What happens when a writer grows weary of his characters?
What happens when they fight back?
One is reminded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempting to rid himself of Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, or the author in Stranger Than Fiction whose protagonists never make it out alive.
Or perhaps the writer realizes she’s dug herself into a literary hole and doesn’t know when or how to end the story. (Lost, I’m lookin’ at you. And you, too, Once Upon a Time, which should have lasted only a season or two, before you misused your great cast and intriguing premise to go screaming off the rails into soap opera badlands.)
W is a 2016 South Korean television drama in the vein of Stranger Than Fiction, Secret Window, The Truman Show, The God Hater, and other stories where the characters confront or interact with their authors, their audiences, or their creators. In this series, comicbook characters become aware of their fictionhood and enter the real world to confront their creator.
First, the protagonist learns why a shadowy figure is trying to kill him and turns the tables on his creator. then the villain also realizes he can enter the other dimension, and demands of the creator a face and an identity.
How the story begins:
Kang Cheol has a few loyal associates upon whom he relies, but when a mysterious woman saves his life more than once, he’s intrigued. Although the police are seeking her as a material witness and a suspect in the multiple attempts on his life, Kang Cheol hides her in order to protect her not only from the police but also from his murderous stalker.
Meantime, his television station, W—which stands for Who and Why—broadcasts and solves cold cases that the police have abandoned. He has earned a golden reputation in society for his ingenuity, wealth, generosity, and dogged pursuit of justice.
Oh Yeon Joo is alerted by her father’s fellow artists that he is missing. He went into his office one day, and although he was never seen leaving, he cannot be found. As she’s standing in his office, searching for clues, a bloody hand reaches through his art tablet and pulls her into the world of W. Without valid ID, money, or other resources, she attempts to navigate the comicbook world and find a way back to her own.
Oh Seung Moo has made his fortune and his reputation with W, finally rising from obscurity to fame with the bestselling series. Why, then has he written an abrupt ending for the protagonist—a bloody death without the satisfaction of a solved crime? After all, fans have been awaiting the revelation of the villain who killed Kang Cheol’s family.
But Kang Cheol will not die, and he begins to affect the story from the other side of the tablet. Seung Moo is no longer in control of his creation.
Has Seung Moo run away, unable to cope with success? Or is he suffering a common literary malady—an inability to properly resolve the story?
And why does Kang Cheol believe Yeon Joo is “the key to my life”?
The answer to that, my friends, is a plot twist.
At only 16 episodes long, W is fast-paced. However, it does slow down a little on occasion, allowing the viewer to catch his or her breath and often poking gentle fun at kdrama tropes.
The cinematography is excellent, and the special effects—as characters pass from one world to the next, or as pieces of the comic are drawn and then appear in the webtoon world—are top-notch and deceptively simple. Some effects are in-camera rather than digital, lending a level of reality to the cartoon world.
W would fit nicely into any of these genres: horror, fantasy, thriller, mystery, suspense, romance, action, and more. It is twisty, unpredictable, and references many kdrama tropes then refreshes the cliches to turn the story in unexpected directions.
The reason for so many genres intermingling is due to the story being hijacked by the characters, who don’t know the cartoonist’s plans but simply want to live. And to live on their own terms.
Story themes include existence, humanity, determining one’s own life/destiny/future, and the roles and relationships among god/creator, devil/antagonist, and allies and enemies. Choices have consequences—and the choices and consequences become manifold as fictional characters no longer follow the plot but assert their wills on the story. Viewers of varying philosophies or worldviews will find this an intriguing tale.
Currently, W is available on Viki, which allows viewers to comment during the show. However, during your first viewing of the show, I suggest turning off the scrolling comments at the top of the video window, as they can be distracting, annoying, downright funny. Best to watch without them, until you view the show a second time.