Written by: Helga Mari
“I, who want to live, met a woman who wants to die. We are clearly very different. But for some reason… at that moment, that woman seemed like me. For the first time, I became curious about that woman.” – Oh Soo
As haunting as the line sounds, the story opens in an inviting, out-of-the-box narrative.
When you have two superstars paired in the same project, expect the end result to be nothing short of extraordinary. And by superstars, I mean both being multi-awarded and critically-acclaimed (not to mention both are extremely good-looking) who have withstood the test of time as artists in the world of Hallyu.
In this series, Jo In Sung and Song Hye Kyo couldn’t be more real in their character portrayals as they made it look as if their roles were just perfectly tailored-fit for them. Jo In Sung (Oh Soo) made it believable that a seasoned con-artist-cum-gangster could very well be subjected to emotional conflict and would fall victim to his own trap as he did his deceitful acts towards his fake sister, Oh Young.
Song Hye Kyo (Oh Young), on the other hand, transitioned so well from being the cold and distrustful sister into someone whose faith in life was restored by falling into the schemes of his false brother.
In addition, the supporting roles of Kim Bum and Jung Eun Ji were a breath of fresh air in the tension-filled storyline. It was my first time seeing them deviate from their previous cutipie-easy-going roles in Boys Over Flower and Reply 1997, respectively. And they both have delivered so well.
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead
The two main characters each play the game of survival in their respective worlds prior to meeting each other. Oh Soo, being a high-end gambler, has to deal with insidious people who run the dirty world of gambling industry with their cunning hunger for money and power. Thus, violence and deceit are all too familiar concepts to him. A man, who has nothing to lose, lays everything on the line on a daily basis.
On the other hand, Oh Young’s attitude was premised from her childhood backdrop which showed a cold and controlled environment that started when she became blind and was intensified by the haunting memories of being left behind by the people she loved. This basically took the life out of her. It forced her to be suspicious of everything as she believed that there is not a single person in the world whom she could entrust her life with. Wealth aside, she as well, got nothing to lose in life.
Their paths crossed in desperate circumstances — first when Oh Young’s father was critically ill and was about to meet his end. And second, when Oh Soo found himself getting an ultimatum for his life after being framed for something he didn’t do. Their existing conflicts take a backseat as their lives get even more entangled and a new conflict unfolds — this time, an internal war with their emotions.
As the story unravels, both characters ponder about the very essence of their existence as much as the seemingly inviting idea of death. Fighting for their lives is quite central to the story until the very end as both had to face their fates in a fierce struggle to find a reason to be alive.
“In this hurtful world, I once thought that life was nothing. If it’s gone, it’s gone – that’s all I thought life amounted to. But you, Young, became the last reason for me to live like a human being. Could I become the same to you? In this empty world, could I not become your last reason to live?” – Oh Soo
The story closes in a quite debatable note as it’s open for different interpretations. Some say it ended happily with the two ending up being together, while some say the happily-ever-after scenes were quite illusory as these may be suggestive of an afterlife ending.
Vague as it may seem, I find this confusion oddly beautiful. I always believe that there is beauty in ambiguity, and that to me is the real essence of art. That is, the story isn’t confined in a conventional, straightforward interpretation, but rather translates into subjective meanings.
I didn’t find the series dragging and was rather brisk-paced with my interest getting intensified as the story unfolds.
It was also musically scored with wonderful songs and instrumentals that heightened the emotions conveyed in each scene. I personally love ‘Gray Paper’ by Yesung and ‘Snowflakes’ by Gummy.
Moreover, the scenes featured beautiful sceneries that will give the feels as if you’re looking at moving postcards. Seeing those places made me wish to be there myself.
I’ve been watching Korean dramas for as long as I can remember and have been exposed to different forms of artistry through varieties of genres. That Winter, The Wind Blows remains to be on the top of my list to this day. I highly recommend this to those who love melodramatic themes as it will give you a whole new perspective of storytelling.