What a ride it has been! I started out watching this drama with little expectations and the early episodes just continually blew my minds with the crazy twists, cliffhanger endings and how “meta” it was in terms of deconstructing character and the notion of authorship. This show is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and brilliant shows I’ve watched to date and not just within the Korean drama genre.
Did the finale live up to the promise of the earlier episodes?
To me, it did and it did so perfectly by bringing the themes full circle and in a way that’s characteristically “W” with the exposition on how the “happy ending” came about (though part of me was really wondering who the voice over narrator was in the second half of the episode?).
In my earlier speculation, I had anticipated that a redemption storyline would happen in the finale for Oh Seong Moo for all that had happened. And it did happen – in more ways than one. He finally regained control over the manhwa that he had lost control over and ended it in a way that he wanted to. He freed Kang Chul from the construct of a character who was born to suffer and brought happiness to Yeon Joo’s life through his sacrifice of writing a “contradiction” into the villain and thus causing himself or the villain to disappear.
Was it a bit of a stretch for us to believe that the manhwa could end without Yang Chul’s story actually ending?
Certainly it was. However the story doesn’t shy away from that and foregrounds the fact that even though the ending was sad, the readers could accept that it was so, because it was logical – a contrast to the protest from readers earlier on when Kang Chul committed suicide in the Han River.
If the comic had to illustrate the deaths of the Congressman and Oh Seong Moo, it would have become implausible and confusing. This brings to mind an interesting question of what actually goes into the comic and what doesn’t. Is everything that we witness during the episode an exact replica of what appears in the manhwa? While the drama doesn’t offer a clear answer on that, my view is that it’s certainly not the case. For example, when Kang Chul returns to the human world a second time with Yeon Joo, all that happens in the comic book world seems to come to a stand still until the point where he manages to summon himself in and hand the killer over to the police. Similarly in the finale, what the readers would have seen is the first half of the episode, but not the background action that happens in the second half.
Given that this difference between what we see and what the manhwa readers view, my theory is that the whole Seong Moo storyline in the last two episodes is something that happens in the “background” and not foregrounded. For manhwa readers, what happens in the final episode is Kang Chul goes to prison and Yeon Joo finally recovers from her coma to visit him. Then, he manages to escape from prison to find her in the house but Congressman kidnaps Doo Yoon in an attempt to get Kang Chul back. Yeon Joo and Kang Chul scheme and discover videos that can expose Congressman, but before Kang Chul heads down, he takes the ring off from Yeon Joo to free her then he heads to confront Congressman and gets shot, then eventually dies. This theory coheres with the fact of how Seong Moo’s ending is edited out because of the contradiction – perhaps not just his ending but his whole appearance in the final episode is edited out so that the episode makes sense and Kang Chul gets a tragic ending but fitting to his character.
However the ultimate question that remains unanswered then is who decides these rules? Who decides the rules of the day manhwa world and how people can move between it? If the show ever has a sequel, these are the questions that it can begin to explore, though I am not sure how it can do so. These questions were skirted around in this season and that’s why many viewers also find the show ultimately dissatisfying because the whole premise of the show which is travelling between worlds wasn’t explained.
To me though, such explanations would have detracted from the kind of story the writers were going for. While being very meta, the focus was always on the construct of characterization and what happens when the character takes on a life of its own. This happened to both the hero and the villain who took on lives of their own because the writer arguably tried to bring them on a direction that contradicted their character construct. This was a story that was ultimately brought full circle and that would be so much to unpack and discuss regarding this.
Was the show really about the romance between Yeon Joo and Kang Chul? Arguably that was the hook and the aspect that made the show marketable and popular; however that wasn’t the main story and that is what the ending also reveals. The show ends with Yeon Joo saying that while W has ended, the story between her and Kang Chul has just begun. However, they no longer need to fear for their lives and can now live as ordinary couples. This line to me summarizes what the series was all about – it was about characters trying to break free from the destinies written “for them”, trying to devise different ways to get that “happy ending”. Ultimately it was only when all 3 main characters came together and achieved their respective reconciliations that the story was able to end and their lives continue. This is why W Two Worlds still remains to me one of the most ambitious stories ever told.