Hindsight Review: Willing to Engage in Emotionally Satisfying “Psychological Warfare” for That Winter the Wind Blows

Winter Wind Blows

For the non-spoilery First Impression Review, click here.

I want to preface this Hindsight Review by saying it will probably be just as convoluted as the show’s ending. But hopefully, this Review will be just as satisfying as the show’s ending, in spite of its perplexing nature.

But what is easy is seeing why That Winter the Wind Blows has become the most talked about drama of the year so far. The SBS drama series’ ratings win against its more hyped competitors was a testament to its great writing and excellent performances. And that is definitely not a common occurrence in Korean dramaland.

That Winter the Wind Blows started off with an incredibly poetic aura about it. It’s stunningly breathtaking visuals were matched by both the deep and intriguing writing and the powerful performances of its lead actors.

It truly was the most emotional of emotional roller coasters. During the course of 16 episodes, you’d find yourself falling in love, then heartbroken, reaffirming the strength of friendships, angry, vengeful, shocked, depressed, shocked again, heartbroken again, shocked one more time before finally falling back in love for, what one would hope, the last time.

The series’ final few episodes, especially the last two, were far from perfect and yet were still convincingly affecting.

The only thought that went through my mind starting Episode 15 was “Oh my God, everyone’s going to end up dead, right?”

And several times during those final two episodes, it really did seem like everyone was either going to get killed (stabbed, most likely) or kill themselves. The threats to every main character’s life were used to full dramatic and suspenseful effect.

All eliciting reactions of disbelief, but at the same time, incredibly being totally predictable, knowing that with the exception of Moo Chul, everyone else had a pretty good chance of surviving. But to get to the point where we care whether or not these characters live or die speaks to how well the story developed and made us care for them. They’ve been through emotional hell and we’ve experienced them going through that emotional hell.

Song Hye Kyo pointed out the “psychological warfare” of the series in an interview. Though she was referring to the head games between Soo and Young, you could just as easily apply that to the torturous experience between the show and its viewers.

Tragedy and sadness. The anticipation of the pyramid of happiness built up by Oh Soo’s charade come crashing down. Young’s obsession with death. The mystery behind every single character’s true motives. Wondering just how Oh Soo and Oh Young would get their happy ending. Talk about psychological warfare, That Winter the Wind Blows definitely knew how to engage its viewer in an 9 week, 16 episode long emotional battle.

But it was a battle viewers were willing to engage in.

The final segment of the finale episode starting with Boss Kim insinuating Jin Sung’s family was in danger was too complicated for its own good, really. It felt like they fell a couple of minutes short of a full hour’s worth of material so they threw in that completely contrived final “twist.” I believe we’d have gotten the exact same ending of Soo and Young kissing in the woods without that final attempt at suspense.

After a few episodes worth of such contrived drama already, it felt too forced.

And yet, it all still felt satisfying. Soo apparently letting Young believe he was dead for a year. Young’s eyesight not completely back to normal. Though I will admit, trying to figure out whether or not Young could see was an amusing exercise after what should’ve been a horribly emotional moment (Jin Sung breaking down after stabbing Soo).

But what that sequence did do though was blur the events of the previous 15 and a half episodes. In that, you didn’t care what Soo and Young had just gone through. Only that they went through 15 and a half episodes of crap and now are getting a happy ending. Just keep that past in mind, though in a blurry haze, and focus on the pretty and bright kiss between our lead couple.

Winter Wind Blows

Song Hye Kyo commanded the series. I noted in my First Impression Review that the most important aspect of her performance as Oh Young was that she gave the character sincerity. That sincerity is definitely important in understanding Young’s actions throughout the series. You’re able to feel her joy as well as feel her pain. You might not always like or agree with some of her actions, but you know where she’s coming from. You needed that sincerity to understand her relationship with Secretary Wang and you need that sincerity to understand her relationship with Oh Soo, the two main threads of the series.

And Song Hye Kyo had a difficult task. She played a blind woman who needed to be both strong and vulnerable. She was able to take Young and not make her merely pitiful or a walking PSA. She allowed her character to be multi-faceted.

Winter Wind Blows

Jo In Sung had a similarly difficult task. He needed to make Oh Soo a conflicted hero. He’s an ass for using a blind woman to get money to pay off a debt (he didn’t even rack up). But as viewers, we need to root for him to get the girl he truly loves too. And we believed he did. We had to believe his loving treatment of Young wasn’t just to get her in his good graces, but that he’s truly fallen in love with her. He now really cares for her and not just the money. And Jo In Sung was able to do that.

Both Song Hye Kyo and Jo In Sung gave exceptionally memorable performances. They took great writing and more than brought these characters to life. I can’t remember the last drama I’ve watched that had two resoundingly excellent performances from its lead actors as Song Hye Kyo and Jo In Sung gave here. Their excellent chemistry erased any of that possible “ick” factor when you think about what’s actually going on with their supposed relationship. Your full knowledge of the situation was not enough to dissuade any of the borderline incestuous innuendo. It was their performances that did it. And that took a lot of skill.

Winter Wind Blows

The supporting cast were definitely not slouches either. Kim Bum’s been a talented and always solid actor. Jin Sung could’ve easily been just a mere loyal sidekick, but I believe Kim Bum was able to take the character to a deeper level. And before this drama, I had no experience with Jung Eun Ji’s acting. But I am now a fan and even more looking forward to seeing Answer Me 1997.

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And Bae Jong Ok as Secretary Wang and Kim Tae Woo as Moo Chul both faced similar challenges to make their characters sympathetic and somewhat rootable despite the seemingly horrible things they’ve done. It is an interesting feeling going back and realizing the characters you thought were villains were much more than that. And it is their nuanced performances that allow you to believe it

But for any great actor, a good script definitely helps. And That Winter the Wind Blows featured an engaging and tempered storytelling that complimented the excellent performances and the show’s stunning visual style. It was an emotionally draining melodrama, but well worth it. That Winter the Wind Blows was a pleasant and unexpected surprise I won’t soon forget.

Winter Wind Blows

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