concise recap introducing us to the hero of her father’s webtoon, Kang Chul. Helpful, that.
She’s clearly been thinking a lot on the subject, ever since she got sucked into what she believes to be the parallel universe where her father’s webtoon W exists for real. Her bed is strewn with old volumes of W, like she’s been up all night trying to confirm that she isn’t crazy.
She calls Dad’s assistant Su-bong again to suggest her latest theory—that Dad was kidnapped into Kang Chul’s universe just like she was, by that mysterious hooded figure. But Su-bong has had it up to here with noona’s crazy talk of parallel universes, and speaks to her like she’s got brain damage: “They’re drawings, that we drew ourselves! I drew each and every one of the backgrounds with my own hands! They’re drawings. Drawings. DRAWINGS.” I really love this character.
He rants until his face turns purple, insisting that he knows Yeon-joo’s father better than she does, and he knows without a doubt that the latest issues are her father’s artwork. Despite his staff doing all the support work, they can’t draw the main characters—only Dad can do that, and Su-bong would perceive the slightest difference if anyone tried to copy his style.
Yeon-joo is silent for a moment, and then sighs that she knows how Galileo Galilei and Dae Jang Geum felt. Ha.
On the other end, Su-bong suddenly says, “Teacher…” and Dad walks into the workshop, looking like he hasn’t slept for days. Yeon-joo hears them and goes running out of the house at light speed, lying to her mom that the hospital called. Over breakfast, Mom’s sister sighs over all the money Mom could’ve had if she hadn’t divorced Yeon-joo’s father.
Yeon-joo dashes over to Dad’s workshop and Su-bong says they still don’t know where he was. Yeon-joo heads into Dad’s office and chides him for making them worry, and Dad is frustratingly vague about what he did last night: “I went somewhere.”
Yeon-joo asks, “Where?” The question is rife with meaning, but again Dad is evasive. But then he asks Yeon-joo if she’s okay and not hurt, and seems relieved to hear that nothing happened to her. The fact that he asks her that intrigues her. Hm, does he know where she’s been?
She brings up his webtoon, and Dad says he heard about her wild ideas from Su-bong, and quickly explains that he just needed a new female character to introduce and couldn’t think of one, so he modeled the character after her.
Yeon-joo asks if Dad really drew the last two issues himself, and the air suddenly gets tense as he asks incredulously who would’ve drawn them if not him. She’s clearly struck some sort of nerve, because he asks the question like a threat, and Yeon-joo immediately backs off.
Dad prepares to work, and Yeon-joo prods him to rest first. But he sighs, “I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of it that I want to hurry up and finish so I can rest.” She finds the statement odd, but turns back to give him a little encouragement before heading out.
Dad’s expression turns pensive as soon as she leaves the room. He works into the evening on the next issue, and suddenly calls Su-bong into his office to research a poison that’s easy to obtain in a hospital. Oh noes…
Yeon-joo is so distracted with thoughts of the webtoon that she doesn’t realize she’s lost the office bet to go fetch snacks at the coffee shop. Her resident friend Seok-bum wonders why she’s so spacey lately.
Yeon-joo calls Su-bong again to check on Dad. When she asks about this next issue’s storyline, Su-bong tells her furtively that her father is back to killing off Kang Chul, and she yelps in alarm.
In Kang Chul’s world, he’s fast asleep in his hospital bed, with bodyguard hyung Do-yoon keeping watch at night. Elsewhere a nurse gathers supplies in her cart, and gets a mysterious call from someone, who orders her to do “it” now. She looks around and reaches for the drawer marked Potassium. The image melds into a drawing, and we see a reflection of Su-bong’s hand, drawing in the background material.
Yeon-joo asks how Dad is planning to kill off Kang Chul, and Su-bong tells her all about the nurse, the unknown caller, and the potassium injection she plans to swap into his IV. And in his office, Dad draws the nurse as she fills the syringe.
Yeon-joo paces with worry, but talks herself into letting it go: “It’s a manhwa. A manhwa. Live or die, it’s a manhwa hero.” But then she remembers saving Kang Chul’s life with her own two hands, covered in his blood.
She picks up the phone and calls Dad this time, and asks him point-blank why Kang Chul has to die. Dad gets prickly about her meddling in his work, but Yeon-joo argues that it’s all so futile, when Kang Chul swore he’d get revenge and catch his family’s killer, but has yet to do so.
Dad argues that there’s nothing that says he has to get revenge before dying (nothing except like all the laws of good storytelling!), and says it’s his prerogative to kill off his main character however he likes.
Yeon-joo says readers will be so disappointed when he was just saved two episodes ago, and with so much difficulty at that, and Dad accidentally lets slip: “So why did you do such a needless thing?” Omo.
She catches the slip right away and asks what he means, and this time no amount of denying it will get her to stop. Yeon-joo asks if Dad really didn’t draw the latest issues. She points out that he couldn’t have known what she was wearing yesterday—they were new clothes, so how could Dad have drawn them so accurately?
When he has no response, Yeon-joo finally says, “You’ve seen him too—the living Kang Chul.” She says that his blood was warm and his heart was beating, and asks how it’s possible that he’s alive and real.
None of this seems to surprise Dad, but it makes him more determined than ever: “That’s why… that’s why I have to end his life, right now!” Yeon-joo shouts, “No! That’s murder!” Dad is enraged when she calls it murder, and suddenly the background behind Yeon-joo starts to morph…
She doesn’t notice, and screams frantically into her phone that knowing someone is alive and killing them—that’s murder. But on Dad’s end, the phone connection goes dead.
It takes Yeon-joo a while before she looks around and realizes that the coffee shop she just stepped out of is no longer there. Now in Kang Chul’s world, she’s standing in front of a television that’s broadcasting the evening news. She hears that Kang Chul’s surgery was successful, and they’re looking for a female doctor who was at the scene as the prime suspect in his attack.
She grabs the first cab she sees and asks to go to the hospital named in the news broadcast. And at the same time in Dad’s webtoon workshop, one of the assistants asks if it’s okay to use a picture of Yeon-joo’s hospital and just change the name of it to use in the webtoon.
We see her replace the hospital sign in her drawing, and then when Yeon-joo gets in the cab, the driver looks at her like she’s nuts and says that’s where they already are. I love these little touches—they’re so fun.
Up in Kang Chul’s hospital room, the assassin nurse nervously enters to administer meds, and neither of the boys seems to notice how suspicious she looks.
Yeon-joo can’t get any information out of the hospital receptionist, but then looks around and realizes that this hospital is laid out exactly like her hospital, and casually joins a group of doctors to gain entry into the VIP ward.
The nurse looks terrified as she checks the syringe one last time, and then she sticks it into Kang Chul’s IV. The image turns into a drawing, and we see Dad working frantically to get this done…
But suddenly a new image appears before him that he didn’t draw. Line by line, it renders on his screen, and the colors start to fill in, just as Yeon-joo bursts into Kang Chul’s hospital room. She runs over to Chul and takes out the syringe and asks if he’s okay. That moment gets rendered into the next frame of the webtoon, and Dad gasps.
Yeon-joo explains that the nurse was trying to poison him with potassium, and of course the nurse runs, with Chul’s henchmen chasing after her. Yeon-joo is relieved to hear that the injection didn’t happen yet, and Chul asks how she knew about the attempted poisoning. She hems and haws and goes with: “Uh… just coincidentally, as I was passing! The nurse, she looked suspicious!” Pfft, smooooth.
Yeon-joo tries to sneak away once the doctor arrives, but Kang Chul grabs her arm and calls out her name. She tries to deny that she’s Oh Yeon-joo, and Chul smirks and points to the name written plainly on her lab coat. He smiles up at her and says, “Oh Yeon-joo-sshi, we finally meet.”
Dad watches the speech bubble appear in Kang Chul’s newest frame, and buries his head in his hands with a heavy sigh.
Chul asks about the hospital where she supposedly works, and Yeon-joo says it’s the hospital where she used to work before it closed down, making her currently unemployed. That still doesn’t explain what she’s doing here, and Yeon-joo says she saw on TV that he was looking for her.
Chul’s assistant So-hee barges in and peppers him with a million worried questions. Yeon-joo recognizes So-hee from the webtoon as the female lead and Kang Chul’s friend since high school, and then looks over at Do-yoon and realizes he’s the fighter-turned-bodyguard.
So-hee points out that Yeon-joo IS pretty, and they got the police sketch wrong, no thanks to Chul. He pays her lip-service and agrees that she’s pretty, and Yeon-joo looks over at him with this whatchoo-talkin-bout face.
She flashes back to reading the scene in the webtoon when Chul was last talking about her, and says he needn’t pay her empty compliments, quoting him verbatim: “You said that if I were considered pretty, dogs and cows (a common metaphor, meaning anyone on the street) would be pretty.”
She realizes her mistake the second she says it, and the others in the room exchange furtive glances. So-hee asks how she knew that, and Yeon-joo asks to speak to Kang Chul alone. So-hee is against the idea since they haven’t even verified Yeon-joo’s identity and the cops are on the way, but Chul says she saved his life and that’s enough.
So-hee and Do-yoon agree that there’s something weird about Yeon-joo, and it’s suspicious that she keeps showing up in moments like this, as if she’s in on it with the culprit.
In the room, Yeon-joo asks for Chul’s help, and he offers to give her a big reward for saving his life. She doesn’t want money, and simply asks for his help to get out of here quietly, because she can’t be questioned by the police.
She asks him not to ask why and just help her, but he has too many questions for her and thinks it’s better for her to clear her name, because the cops think she’s the killer’s accomplice. Yeon-joo says he knows that she’s not an accomplice, and quotes him again, saying that he knows just by his gut feeling.
That gives him pause, and he points out that Yeon-joo seems to know a lot about him. She doesn’t try to deny it, and even adds that he thinks she’s the key to his life. That really piques his curiosity, and he asks what her deal is.
Yeon-joo promises to tell him next time, and pleads with him to help her get away just this once. He relents and has So-hee and Do-yoon meet the detectives downstairs to keep them distracted.
Chul is too curious about Yeon-joo to let her go without a promise of when they’ll meet again, so she says she’ll see him when he gets discharged from the hospital. Chul gives her a spare cell phone since her numbers were all disconnected, and she asks how he can trust that she’ll keep her promise. He says it’s just a gut feeling.
Before she goes, Chul takes back the comment he made about her beauty last time, insisting that it was dark then, and he thinks she’s pretty now. She smirks and says he’s just saying that, and she knows that he compliments women all the time even when he’s not interested in them. He laughs and says this is getting really interesting, and he can’t wait until they meet again.
One of his other guards sneaks Yeon-joo out the back way just before the cops arrive, and Yeon-joo ditches her lab coat in the dumpster before reaching a bus stop. She sits to catch her breath and decides to wait it out, since the last time she was in this world, it was only for thirty minutes.
She figures that if she waits the same amount of time, the “To be continued” chyron will appear again, ending the episode and sending her back to her world.
Except this time, she waits and waits… and nothing happens. After thirty minutes she looks at her watch, and all of a sudden the hands start moving forward rapidly, spinning and spinning, while the world changes around her from night to day and over again. Flash-forward?
When her watch stops spinning, it’s suddenly daylight, and Yeon-joo wonders what in the hell just happened. She then gets a call from Kang Chul, wanting to meet. She’s so confused—to her, it’s only been thirty minutes since they last spoke. She sputters incoherently, not knowing what to make of it.
But he insists on picking her up and pulls up in his fancy sports car with a giant smile. He wonders how she happens to be right here when he was just discharged from the hospital, and she gapes, “Already?” He points out that two months of being bedridden was a long time to him.
She’s shocked to hear that two whole months have passed, and gets into his car. He reaches around her to put her seatbelt on and asks how she’s been, and her inner monologue is hilarious: “How have I been? It hasn’t even been thirty minutes!”
She wonders to herself how two months could have passed, but Yeon-joo thinks it through and realizes that in a manhwa world, time might speed up according to the story, and since Kang Chul is the main character, it makes sense that his recovery time in a hospital would get skipped in the narrative. LOL. I love that she’s thinking this through with story logic.
She wonders, “What about me? Have I been missing for two months?” Chul looks over at her and notices that she’s wearing the same clothes that she was wearing two months ago, and she cringes to have him point it out. He makes a stop at a clothing store, and despite her protests, he argues that she’s sweating in her winter clothes right now.
People mill about to catch a glimpse of Kang Chul and Yeon-joo, and she stands there awkwardly in front of the clothes, not knowing what to do. So-hee texts Chul and guesses that he couldn’t find Yeon-joo because she conned him into escaping two months ago, but she’s surprised when he replies that he’s with Yeon-joo now.
In the dressing room, Yeon-joo paces around wondering why this episode is so freaking long, when the last one was over in thirty minutes. She peers into the mirror in alarm, wondering if time will continue to pass this way. Ha, yeah I don’t think they made anti-aging products for that.
But then it dawns on her that this is a serial manhwa, so something significant has to happen to the hero in order for the episode to end. She racks her brains for an incident worthy of a cliffhanger, and comes up with an idea.
She marches out of the dressing room with purpose and walks up to Kang Chul in front of everyone and slaps him, HARD, right across the face. She waits for his reaction and thinks to herself, “That was a shock, right? That’s ending material, right?”
Only he doesn’t really show a strong reaction other than confusion, and Yeon-joo grows increasingly nervous as she looks around for that damned “To be continued” chyron… and can’t find it anywhere. Hahaha. Much to her horror, the scene just continues.
He stares at her curiously and asks why he bought her clothes and then got slapped for it, and what he’s supposed to make of this. She just shrinks in mortification and ekes out, “I’m sorry!” and runs away. He stops her, and she gets another idea and wonders, “Could it be…?”
And then she lurches forward and kisses him. Eeeee! Time slows, and Chul’s eyes widen in surprise.
When she pulls away, he’s still standing there like a statue. Yeon-joo looks around and thinks, “Oh no, is this not it either?” He starts to ask what she’s doing, but then she sees it: to be continued! The chyron starts to get rendered on the scene, and Yeon-joo runs for the dressing room before it finishes being written, so that he won’t see her vanish.
So-hee’s been on the phone with Chul this whole time and asks what’s going on, and Chul just chuckles and says that Yeon-joo is a force to be reckoned with. The way he describes her personality type is: “I’m the crazy bitch in this town.” Heh.
He seems more amused than anything, though his confusion grows when he looks for Yeon-joo in the dressing room and finds her gone. She left her old clothes behind along with her hospital ID tag, and he picks it up with a smile.
Yeon-joo returns to her universe still wearing her new dress, and she stands there under the awning of the coffee shop for a while, processing what just happened. She reaches up to touch her lips, remembering the kiss.
She finally returns to the hospital, and Seok-bum complains about her taking so long to go get coffee. They wonder if it was because she stopped to buy a new dress, and Yeon-joo asks how long she’s been gone. They say about half an hour, which shocks her.
The real shock comes when she looks at the nurse’s computer screen and sees a drawing of her kiss with Kang Chul. Yeon-joo yelps, and the nurse says the new episode just went up. She says the netizens are all upset about it too, wondering why the manhwa’s first kiss scene happens to be with a crazy woman, and not So-hee.
The nurse says she likes it though, because she’s a fan of surprise lovelines rather than the obvious leads getting together. Seok-bum is rooting for So-hee, on the other hand, because of the size of her bra. Yeon-joo balks at the idea that she’s a loveline, and shuts off the nurse’s monitor, claiming that it’s an unnecessarily large screen and the drawing is a little embarrassing.
Seok-bum says she’s being weird and teases her for getting emotionally involved because the character is named after her, like she got to kiss Kang Chul. Yeon-joo gets a timely bout of hiccups in response.
Dad’s webtoon team gets a call from the publisher asking about the new issue, and the staff is confused, since they’re still working on it as they speak. They assume it’s a mistake, and are shocked to see the new issue already online.
Su-bong runs into Dad’s office to ask him about it, but then he sees Kang Chul’s kiss with Yeon-joo on Dad’s monitor and realizes that he must’ve sent in the final copy without them. Dad says nothing, and just glares at that drawing of the kiss.
Suddenly Dad storms out of his office and interrupts Su-bong’s call with the publisher, declaring the last issue a mistake and demanding that they take it down. The publisher is reluctant since the response is good, but Dad screams at them to just take it down.
Dad tells his staff that tonight’s issue of W will be its last, and disbands the team and sends them all home. He leaves them all stammering in his wake, and they wonder what’s gotten into him, and why he’s suddenly inserting kiss scenes, and how he’s drawing all of this so quickly when they were only halfway done.
It starts to dawn on Su-bong that something is going on here. Is he finally starting to believe Yeon-joo’s crazy theories?
Yeon-joo reads the latest episode of W with her hands over her eyes, cringing at her own crazy antics recorded for all to read. But the kiss scene instinctively makes her touch her lips again.
Dad starts packing up his drawing equipment, when Yeon-joo calls. She tells him not to deny it any longer, because now she’s met Kang Chul in person twice. He doesn’t answer her questions, but says:
Dad: “You said it was murder? I drew it. It’s my project! So in my project I am god, because I created everything! How can a god destroying his creation be murder?! That’s not murder; it’s judgment. He’s a monster. I didn’t know it at first, but I had created a monster. So I decided to bring judgment upon him, because he was a malformed creation. How can I leave him be, when I’m about to be devoured? I should’ve ended him right away, there on Hangang Bridge.”
Whoa. Shall we back away slowly?
He tells her to forget everything she saw today and calls it a fantasy. Yeon-joo argues that it’s not—it was real—but Dad erupts at her that it’s a fantasy if he says it is, and not to turn them both into crazy people. He says that it’s enough for him to be crazy, and tells her not to get involved because it’s dangerous.
And with that, he walks out into the rain, and checks into a motel to finish drawing the final episode.
Back in Kang Chul’s world, he drives away from the clothing store and tells So-hee to take care of the incident so that no videos are leaked. So-hee asks what’s on the video, and he says she’ll be mad when she sees it, swearing that none of what happened has to do with Yeon-joo being pretty.
Chul is positive he’s found the key to his life in Yeon-joo, and reiterates that he’s not saying so because Yeon-joo is pretty. He repeats his original sentiment that if she’s pretty, dogs and cows are pretty too, and that Yeon-joo is the craziest crazy he’s ever laid eyes on. Still, she saved his life, and that means they have to protect her and make sure she isn’t questioned by the police or publicly outed.
Chul breaks off mid-sentence when he sees a giant truck suddenly careening towards him. It picks up speed and comes straight at him like it’s gunning for his car, and even as the two vehicles are hurtling towards each other, Chul sees that the license plate and windows on the truck are all blacked out.
They’re seconds away from impact when Chul swerves so hard that he hits the sidewalk and pops a wheelie, sending three of his tires up in the air…
The frame freezes, and then we see Dad drawing the bloody impact as the truck hits Chul’s car. He breathes a sigh of relief now that it’s done, and downs a glass of scotch.
But back in Kang Chul’s world, he opens his eyes and is startled to find that everything is frozen in time except him—the truck, his car, random passersby in the street with spilled drinks floating in mid-air.
Chul looks around in disbelief, then gives the truck a furious glare before stepping on the accelerator. He guns it and swerves again, missing the truck by mere inches. Whew. The truck of doom continues on its way, and Chul is safe.
When Dad puts down his glass of scotch and looks back at his screen, something bizarre starts to happen: The scene he just drew gets erased right before his eyes, deleting Kang Chul’s car from the crash scene. Startled, Dad picks up his pen to draw it in again, but his pen leaves no mark on the image, like it’s impervious to his changes now.
Kang Chul steps out of his car and looks up at the sky. In a wide shot overlooking the street where he stands, suddenly a large block of text appears over the drawing as Kang Chul speaks: “Who the hell are you?” ACK. He’s speaking to his creator!
Dad falls out of his chair, completely terrified out of his mind. And Kang Chul looks up at the sky, determined to find out who he is.
Okay, that was crazy. I’m really shocked that Kang Chul is already starting to break the fourth wall of his own manhwa, because I wasn’t expecting that kind of awareness from him so early on. This is an exciting turn, with our hero starting to clue into the fact that there’s something else out there trying to control his fate. Maybe his Matrix moment will come sooner than we think? But what happens to his world in that case?
Now I wonder if it was Kang Chul’s own will to survive that ran so deep that his will became real, and gave him power to counter his creator. But there are so many other questions there, like why Dad wanted to kill off his own main character in the first place, and more importantly, why Kang Chul is special. Because not every manhwa has its own alternaverse out there (that we know of…) and our characters in the real world make it clear that this is an anomaly. Is it the confluence of traits that Dad gave Kang Chul—resilience, strong will, a geeeeenius mind (rethinking that one, eh Dad?)—that somehow led to this possibility? Or is Dad just a puppet too?
I know that Dad’s creator-creation speech was really extreme—I mean, talk about your god complexes—but the thing is, I see how from his perspective, what’s happening is actually really terrifying. Because if he created a fictional character that one day started to display free will, he has every right to feel horror, and to think that Kang Chul might be some kind of monster he can’t un-create. He’s the prettiest monster I’ve ever seen, but I agree he isn’t… normal.
From Dad’s point of view, Kang Chul is an abomination—it’s legitimately frightening that a two-dimensional character has become stronger than his own creator. It doesn’t explain his fear of being devoured by his own creation, but I suspect that we’ll be finding out that Dad spends a good deal of time in Kang Chul’s world, and who knows what he does there, or who else he might be influenced by. I love the themes explored in this father-son relationship, which has none of the familial love, but all of the mythos of gods and heroes and legend. Dad seems right now to be a cruel and exacting creator-god, but my guess is that we’re just scratching the surface with him.
I’m really enjoying the intricate way that the narrative unfolds in both universes at the same time, and the way that the webtoon’s framework shapes Yeon-joo’s experiences in that parallel world. How clever is it that Yeon-joo needs to find or create a narratively significant event to send her back to her own world? It’s even better than incense sticks and brushes with death, because she’s shaping how Kang Chul’s story goes, and it forces her to think like a writer, which is a fun level of meta for the audience. I died laughing at the part where our drama heroine has kissed a comic book hero in hopes that it’s a big enough cliffhanger to end an episode on. That is gold. I can only hope she is less creative than her father and just reuses the kiss escape every time. Hell, it beats clicking your heels three times.
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