First Impression Review: SBS’ Poetic and Engaging That Winter, the Wind Blows

That Winter the Wind Blows

Moderate spoilers up to episode 6.
For the spoiler-filled Hindsight Review, click here.

SBS’ That Winter, the Wind Blows is a perfect example of how to do melodrama without overdoing the histrionics, exaggerations, and villain moustache-twirling that is typical of the genre.

And maybe even more commendable about the series, aside from a very strong cast, is how visually stunning it is, adding an extra layer to the already tempered storytelling and nuanced performances.

There is almost a sort of poeticism in its presentation that there seems to be a sense of gliding along what should be a rough and bumpy road. It is poetic in the way I thought KBS’ Cinderella’s Sister was, but this time with much better writing.

That Winter, the Wind Blows tells the story of Oh Soo (Jo In Sung), a debt-ridden gambler who assumes the identity of his identically named (but now dead, partly because of him) friend to try and get his hand on the 78 billion won he needs.

The dead Oh Soo is heir to a fortune, but had been separated from the life of luxury (and it turns out, the fortune) as a child when his parents divorced and he leaves with his mother. Left behind at the mansion is younger sister Oh Young (Song Hye Kyo) who grows up blind and in the care of her father’s secretary-turned-mistress Wang Hye Ji (Bae Jong Ok).

Despite having already met a year before when Young had hoped to have finally found her older brother, Oh Soo must convince her that he is her real brother.

He has help from best friend and partner in crime Park Jin Sung (Kim Bum), but also gets help from a reluctant Moon Hee Sun (Jung Eun Ji) who is the sister of Oh Soo’s (also dead) first love.

That Winter the Wind Blows

It was after her death and the fact that he had been abandoned by his mother at birth that Oh Soo turned to gambling, making enemies along the way. For Oh Young, she’s pretty much lived her life alone despite the care from Secretary Wang who may or may not have had something to do with Young losing her eyesight.

Maybe because of that life, without a mother, apart from her brother, and little care from her father, Young would much rather die seeing as she has no reason to live. Welcoming, though not fully trusting Oh Soo, she tells him he can have the fortune as long as he kills her. And she’s perfectly fine with that.

And this is only one part of what has become an intricate web of connections, causes and consequence.

Being six episodes, a lot has happened. The series has maintained a brisk pace that never lets up, partly due to an efficient, but engaging uncovering of each character’s layers. The surprising depth each character has is excellently revealed in that onion-peeling sort of way. And it’s the characters themselves that provide the twists and not the plot.

Now, of course, this is also a romance drama. And we know that we’d like to see Soo and Young end up together somehow. But… they’re supposed to be siblings. Yes, Soo knows they’re not, but like he’s growing to be, it is getting more and more awkward by the day. Is he developing romantic feelings for her? It is clear he is developing some sort of connection beyond Young merely being a blank check.

That Winter the Wind Blows

What makes the ick factor disappear, however, is the sincerity Song Hye Kyo gives to Young. You’re already on Young’s side the entire way, and even more so as the episodes move along when it seems like everyone, and I mean everyone, is using her for one reason or another. But she gives Young a sincerity that makes you believe there is no malice in her genuine interest and care and longing for her older brother. That’s definitely not icky. Young finally finds and gets to spend time with a brother she’s been apart from for 21 years. She might not fully trust his intentions yet, but she sincerely wants to be a younger sister for the first time in two decades.

It’s that dynamic that definitely pushes you to anticipate the moment the shit hits the fan and she finds out the truth. Then what happens after that? If it’s soon, will she and Soo fall in love for reals without being gross? Or are they going to take this charade all the way to the end and we might have to prepare ourselves for one hell of an emotional ending.

But aside from that, there’s definitely much left to uncover with a compelling and talented cast leading the way.

That Winter the Wind Blows

Jo In Sung deftly tiptoes the line between being a lowlife taking advantage of a blind woman and being a dashing, yet troubled hero. You hate what Oh Soo is doing, but you can’t fully hate him for it. And that should be important moving forward.

That Winter the Wind Blows

Kim Bum is solid as sidekick Jin Sung. It has been great seeing his growth and versatility with every drama role he’s taken. Here, he gets a chance to be charming and funny, but also strong and mature.

I’ve been meaning to watch Answer Me 1997, but have certainly heard all the great things about it. So this is the first I’ve seen of Jung Eun Ji’s acting, but am already impressed. She could be, not only one of the best idol actresses, but one of the best young actresses today period. She’s had a strong presence on-screen and feels like a natural.

That Winter the Wind Blows

But it’s Song Hye Kyo who commands this series. Like I said earlier, she gives Oh Young a sincerity. Without that sincerity, the series wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. She gives the character and the story credibility and validity while affecting your emotions in all the right ways. Oh Young is a complicated and multi-faceted character, but Song Hye Kyo’s excellent performance is effortless.

That Winter, the Wind Blows might seem like a typical melodrama on the surface, but the episodes have been so full of life so far, engaging the audience and briskly weaving its way through an intricate story.

Its poetic and soft visual style contrasts the dramatic, but not exaggerated plot and performances. It has an air of freshness that keeps the proceedings from becoming overdramatic and worn out. It has been an exciting start and staying on track could result in the series becoming something special.

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