Time for some new premieres, with That Winter, The Wind Blows heading the melodramatic pack over at SBS. I went in with high expectations, and am happy to report that this premiere exceeded most of them, with the only downfall being the seemingly old-hat-nature of the premise and some of the chaebol-centric plot movements.
However, with this writer we can pretty much look at the big picture as just the bare bones framework, because it’s in the little moments and character nuances that this team truly shines. In fact, I’d venture to say that we’ve got The Trifecta™ of writing, acting, and directing going on. Sure we’re still gaining our footing, but we’re going good places.
That Winter premiered in third place to 11.3% ratings (behind Level 7 Civil Servant and IRIS 2), but never fear, because Episode 2 aired right after this one. Great for viewing, not so great for recapping.
SONG OF THE DAY
That Winter OST – “Gray Paper” by Yesung [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open on a vast snowy field populated by one giant tree, as a lone figure leaves behind a plastic bag of clothing. Upon closer inspection, we also see that she’s abandoned an infant inside.
In a lavish penthouse, a scantily-clad couple lies entwined as OH SOO (Jo In-sung) smirks ruefully at a pair of dice he’s holding. In voiceover we hear him ask, almost defensively, “Can’t I just live half-heartedly like this? Does there need to be a reason for a person to live?”
The woman lying next to him, JIN SO-RA (Seo Hyo-rim) asks about his family, which sends us back in time to that snow-covered field as the mother of the infant runs away, followed by the baby’s cries. Ah, so that was him.
Soo repeats the word “family” like it’s a foreign and amusing concept, as if it’s not something tangible and real. Not for him, anyway.
Meanwhile, our heroine’s family is thrust into the media spotlight as everyone hones in on her father, the CEO of a large corporation, PL Group, since he’s been comatose for three hundred days and has obviously been unable to run the company.
His only daughter and sole heir to his fortune, OH YOUNG (Song Hye-gyo) listens to the television report from a treadmill, as the report continues to state that her fiancé has been acting as CEO during the interim.
However, in the room where her father lies hooked up to every tube and wire imaginable, said fiancé tells the company lawyer that he’s done acting as a substitute CEO, and starts talking about pushing the wedding date up… Only to be interrupted by a stone-faced Young, as she reminds those present in the room (including the company lawyer) that her father is still very much alive. She won’t entertain the thought of replacing him yet.
Her fiancé keeps quiet as she feels along the wall to guide herself to her father’s bedside. She may be blind, but she’s no less graceful for it. (And she certainly doesn’t seem to be a pushover, either.)
We find Soo playing a high-stakes game of poker, and his winning hand sparks the temper of a sore loser. He and his right-hand man PARK JIN-SUNG (Kim Bum) seem to be used to this song and dance and know that they won’t keep their winnings without a fight, which results in both of them punching and kicking their way through a group of hired thugs in order to escape.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t bother them one bit as they leave the private gambling den grinning. We hear Soo in voiceover talking about everyone’s struggle to find a reason to live, and how he thinks it’s all useless in the end.
Even so, he still looks for a reason, though he hasn’t found one yet. “Then, will something change in my life?” he asks himself. “I’ve lived my whole life thinking that I only have myself to depend on. Will there really be a moment of enlightenment?”
Back in the hotel room, So-ra worries that Soo will throw her away, and he doesn’t try to alleviate her fears as he comes to an internal decision to go all in and start trusting in something – even if it’s a lie, he’s got nothing to lose.
“You’re cruel,” So-ra tells him.
He laughs like she’s just told him a hilarious joke that he knows all too well. “I agree.”
Young climbs into a bed prepared for her by the female secretary from earlier, WANG HYE-JI. Only after Secretary Wang leaves does Young open her eyes, having feigned sleep.
So there’s another Oh Soo who happens to be friends with our hero Oh Soo (we’ll just keep calling him Soo) and best friend Jin-sung. Jin-sung is delightfully snarky as he answers Friend Soo’s claim that he’s really Young’s brother and heir to their father’s corporation with a, “If you’re the eldest son of PL Group’s president, then I’m Steve Jobs’ long-lost son!” Heh.
It’s hard to tell if this guy is sincere or crazy, since he claims that his mother ran away with him when he was eight and that he REALLY IS Young’s long-lost brother. Even though he has a letter written out to Young (using Soo’s house as the return address), he claims he promised his late mother that he’d never go to his (their?) dad for money. He wants to be able to stand on his own two feet first.
Friend Soo used Hanja characters to spell his name on the envelope, and explains to Soo that the “Soo” in his name (I know, it’s getting confusing) means “to protect,” which his mother gave him so he could “protect” his sister and the world.
He asks Soo what Hanja character he uses for his name, and Soo just shrugs that the character in his name means “tree,” because he was abandoned under one.
At his lavish penthouse, Soo is confronted about who he slept with last night by MOON HEE-SUN (Jung Eun-ji), sister to Soo’s late girlfriend. Jin-sung and Friend Soo are all there eating breakfast like a family, though their meal is interrupted when Hee-sun drops the panties she found in Soo’s bed in his soup as evidence.
…And then she pours that same soup on his head.
Secretary Wang is outside when Young receives the mail, and judging by her mad sprint to get to the mailman first, methinks she’s been hiding something.
The mailman delivers Friend Soo’s letter to Young, and in a healthy bit of exposition, he tells her that her brother has been sending these letters since last fall. Seems like Young has been unaware, which means Secretary Wang has been keeping them from her.
Young knows enough to hide the letter and steal away upstairs, while Secretary Wang looks for her in her father’s sickroom. His vitals drop drastically as soon as she leaves.
Tensions between Secretary Wang and Young are strained, since Young holds the woman responsible for her parents’ divorce, saying, “You always had Dad’s trust. He trusted you more than me.”
When she asks if Secretary Wang ever heard from her brother, the sly fox covers by claiming that her dad told her not to look for him. Young takes matters into her own hands by getting a taxi driver to take her to Friend Soo’s address using the letter, but Secretary Wang saw the letters and fearfully confirms that Young received one from Friend Soo. Uh oh.
The alarm above Dad’s room goes off to alert the household to his dropping vitals (a delayed alarm, that), and Secretary Wang, left alone in the house, decides to ignore it. Wait, so she’s purposefully leaving him to die? If I had a nickel for every time this happened in a drama, well, I’d have a lot of nickels.
While Soo sleeps, So-ra hurriedly packs her things before she sneaks something into his safe, leaving him with a tearful stroke to the cheek. Looks like he’s getting framed.
The taxi driver leaves Young outside Soo’s apartment complex (which Friend Oh Soo had listed as his address), and she steels herself before attempting to make her way with a guide cane. A brief peek through her eyes shows that she can see some colors, but they’re very dim, faint, and shapeless.
She rings Soo’s doorbell until he’s roused from his sleep, though he tries to send her home once he realizes she’s here for Friend Soo. He tries to explain that he and her brother are different people with the same name before he shoos her away so he can go back to sleep.
When Soo finally leaves three hours later, he finds that Young has been waiting the whole time on his stairwell.
Maybe he feels a little bad, because he offers to let her stay in his apartment to wait. She declines, and instead asks if he’ll read her brother’s letter to her, handing over the whole stack of mail since she doesn’t know which one it is.
Only then does Soo realize that she’s blind, and is moved to stick around when she explains that she’s on a mission to find her brother since her father is ill. It’s cute that he’s so awkward in trying to help her get to a safer spot, even though she’s pretty capable on her own.
He reads her Friend Soo’s letter, wherein he lies about owning a restaurant and being business partners with Soo. Soo keeps interrupting the letter to make observations about her, like noting how she’s not talkative even though Friend Soo remembers her to be that way.
Apparently Friend Soo is unaware that she’s blind, since she still had her vision when they separated. Soo reads her the rest of the letter, and even hands her his handkerchief when her emotions overcome her. Brother Oh Soo knows that she must have been lonely staying with their emotionally distant dad. Aw.
Police arrive outside Soo’s apartment complex accompanied by a frantic call from Jin-sung telling Soo that he’s been framed by So-ra for embezzlement. Oh, and she’s disappeared with all his money.
He clasps a hand over Young’s mouth in order to pull her out of sight from the police, but he soothes her by telling her to walk in the building and wait, because her real brother will be home soon. “Also, the last line of the letter… Your brother says he loves you.”
He leaves her with that and takes off running, followed closely by policemen. Friend Oh Soo sees him fleeing and starts chasing after him to find out what’s going on, and chases him into a street…
…Where he’s hit by a car. Yeeesh.
At the same time, Young gets a call that Dad is in critical condition.
Soo gets tackled to the ground by police only feet away from Friend Oh Soo, who’s lying still with blood running from his head. It’s not clear whether he’s dead or not, but Young stops just feet away to try and hail a taxi so she can get home to her father, completely unaware of what’s happening in front of her.
She’s only a few steps away from her real brother, and Soo takes it all in, though he’s unable, or unwilling, to call out to her.
So-ra pays Soo a visit in prison and asks him to serve a one-year sentence for the embezzlement she framed him for. Her reasoning? She’s going to be in the States for a year and couldn’t stand the thought of him screwing around. Say what? This girl is INSANE. Legitimately insane.
She might even be telling the truth, since she claims she hid the money away in a Swiss bank account Soo can access once he’s free, and they’ll live a new life together. Until then he has no hope, because the man she stole the money from is, predictably, a bad man to steal from. And it’s no small amount, either.
I’d say Soo’s reaction is pretty adequate, in that he flips a table over and tells her that they’re finished no matter what she does.
Young’s father dies, and one year passes.
Like So-ra said, Soo is released from prison. Jin-sung picks him up and regales him with tales of his quest to get revenge on the club owner Soo never embezzled from, which resulted in a dislocated shoulder, broken legs, and two missing teeth. That’s love.
Aww, so poor Friend Soo really died from that car accident, since Jin-sung takes Soo to the frozen river where he spread his ashes. He still thinks Friend Soo was lying about being a secret chaebol, and laughs about it. “Still, he was a nice guy.”
Soo clearly feels guilt for dragging Jin-sung down with him, and tries to end their friendship/partnership in order to free Jin-sung up to achieve his dream of buying a dairy farm for his dad. Jin-sung all but balks at this – he didn’t wait a year for his beloved hyung to dump him.
He eventually wears Soo down, and teases him about being unable to follow through on his threat to end their friendship: “Why? Because you love me.” D’aww. You can tell it’s true. He’s ready to take on the world with his hyung and reclaim his/their fortune.
They’re blocked at the first opportunity, since the club owner has already bought over or threatened anyone they could actually borrow money from. Jin-sung is too hot-headed to take this lying down and gets into another fight on Soo’s behalf.
A sinister figure coolly confronts Soo on behalf of the club owner he supposedly embezzled from – he owes seventy-eight billion won (about seven million dollars) and has one hundred days to come up with it. This is JO MOO-CHUL (Kim Tae-woo), and he makes no bones about what will happen to Soo should he fail to come up with the hefty sum.
He leaves, but when Soo turns around, Moo-chul stabs him in the gut. Don’t judge me, I might have let out a little scream. (It all happened so fast!)
Moo-chul is totally stone-faced as he tells Soo that this was just a warning stab, and that he’ll really kill him next time. That’s a hell of a way to get your message across.
Secretary Wang helps Young to the stage in order to make a presentation on behalf of the company, and she performs flawlessly. Lawyer Jang fawns over her in the elevator while her fiancé merely looks bored, though she claims that all the positive attention she received was only a one-time deal since her three-month term as interim CEO will soon be over.
She looks at the bright side – she normally only goes from her house to the charity center, so coming to the company was a fun foray. It seems like she knows she’ll only stay temporary because of her disability, though she’s made peace with it.
However, Lawyer Jang has a surprise in store with regard to Soo’s father’s will, which he promises to reveal soon. Secretary Wang doesn’t seem like she was let in on the secret either, and as she drives away with Young, Lawyer Jang gets a call.
“You found him?” he asks the receiver. Sounds like he’s looking for her brother.
In the car, Secretary Wang asks Young when she’ll marry her fiancé, since they’ve been engaged for a year now, only to have Young reply that she won’t be marrying him at all. The engagement was Dad’s idea, and though she might have liked him, she asks Secretary Wang if she expects her to marry just because she “likes” Myung-ho. (She seems to be insinuating that love, not just tolerance, is needed for a marriage. What a novel idea!)
She even thinks Secretary Wang is pushing her to marry him because she thinks Young can’t be picky due to her blindness. “Let’s just say it’s an inferiority complex I have because I’m handicapped,” Young tells her.
Soo escapes from the hospital and Jin-sung’s watchful eye to violently confront one of the friends who’s betrayed him, one he fed, clothed, housed, and gave a new life to.
The man is a sniveling weasel and calls for backup to take Soo down while lying to his face that he’d totally never do that to the hyung who saved his life, but he’s just buying time for backup to arrive.
When it does, Soo faces off against a hallway filled with thugs. It’s a dirty, brutal fistfight that ends with Soo taking a hard blow to the head. Up until then, though, he was holding his own pretty well.
The blow, and the subsequent kicks and punches, send Soo to the floor. He struggles to get back up, his muscles uncoordinated and twitchy from the head wound, only to be faced with Moo-chul. Eek. (*hides*)
He smiles as he reminds Soo that he has ninety-seven days to pay up.
After being dumped out on a busy street, Soo has to all but crawl to Friend Soo’s rooftop, which is the only place left for him to stay now that the club owner has taken everything. This is where Lawyer Jang finds him, but all Soo does is answer his questions truthfully, by saying that yes, this is Oh Soo’s rooftop, and yes, he’s Oh Soo.
Of course, he doesn’t know that Lawyer Jang is looking for the deceased Friend Soo until he sees his business card and remembers everything about Friend Soo being the long-lost son of PL Group. And that he told him and Jin-sung could go to his father if things ever got tough to get help, being friends of the group heir and all.
Lawyer Jang thinks he’s really found THE Oh Soo and declares, “I’m Lawyer Jang ajusshi,” expecting a bigger response than the blank stare he gets. He was a close friend of the father, and reminds Soo that they used to go fishing together.
“Do you really not remember me?” Lawyer Jang asks.
Soo looks at the business card like he’s just been handed the keys to the universe, as everything starts falling into place to create the perfect plan: The true Oh Soo is dead, he desperately needs the money, and he’s just been given a golden opportunity to get it.
So it’s with tears in his eyes that Soo looks up and stutters, “No… I remember. You’ve grown very old, ajusshi.”
I have to say I’m pretty pleased with this turn of events, if only because every scrap of promotional material told us that Oh Soo would be a conman and a trickster out to mercilessly steal a blind girl’s fortune. We know that’s going to happen, but I like that we’ve been given enough information to understand his desperation, so that we know that he’s not just conning a girl to be cruel. After all, the gauntlet has been thrown and the stakes are high, with Soo knowing better than anyone how real that ninety-seven day deadline is.
Admittedly, the grander plot movements seem pretty familiar, and I’ve never met a chaebol storyline which I’ve found to be particularly fresh or interesting. It was a big “ho hum” moment when Secretary Wang left Young’s father to die, because we’ve quite literally seen this kind of dynamic featured fairly recently in the last high-profile melodrama with chaebols: Nice Guy. It’s just common at this point for gold diggers to calmly stand aside when someone rich is dying, so up until that point in the episode it wasn’t the plot that was pulling me in as much as the characters.
It’s no secret (and if it was, not anymore) that I absolutely loved Padam Padam, the last group effort by this writer/director duo, and find PD Kim Kyu-tae a fantastic cinematographer capable of creating simultaneously beautiful shots with a sense of realism and a healthy penchant for physicality. The camera moves in such a way that keeps the shots dynamic, whether we’re close enough to an actor’s face for them to crack the lens with their forehead or just barely out of reach when there’s action on screen.
Jung Woo-sung used his height and physique to great effect in Padam, and I’m seeing the same kind of attributes in Jo In-sung’s performance. I’m not too familiar with him as an actor (though I’ve heard he has quite the (in)famous crying scene), but I find him completely mesmerizing in this role, constantly brimming with intensity and – dare I say it? – sincerity. That statement is going to turn around and bite me later on since we know he’s going to orchestrate a huge scam, but I think it’s important that we got to see the why behind it all. And that, when faced with the need to flee from the police, our hero would still complete his obligation to finish reading a letter to a blind girl.
This is also Song Hye-gyo’s anticipated small screen comeback since 2008′s The World That They Live In, and she’s in fine form in a role that seems tailor-made for her. I have nothing but good things to say about the cast as a whole, really, and even though Kim Bum played the same fiercely loyal Best Friend Role in last year’s Padam, he plays the type well. He’s just a wee bit more violent this round.
All this boils down to the fact that I like the show and want to see more of it. I just wish SBS had thought to throw in a time machine with their three-episode bundle this week.
- That Winter premieres this week with double header
- Posters and character stills for That Winter
- Teaser and stills for That Winter
- That Winter gets a slot on SBS’s schedule
- Kim Bum and Jung Eun-ji in talks for That Winter
- Jo In-sung and Song Hye-gyo confirm melodrama
- Song Hye-gyo and Jo In-sung in talks for Noh Hee-kyung drama