CHOOSING YOUR OWN K-DRAMA ADVENTURE
Kang Chul (Lee Jong Suk) is a former Olympic gold medalist in shooting who is accused of murdering his entire family. After proving his innocence, he creates the W Network in order to solve cases using facts and hope that it’ll help him to find and seek revenge on the mysterious killer who ruined his life. Unbeknownst to him and in a parallel universe, Chul is actually the main character in a popular webtoon series titled, “W”.
As a failed webtoon artist, alcoholic and divorcee, Oh Sung Moo (Kim Eui Sang) gains popularity with “W”. However, he begins to notice that his drawings sometimes change on their own and comes to the realization that he may not be in control of his own work.
Oh Yeon Joo (Han Hyo Joo) is a resident doctor and Sung Moo’s daughter. Upon hearing that her father has disappeared, she goes to her father’s studio in search of him. However, she is pulled into another world and comes across a dying Chul. Immediately her medical training kicks in and she saves his life but she inadvertently finds herself caught up within the webtoon narrative.
After watching the first episode, I was immediately struck by the creative plot. Here was a story within a story where some of the characters become aware of both the real and the fantasy world. To give the plot structure, the drama establishes a set of rules within each world and how to manipulate their fates. So there is a nice foundation that is set up for the story which also give the characters flexibility to bend the rules.
And yet, if you look at the drama as a whole, the drama doesn’t necessarily break the rules of the classic K-Drama tropes. We have second leads who create hurdles for our OTP, revenge plots, there’s an “amnesia” storyline and even the parent who stands in the OTP’s way. However, because the characters are aware of the two worlds, there is some awareness as to what makes for a compelling story, such as Yeon Joo inciting the final cut of the webtoon chapter.
Not only did I find Yeon Joo’s methods entertaining to watch but I loved that it become a plot device that could have taken the drama in a lot of different directions. There were dozens of loophooles to discover and the drama did a good job of keeping me on the edge of my seat. It also makes the main characters more compelling as they are actively involved in trying to find a resolution for the hurdles they are faced with.
There was a lot of characters to love in the drama but I was most intrigued by Kang Chul and Oh Sung Moo. On the surface, they have a lot of similarities in that I almost felt like they were mirror images of themselves. They are both cold and logical and yet, when it comes to Yeon Joo, they have a soft spot for her. Despite the similarities, the drama establishes them on opposites as their fates become unintentionally intertwined. After all, Sung Moo created Chul and Chul is the reason why Sung Moo finds acclaim as a webtoon artist.
Jung Joon Young – 내가 너에게 가든 네가 나에게 오든 (Whether I Go to You or You Come to Me)
Oh Sung Moo, who is brilliantly played by Kim Eui Sung, was such an interesting character as we literally saw two sides of him. I loved the symbolism of how this unfolds as Sung Moo is partially responsible for the pain he inflicts upon Chul. Initially, it made me wonder where the line is drawn as to who the antagonist is. Is it really the killer’s fault if the killer is the creation of the webtoon artist? As cheesy as the line may have sounded, there is an important significance when Yeon Joo says that she’s Chul’s fan and hopes he has a “happy ending”. Her affinity for Chul and her relationship with her dad make Sung Moo’s relationship with Chul all the more complicated. But the drama takes that dilemma one step further when the killer is finally given a face and Sung Moo becomes his puppet.
However, at the heart of the story, there is a lovely romance. Yeon Joo brings a sense of childlike innocence which is comparable against Chul’s sharp wit. I could have easily been turned off by Yeon Joo but she won me over with her earnestness to do the right thing. Even when she assumed he was merely a fictional character, the pureness of her emotions for Chul is what brings Chul and her father to an understanding.
Park Bo Ram – 거짓말이라도 해줘요 (Tell Me, Even If It’s a Lie)
As for Chul, I loved that he always had the wheels in his head turning. Despite Yeon Joo’s abnormal behavior early on, he wasn’t a character who was going to simply take Yeon Joo’s word at face value but he also doesn’t dismiss her outright. As shocking as it was when Chul tries to take a shot at Yeon Joo, it was Chul’s way of theorizing the mysterious circumstances that he’s been a witness to.
The main cast is quite interesting to watch because of the complexities of their characters but I felt that most of the supporting cast was just okay. They serve their purpose for the story but felt a bit like prop pieces being used when the story needed them. For example, Han Chul Ho (Park Won Sang) appears to be an important character early on in the drama but is largely missing from the 2nd act.
On the other hand, Park Soo Bong (Lee Shi Un) was entertaining as the sidekick in large part due to Lee Shi Un’s frantic but hilarious acting. Unlike many of the secondary characters who were unaware of the two worlds, it was enjoyable to see Soo Bong as the sidekick because he could help the gang out while adding hilarious commentary about what was going and providing some levity when it was needed. In some ways, he’s an extension of the viewers who are watching the drama.
One of the most important elements when watching this drama is its ability to create great special effects that will bring alive the sci-fi aspect of the characters crossing between the webtoon and real world. That’s a major part of what makes this drama so unique and the drama does an incredibly great job. I love how they found inspiration from a-ha’s “Take On Me” and imagine that the prop crew and the CG crew had to work closely to not only create the volume of books but the many, many drawings that were incorporated into the drama. The drama also did an excellent job in making Lee Jong Suk and Han Hyo Joo the webtoon’s hero and heroine by illustrating them using familiar styles seen in romance and action manhwas.
Though the drama creates a fantasy and a “real” world, we are not less compelled by what’s going on in either worlds as the dangers and risks impact characters we care about. There’s an interesting psychological debate that goes on in this drama as Kang Chul, Oh Yeon Joo and Oh Sung Moo are faced with some difficult choices because of the relationship that they have with one another. Once we were reeled in by their motives, we were left at the drama’s mercy about achieving that “happy ending”.