There’s a light at the end of every drama tunnel, but sometimes it’s how we get there that matters more than how bright that light turns out to be. I wish I wasn’t so conflicted over this finale or the last few episodes, because I truly did love this show in the early stages, and wish that love could have carried all the way through. By no means does that make the show terrible or the journey not worth taking, but there’s that feeling of What Could Have Been, even though that feeling got tempered by all the pretty people and all the pretty cinematography.
If nothing else, this was an insanely beautiful show, well-scored and well-acted. If we add the ‘something else,’ then this was an insanely beautiful if not sometimes-frustrating exercise in understanding people who looked like people, but had some moments where they didn’t really act like people. But it’s time to let bygones be bygones and say farewell to Winter. I’ll try to remember the good times, and I’ll be sure to remember that through you, I discovered Jo In-sung.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Oooh, a twist! Turns out Moo-chul wasn’t stabbed, because he’s too legit to quit. Instead he grabs Gangster Wannabe’s knife by the blade and gives him the smack down, even going so far as to dislocate his would-be murderer’s shoulder.
Gangster Wannabe goes scurrying off with his tail between his legs just as Moo-chul collapses, spitting up blood from his stomach cancer. Jin-sung spots him while on his way to the hospital and starts to piggyback him the rest of the way, even though Moo-chul’s already got one foot in the other world as he mumbles, “Just leave me be…”
Jin-sung doesn’t give up, until he feels Moo-chul go limp on his back. Is he dead, for real this time? Jin-sung seems to think so as he stops running and starts crying, with Moo-chul’s minion nearby to share in the grief. (Dude, where were you when your boss was driving on pain killers?)
Doctor Sun-hee treats Young at home, with Lawyer Jang and her closest friends watching nervously even as Sun-hee declares that Young will be fine when she wakes up. Good to know a little wrist-slitting never hurt anybody.
Outside the room, Sun-hee tells Soo that Moo-chul died after being sick for far too long. She got the call from Jin-sung while she was on her way to treat Young.
“He lived like a dog, and died like a dog,” she laments, though she’s not willing to let Soo comfort her as she tells him that he won’t be needed at Moo-chul’s cremation.
After she’s gone, Soo lets this news sink in. Poor guy’s had better days.
Hee-sun cries at the sight of Moo-chul’s body in the morgue, while Jin-sung stays to comfort her.
Soo stays vigilant at Young’s bedside until she wakes and realizes he’s there with her. He looks relieved as he shakes his bracelet to let her know it’s him.
Lawyer Jang finds Secretary Wang in the countryside, where she watches her elderly parents from afar. She tells him that she even got to eat with her mother the night before, though they had to hide the fact from her father.
But he’s not there to hear about her family life, and instead asks her to return to Young’s side. Secretary Wang wants to know why, considering how she made Young, you know, blind.
Back with Jin-sung, we see Moo-chul’s minion helping him out in revealing Boss Man’s plan to screw him over, since the money he borrowed for the game came from the devil himself. Now he knows, and knowing is half the battle.
Young wakes up to find Soo asleep at her bedside, and as she brushes her fingers across his face she remembers his desperate plea for her to watch his video. Soo should win an award for being the worst person to put on someone’s suicide watch, since Young manages to make it up and out of the room without waking him up.
Despite the fact that she threw the keys blindly into the greenhouse shrubbery the night before, Young emerges into the secret room without a speck of dirt on her. So… is she over the suicide thing? Talk about a quick recovery time.
She finds the Braille letter Soo left her directing her to watch the video. She listens, as in it, Soo tells her what we’ve heard him say before about how his outlook on life changed when he met her. And how, for the first time, the world seemed fair.
Young’s eyes begin to fill with tears as Soo pours his heart out in the video, saying how much he wanted to tell her when he first fell in love with her and how beautiful she was, and how much her real brother loved her. “And… I want to pay for what I’ve done,” he chokes out.
Her tears finally spill over as she stops the video, even though Video Soo seemed to have more to say.
Soo nearly drops in relief when he finds Young, even as she emotionlessly tells him she’s hungry. He offers to make her the same potato soup he did on their trip, but adds, “I want to stay with you. I need you next to me. I’m going to carry you.”
Zombie Young says okay, and he carries her three steps to the kitchen.
Soo does all the talking during dinner and even after, until Young cuts him off by telling him to leave once Lawyer Jang comes back.
“I can’t forgive you,” she says. “I can’t understand how you couldn’t even make an excuse. I don’t want to admit it, but I can’t be a better person. Even if you didn’t take the money, it won’t bring everything back to the way it was.”
Soo nods, understanding even though it hurts. But then she adds that if she lives through her surgery, they’ll meet again, and finally talk out their issues. Because now just isn’t a good time?
“When that time comes, you will answer all of my questions without hiding anything. Whether you really loved me. How guilty you felt while you loved me. Whether it really hurt you as much as it hurt me when you were lying. And… where you buried my brother, or which river you spread his ashes at. You will answer all my questions honestly.” How about NOW, since you’re already asking the questions?
(Seriously though. I don’t understand why this conversation can’t happen now. Is this another instance of Drama Syndrome, where characters would rather undergo pain and irreparable harm than do something logical?)
Young gets out what she wants to say as she fights back tears, but as she speaks, Soo lets his flow freely. “When you were gone and I couldn’t see you, the hardest part was that I still missed you. I guess it wasn’t over for me either when I let you go. Even at the moment when I wanted to end it, a part of me still wanted you to run back to me. When I slit my wrist, I looked forward to you opening my door instead of feeling scared. As if I never wanted to die.”
So… let me get this straight. She didn’t really want to commit suicide, it was just a cry for attention? I can’t even.
She takes Soo’s face in her hands as she adds that she has more to tell him, but it’ll wait until after her surgery. “It’s not over between us,” she says, echoing his line from the video. Now she’s looking toward the future, to when they’ll meet again. Ah, so maybe she’s making plans for the future since she wants to have a future now.
As if to answer her request for them to be able to talk once she wakes up, Soo kisses her.
After they each pull away, Young comforts him: “Don’t cry. I love you, very much.” Soo pulls her into an embrace even as he can’t help but crying, and he repeats over and over again, “I love you. I love you.”
Later that night, Soo affixes the bell string to her wrist again. She rings it with a smile.
He’s leaving, but not before he kisses her on the forehead, eyelid, and cheek. “I hope you like me when you see me after the surgery,” he jokes lightly. Since when did they promise to remove her brain tumor and restore her sight, considering that the two are unrelated?
He’s clearly reluctant to go, and holds onto Young’s hand for as long as he can. Only when he’s out does he call Secretary Wang to ask her to return, because he’ll feel more at ease if she’s there to take care of Young.
Lawyer Jang tries to get Soo to take the money on Young’s behalf, since it would make her feel better. Soo lies(?) that he doesn’t need it anymore, all while Young stands at her open window, ringing the glass bell as he leaves.
He turns back to her with a smile, and rings the bell bracelet.
Young notices that her pre-surgery breakfast smells better than usual, only to find that Secretary Wang returned to cook it for her. As Wang recites Young’s table setting like the old days, Young’s eyes brim with tears. She’s happy to have Wang back.
And the good times keep going as Soo helps Jin-sung and his family pack for their move to the countryside. Hee-sun looks like she’ll be joining them.
Young finally prepares for surgery, as she tells Sun-hee that she’s prepared for any eventuality – though it would be nice to live through the surgery. “I think I was really happy while I was alive,” Young remarks, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
Sun-hee, after a dose of Newfound Optimism, smiles as she claims that Young’s chances are over 50% with that kind of preparedness.
Secretary Wang and Young have a heart to heart as Wang tells her that even after the surgery, Young won’t be able to live alone – not because she’s handicapped, but because no one can do anything alone. (She’s implying that people need people, and that they need each other.)
She doesn’t want blindness to haunt Young any longer and cries that she’s sorry, which I’m guessing is finally an apology for causing her blindness in the first place. Young not only forgives her, but understands that Wang loved her all this time and just couldn’t express it properly.
Hee-sun sees Soo off for his big gamble, after which he plans to go to the hospital to see Young. He tightens the bell bracelet on his wrist in preparation, since it’s his life on the line.
Jin-sung is the one to actually drop Soo off, but methinks that Soo is unaware of Jin-sung’s involvement. At least Moo-chul’s minion seems to have Jin-sung’s back.
Boss Man is hosting the game, and announces the grand prize – seven million dollars. (Just enough to pay Soo’s debt.) And with that, all the players get gambling, while Young spends a restless night at the hospital window with the winter wind blowing.
Soo is on a timeline to make it back to the hospital, and he can’t help but think of Young’s promise of all the things she plans to tell him in the future.
Jin-sung arrives in the meantime so Boss Man can declare him Soo’s gambling partner, and all of Soo’s huffing and puffing can’t reverse the situation now. They’re in it to win it – or else.
The game amps up as Jin-sung’s family loads the truck to move… though they’re being watched by a shady-lookin’ dude. But it could be Minion’s shady-lookin’ dude guarding them, which means it’s a good thing. If not, it’s a bad thing.
Soo makes Jin-sung and Boss Man nervous when he keeps folding, but Soo reveals his tactic during a time out – he wanted to come this close to losing so Boss Man would have no option but to buy in. Because a dead Soo won’t give him any money, Boss Man has no choice but to try and win the pot to save himself from bankruptcy.
Which means Soo can play against him and take all he has left. Good play, Soo. Good play.
In an even better play orchestrated by Jin-sung, Minion comes to the rescue as he and his men take over Boss Man’s CCTV room so that they can keep watch over the game, ensuring that Boss Man can’t cheat his way out AND to assure Jin-sung and Soo’s safe escape if they win. If not, they’ll call the cops.
In the meantime, Young gets wheeled in for surgery. Soo keeps an eye on his watch, knowing time is of the essence.
Things aren’t looking good for Soo in the game, as Boss Man starts laughing as he turns over his cards. But in true drama fashion, we know Soo’s cards must be the winning ones, and Jin-sung knows as well since Soo just leaves him there.
Boss Man turns over Soo’s cards, revealing that Soo did have a flush, and thus the winning hand. Since everyone went all in, he won the game, and all of Boss Man’s money.
Soo calls Mi-ra to say he’s on his way, but still, shouldn’t he stay to make sure Jin-sung gets out of there? Didn’t things turn out badly the last time he left someone for Young?
Jin-sung tells Boss Man that all the winnings are his in order to pay Soo’s debt, but Boss Man has another plan – he knows where Jin-sung’s family is, which is already a threat in and of itself. DUDE. You got your money, what’s wrong with you?
A call to Hee-sun affirms that Boss Man isn’t lying, and Jin-sung looks devastated as the mean old geezer slides him a knife. Jin-sung, WHY did you hang up on Hee-sun?! WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT.
Meanwhile, Hee-sun sees a big truck headed their way on an empty street and warns Jin-sung’s father, but he can only look in shock as the truck keeps barreling toward them. We don’t hear or see it, but the look on Jin-sung’s face seems to tell us that the truck plowed into his family’s car.
I’m not sure where Soo is (Dramatic Rooftop?), but he stays on the phone with Mi-ra to get updates on Young’s surgery.
And when he turns around… he gets stabbed. Sigh. Even though I love Soo, the constant surprise-knifing is becoming its own parody at this point. Can’t we get some blunt force trauma up in here to change things up?
Soo falls to the ground with his hand holding his bleeding gut. He struggles to his knees as we pan to the shoes of the man who stabbed him, the trembling man holding the knife, and up…
It’s Jin-sung. We knew it would be, but it hurts to see the crazed look in Jin-sung’s eyes as Soo hauls himself up to eye level. Jin-sung readies to stab his best friend again, but he can’t bring himself to do it and drops the knife.
Soo holds Jin-sung’s face for as long as he can, and the two stare wordlessly at each other until Soo can’t hold himself up any longer. Jin-sung falls to his knees beside his hyung.
“Jin-sung… Why?” Soo ekes out, but his next words go to Young: “Wait for me.” Then he struggles to get up in order to go to her, though he can barely stand.
Jin-sung just kneels there, shaking and sobbing.
Soo drags his feet, futilely trying to make it to the hospital as blood streams from his wound and tears stream from his face. Eventually he collapses as the bell bracelet chimes, beginning to spasm in his death throes.
One year later. Spring.
We find Lawyer Jang, Secretary Wang, and even Myung-ho with Young and the kids from the visually-impaired center on an outing, where all the guardians have to wear blindfolds in order to experience a day in the life of the blind.
Young has a surprisingly full head of long hair a year after brain surgery, and everyone seems to be having a good time.
However, when she speaks to one of the kids next to her she reaches out to hold his hand… and seems to look him in the face when she speaks. Can she see?
As she takes a taxi home, she opens the window to feel the wind. There’s new focus to her eyes – she can definitely see.
The focus is oddly blurry as she gets out of the taxi, and the sound of Soo’s bell charm reaches her ears as a man wearing it passes her on a bicycle. Is this a dream? Why is everything so blurry?
The man with the bracelet stops ahead of her, but doesn’t turn back. He continues on, and Young smiles.
Hee-sun’s alive and living in the countryside with Jin-sung, and Jin-sung effectively scares away a possible suitor by telling him that he’s already slept with Hee-sun. Aka, back off.
Hee-sun mentions that they’re going to see Soo tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem like they’re seeing him alive when they talk about what flowers to take. They eventually decide on lamb’s ear, because that was the plant special to him and Young.
Young goes to a cafe to wait, and we see Soo’s tree painting hanging on the wall, completed. Instead of looking so desolate, it’s now been painted with blooming flowers on the branches.
At the cafe, Young is served tea by a waiter wearing Soo’s bell bracelet. “The weather’s nice today, isn’t it?” she asks, and the man clearly responds with Soo’s voice even though his figure remains blurred.
Not Soo asks her if she can’t see, and she responds by asking if he’s ever met a blind person. He has, because he loved a girl who was blind.
“Isn’t it hard when you can’t look into the eyes of someone you love?” Young asks.
“No, it wasn’t ever hard,” Blurry Figure responds. “I always felt as if she was always looking at me with all her body and heart. Can you see nothing at all?”
“No,” she responds, and we see through Young’s eyes – first it’s a blur of color, then light.
Then… the shape of a man starts to form. Soo. She can see him, even if the picture isn’t too clear, and smiles brightly. “I can see just enough to see that you’re very good looking,” she adds.
Now the shot focuses, and we see that it’s definitely Soo dressed as a waiter. But through her eyes, the focus is still so-so.
“How long have you known?” Soo asks.
Young says that she’s known his whereabouts for twenty days, since Secretary Wang waited to tell her until she finished her chemotherapy. Apparently she’s been a regular at his restaurant and picked up on the sound of his bracelet, and though he’d always bring her tea he never showed his face to her.
According to Secretary Wang, Soo started there six months ago. He’d told Wang not to tell Young.
“I waited for you for a long time,” Young says. “I waited until you would talk to me.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” Soo says with a sheepish smile. “I thought that you may not like me when you see me.” When Young scoffs at this, he asks, “Does that mean you like me?”
A tiny moment passes before he asks if they can see each other again. Young gives a coy smile, causing them both to break out in grins before Soo takes her face in his hands and kisses her.
…And then the scene changes, so that they’re suddenly kissing on on the same path where Young just walked, with Soo wearing the clothes she saw on him when he passed her on the bike.
Cherry blossom petals rain down as they kiss in soft-focus surroundings.
And when Soo pulls back, they both look into each other’s eyes, smiling.
So for a hot second there, I thought that the ending sequence was a dream, in part because of the blurriness of it all and the inherent implausibility of… well, everything. I decided not to count Young’s full head of hair as part of the equation since I considered it a vanity issue, despite the fact that brain surgery and long-term chemotherapy should produce some visible, physical effects. But then I’d be asking for realism, and that is not what this show was selling.
I’m going to backtrack a bit to the attempted suicide, frankly because it still doesn’t make any godforsaken sense on my end. I was waiting to see if the aftermath changed how I felt about the whole ordeal, since there was a chance for the show to treat the attempt in a thoughtful and meaningful way. I wanted to see if, just maybe, the idea was to have Young hit such a low that she reached a moment of pivotal self-realization in order to decide that she wanted to live after all, in a change we could see and understand.
If anything, the aftermath made the attempt seem like a cry for attention at best, and a test of Soo’s loyalty at worst. Really, there are other ways to say you miss someone. I don’t buy that this show was making a statement about clinical depression through Young, but I do buy that she had Drama Depression, with all its requisite symptoms of plot convenience.
In the end, the suicide attempt didn’t even put her out for a night, and she was completely fine by morning. She re-thought all her previous decisions from the night before and decided to watch the video Soo so wanted her to see, which told her nothing she didn’t already realize internally. Sans a passing mention of the attempt in a confusing conversation where she simultaneously told Soo that she couldn’t forgive him yet she still loved him and wanted to be with him, I failed to see the step between “I want to die” and “I want to try living because now I’m extra sure you love me.” His love couldn’t cure her desire to die just one night earlier, but then by the morning after, his love cures all? When his love hadn’t changed one bit, giving her no other assurance than that he’d save her from herself if she slit her wrists?
That’s where Young fails as a character, even though earlier episodes showed her growing and changing from the cold and prickly person she once was, which was mostly due to Secretary Wang’s heavy hand in keeping her in a child-like state, into a woman who realized that the world wasn’t always out to get her. (Wang’s actions to put her in that initial state got a pass from the magical script fairy too, since the drama made sense of her behavior toward Young the way an abusive person justifies their actions: “I hurt you because I love you!” And that’s somehow okay, enough for everyone to realize that they were sooo wrong about Wang, and that she was really the best caretaker Young could ask for? No thanks.)
Young’s self-realizations weren’t dependent on her as an individual, and her decision to live didn’t come from a place of autonomous empowerment or anything befitting the idea of character growth, because her change in tempo was dependent on Soo’s reactions. But fine, let’s say I’ll buy that love cures all, and that she just needed to know that Soo cared. Then that means she’s still the same old Young, still capable of putting those around her through unspeakable misery because she can’t see past herself and her feelings. She’s had it rough, but so did Soo. Who, out of the two of them, showed more human compassion?
I guess I can’t begrudge a character for not being selfless, so I’ll boil it down simply: No matter her deep-seated issues, Young didn’t make for an enjoyable heroine. There was a time when I liked watching her because I expected things to change, and when they didn’t, I couldn’t understand why we would be expected to be on her journey no matter how much I wanted to be. (Seriously! Why wouldn’t I want to love her when I started out that way?) We shouldn’t have to go through what a character is feeling in order to understand them – if that were the case, how could I understand the plight of second generation chaebol princes or cross-dressing nuns joining an idol group if I’ve never been in those shoes? We have to understand where a character is coming from and why on a basic human level, regardless of circumstance. And if somehow the show fails to root a character’s emotions and reactions in some form of universal logic, then in the words of Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
That problem didn’t exist as much with Soo, though these past few episodes didn’t do him a ton of favors. I’m glad he grew as a person, but since when did Growth = Passivity? I missed the Soo who’d scold Young in front of a mall crowd for not accepting help, or the one who’d return a punch thrown at him. I understand why he wouldn’t take Young’s freely-offered money, but it made the entire con seem moot when he could have done this sort of one-gamble-to-rule-them-all from the beginning anyway. Even then it wouldn’t matter, since Boss Man wanted him dead, but why? Really, why?
I won’t even get into how robbed I felt of FINALLY seeing Jin-sung break away from his astounding sense of loyalty, because it would have been an amazing character moment to see exactly how the wheels turned in his head when he chose his family over his best friend. (I’m guessing the car crash was a vision of what would happen if Jin-sung disobeyed Boss Man, otherwise there would be no reason to obey if his family had already been taken from him.) Instead we only saw the aftermath in order to preserve the cheap surprise of finding out that Jin-sung’s hand was the one holding the knife, but was anyone truly surprised? And even if you were, wouldn’t it have been cooler to see that moment of decision instead?
As for the actual epilogue to all this coordinated madness, I found the actual stabbing inconsequential and the final scenes bizarre. It’s no surprise that Soo lived, since every character in this show (aside from poor Moo-chul), displayed a knack for healing without a scratch. But time skips are not a panacea, and it’s a universal truth I really wish dramaland would accept, especially when the end result isn’t anything we couldn’t have reached without it. Sure, we can theorize that Soo’s stabbing somehow put the kibosh on his burning desire to be there for Young during her surgery and chemotherapy, because it’s totally fine to let a suicidal person depending on you assume you’re dead. We can theorize that he had to heal and hide for a bit from Boss Man, and that he was fine as long as he could keep a distant eye on Young. Or that he was dead and the ending was a dream.
Instead of theorizing, there’s another option, in that the obligatory happy ending could have just made sense without requiring leaps in logic. I know what you’re saying: “Heads, that’s crazy talk!” Trust me, I know. But a girl can dream.
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 15
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 14
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 13
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 12
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 11
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 10
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 9
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 8
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 7
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 6
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 5
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 4
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 3
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 2
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 1