W - Two Worlds
MBC (2016) 16 Episodes
 Grades: A for Acting, C for Script
Science Fiction, Romance, Crime
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

W (2016) Korean drama was sold to the public as something different, unique, and special, and it quite had me for awhile, until about half-way through the drama when I started to get the distinct impression that the well regarded female K-drama writer Song Jae Jung (Nine: Nine Time Travels, Queen In-Hyun's Man, The Three Musketeers) really had no idea where she was going with her science-fiction concept for this drama, but that instead she was simply throwing paint against a wall and hoping it would stick and form into something resembling a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa, instead of what it ended up looking like to me: a disturbed kindergarten child's finger paint drawing which was nothing more than a gooey mess -- all done in one color, RED (symbolic of bloodshed!).

I turned away from American television because I was sick of the amount of violence I saw in its shows; I look to Korea for an escape from that, and what did I get with this drama? Too many cold-blooded murders, even of children! No, thank you. Later I read that the writer felt she should apologize to the fans for her lack of organization in writing the story -- she obviously didn't have an ending firmly decided on before the drama started shooting, or even as the end drew near. That was humble of her to apologize, but it still left me frustrated that I had been so invested in the story in the beginning, and then eventually I became excited for one thing
only: that it would end quickly so I could watch other, better dramas!

So little made sense in the story, as the two main characters crossed back and forth between two alternate time dimensions, with characters dying brutal deaths and then some coming back to life again repeatedly, that many fans began to turn their backs on the story. As each chapter began I was soon yelling out loud, "Oh no! NOT MORE SHOOTING!" Adding to the negative confusion of this time traveling story were two main characters, played by beautiful Han Hyo Joo (Spring Waltz) and wonderful Lee Jong Suk (I Hear Your Voice), who barely had time to hug and kiss throughout the whole drama -- rather they spent 80% of the time away from each other, and only 20% together. So if fans were looking for an intriguing, deeply emotional romance here they were disappointed, and if they were looking for an intriguing science fiction tale they were also disappointed. To be sure, it had great CGI work in it, but that can't hold a poorly written story together either.

Look quickly!
You don't get many love scenes
in this drama!

I'm sure in Korea they expected this show to reach the ratings attained by worldwide mega-hit Descendants Of The Sun -- but they didn't come close, averaging about 11 to 12 percent compared to Sun's remarkable 35 to 38 percent! It's simply disappointing that it turned out this way, after such high expectations -- we K-drama fans often say we want to see stories that are different than the normal melodramas and romantic comedies they serve us all the time, but the writers have to remember that different alone isn't enough, they also need to be WELL WRITTEN STORIES, no matter what the genre.

Once again, the acting was flawless in a K-drama, which is why I had to separate the grades out of fairness, A for acting, but a C for a mediocre, frustrating script in which too much yanking of the audience's chains went on. The professional acting elevated the frustrating script to a higher plane to some degree. However, the writing is the foundation of any show, and even superb actors like Han Hyo Joo and Lee Jong Suk can only do so much to try and add some meat to a skeleton.

The Story: Our story begins during a past Olympics' event when a high school teenager named Kang Cheol (Lee Jong Suk) is competing in a shooting event with much older contestants from around the world - at one point it looks like he might lose but he pulls off a unexpected, stunning win, helped along by his coach who also happens to be his father (Park Choong Seon).

We then cut to years later (the editing transition was rather poor here), and Kang Cheol's family, including his Dad, Mom (Kim Ja Woon), younger sister (Seo Shin Ae from Thank You), and brother (Choi Min Young) are seen happily watching a soccer competition on their old TV set (props department should have put a newer model television in the scene instead of an old analog set, so the audience would know the time of the soccer event on TV was not close at all to the past Olympics' scenes at the very beginning -- first production mistake in this show).

The doorbell rings and the mother answers it, thinking it will be Kang Cheol arriving to watch the game with them, but instead she is shot in the forehead by a mysterious intruder who is covered from head to toe in black; the father goes to investigate and he too is shot in his forehead. The murderer walks into the apartment and shoots the two children point blank in their foreheads. Then the intruder leaves and on the way out drops the shooting gun -- the same kind that Kang Cheol had used to win at the Olympics -- into a pile of rubbish down an alley. Kang Cheol arrives later only to find his entire family murdered.

An ambitious prosecutor named Han Cheol Ho (Park Won Sang) brings Kang Cheol up on murder charges of his own family because of the gun evidence! It turns out it was his actual gun that was used to do the dirty deed and he has no solid alibis that he wasn't anywhere near the shootings at the time they went down. He is sentenced to several years in jail but is eventually let out on appeal and is determined to find the real killer of his family. Time goes by and apparently Kang Cheol starts his own corporation and becomes rich.

The focus then shifts to a cardio-thoracic surgeon named Oh Yeon Joo (
Han Hyo Joo) and her alcoholic, divorced father, writer-artist Oh Sung Moo (Kim Eui Sung, in a creepy performance -- in more ways than one!) who mysteriously went missing while writing the (supposedly) last chapter of his wildly popular web toon "W". Yeon Joo goes to his writing office and is shocked to see a scene of the dying Kang Cheol, the main male character of the W books, on her father's computer screen. So now we are introduced to the idea that Kang Cheol may not exist in real life, but that he is only a character in a web toon.


While reading a note left behind by her father, a hand from the monitor pulls Yeon Joo in to Kang Cheol's alternate web toon universe. She finds herself on the rooftop of a building next to a bleeding man who looks like he's been stabbed. She manages to save him with her medical skills, and realizes that the person she saved was Kang Cheol himself, the character of her father's web toon.

One of the first people who arrives to give help asks her to remain in the area to provide testimony but she is suddenly transported back into the real world, to her father's office, where only a few minutes had passed while she had been in the W world for several hours. Because of her sudden unexplained disappearance everyone in the W world thinks of Yeon Joo as the suspect who might have tried to murder Kang Cheol, concluding that she left the scene of the crime without testifying so she must be guilty (then why did she save him? - another messy plot point).

Back in the "real world" Yeon Joo realizes the incredible power of the drawing tablet of her father, that it can be used to manipulate events on "the other side". Due to repetitive occurrences in which Yeon Joo is summoned to the W world, Kang Cheol of course takes notice of her more and more, and so do the people around him, such as his faithful bodyguard and friend Seo Do Yoon (Lee Tae Hwan), and his personal assistant, Yoon So Hee (Jeong Eu Gene of Because It's The First Time), who is not so secretly in love with Kang Cheol, although he does not return her affection. 

Yeon Joo begins to remain in the W world a bit longer each time and interacts more with Kang Cheol, although sometimes odd challenges are thrown down, for instance wh
en he wants more information on her but she is reluctant to give it. Love soon begins to blossom between Yeon Joo and Kang Cheol. Then she is identified as the person on the rooftop who might have tried to kill Kang Cheol and she is arrested for attempted murder. He visits her in jail and she then confesses the truth to him, that she comes from the "real world" and that his world is only in a web toon and that nothing and no one he has ever known in his life has been real. He is shaken to his core -- especially when after the confession Yeon Joo disappears before his eyes in the jail!

The W world comes to a halt and everything is frozen in time except Kang Cheol. He finds a portal and goes through it, leading him to the real world. He finds Yeon Joo at the hospital she works at and confronts her. Yeon Joo, whom it is revealed invented Kang Cheol in the first place when she was a little girl, decides she can draw into her father's tablet to come up with her own story conceptions, to save his life and give him a "Happy Ending". (At this point I kept wondering WHY, if she had the power of the pen, she didn't draw in it to put the action back in time to SAVE HIS FAMILY FIRST and then they could have entered the real world with him to safety, too. I was ticked off that the character seemed to be forgetting his family just because he was told they were fictitious. Your family contributes to who you as a person, so it's not possible to forget them, or brush them off).

Koreans love their rooftop scenes!

While all this is happening, the unknown character that embodies the true killer starts fading away as Kang Cheol's goal for living starts to change and he no longer feels the need to track down the killer (this kept ticking me off big time - what IS a family anyway, NOTHING?). The unidentified killer threatens to kill Kang Cheol's new family, his new love and pretend "wife", Yeon Joo.

Kang Cheol and Yeon Joo have a few precious scenes together before the story goes haywire again, separates them yet again, giving us action scene after action scene instead of romance. We are given more senseless murders to watch, including a large group of people at a television station shot to death while on the air by the unknown, deranged killer, who has taken on the face of the web toon writer, Yeon Joo's alcoholic father. (For some reason this actor's performance reminded me of Ray Milland in the classic film Lost Weekend, seeing things that were not there while under the influence!)

Too much shooting in this drama!
Guns are illegal in Korea, yet they
abound in W

Yeon Joo disappears again and Kang Cheol is left to reevaluate his previous hypothesis about the rules of the W world. Once even more (senseless) dangerous incidents have happened, that threaten other people besides just themselves, Kang Cheol and Yeon Joo finally become more motivated to kill the evil one, who bears the face of Oh Seong Moo, the writer, while her real father remains unconscious in his office. (The long time in revealing who the malevolent spirit was in this drama tried my patience most of all! The writer kept insinuating this killer had no motive for doing what he was doing, that he wasn't even real -- it didn't wash for me, he was killing too many people!).

In a big stand-off, the killer is (supposedly) finally gotten rid of but Yeon Joo is shot in the process and is losing a large amount of blood. She is brought to the hospital for treatment and Kang Cheol realizes that she might die, so he brings her to the W world again because there he thinks she can be saved in the fictitious world instead of the real one. (Say what?). She is ultimately saved but discovers when she wakes up that Kang Cheol has been kidnapped by the evil prosecutor Han Cheol Ho and has been left for dead. Kang Cheol escapes with the help of the writer's assistant Park Soo Bong's help (funny Lee Si Eun from Remember who brings the only real humor into this tepid mess of a tale).

Seo Do Yoon is a loyal bodyguard
and friend to Kang Cheol

Prosecutor-politician Han Cheol Ho is infuriated that Kang Cheol keeps eluding him, and he captures Seo Do Yoon as a hostage and tortures him as well. Seo Do Yoon, while drugged, accidentally reveals the information Kang Cheol had given him, about the W world being fictional. Han Cheol Ho meets up with Kang Cheol, frees Seo Do Yoon and shoots Kang Cheol after he threatens him with a surveillance footage showing him torturing his friend.

It seems the politician wants to go to the real world and leave the W world for good -- which reminded me of the villain in Faith (2012) who wanted to leave the 14th century for the 21st and would stop at nothing so he could bridge the two worlds! It's uncanny when certain scenes remind you of scenes in other dramas you have watched over the years!

Kim Eui Sung who played both the father
and demon should get an acting award
He was chilling!

Kang Cheol escapes (again!) and drives off until his car loses gas and stops at a bus stop (LOSES GAS??? LOL! Was that symbolic of this drama?). Yeon Joo, who was treating her mentally ill alcoholic father, hears about this from Seo Do Yoon and drives off to find Kang Cheol. Oh Seong Moo gets up, drugs the bodyguard watching over him, and draws on the tablet Yeon Joo left in his room. He writes a letter and puts together some pictures for Kang Cheol to find and leaves them to the bodyguard. He drives away from the motel and witnesses a tragic scene that happens between the dying Kang Cheol and the helpless Yeon Joo. Tragedy (and justice) await the father and the politician-prosecutor who had had it in for Kang Cheol for a long, long time.

In the web toon world, Kang Cheol dies (though by this time I didn't believe it was permanent for one moment) and Yeon Joo witnesses this event. She is transported back into the real world and is sent to the hospital, due to understandably high levels of physical and emotional exhaustion.

(SPOILER - if you even care). The drama ends with Kang Cheol, magically alive again (sigh), revealing the news of Yeon Joo's father's death, and with the both of them promising to live their own story line, just like how other couples do in "the real world". Oh please. This was one of the most ABNORMAL K-drama couples I've ever seen: she obsessed over him like a thirteen year fan girl instead of a thirty year old medical doctor, and we barely ever see her performing her doctor duties -- only he seems to matter to her! He forgets his own family's murders, thinking she is the only family he's ever had. Sigh again. Sometimes I think I could write better dramas myself!

I think the moral of W K-drama, if there is one, is that caution should be used in properly transferring a web toon into a television drama and putting various spins on it -- it didn't work well for other K-dramas like Cheese In The Trap, either. Maybe some web toons should remain as web toons, and not cross over to Kdramaland.

My main problems with this mostly depressing drama have to do with 1) messy writing, 2) too much random bloodshed, and 3) the fact that his entire family is murdered but the character of Kang Cheol decides that only Yeon Joo means anything to him anymore. Family is very important to me and I didn't want Kang Cheol's family forgotten. If I were the writer I would have saved them and brought them into the real world. It would have been powerfully poignant to restore everything from the beginning and made sure the villain never destroyed good people's lives ever again!

At the end, when Kang Cheol hands Yeon Joo a picture of her dead father and she grieves over it, I was thinking to myself, "Where is a picture of Kang Cheol's family so he could grieve over the loss of his family members too?" I felt like I did while I watched James Cameron's Titanic, that only the characters of "Jack and Rose" meant anything and all the other people on the doomed ship didn't matter at all. They were just props for the main couple. So myopic! I usually care just as much about side characters in K-dramas as I do about the main ones.


If you are a fan of either Han Hyo Joo or Lee Jong Suk they have both made other dramas that are far better than W. Check them out on this site. For Han Hyo Joo watch Shining Inheritance and Spring Waltz, and for Lee Jong Suk watch I Hear Your Voice and/or Doctor Stranger, or even his short drama special When I Was The Prettiest. If you want to check out FAR better writing by Song Jae Jung, watch her masterpiece (where she DID know what she was doing!) Nine: Nine Time Travels instead. You won't miss anything much by dodging W.