The Wed-Thurs primetime K-drama battle is back on this week with some low-rated dramas finally ending last week and two potential powerhouse contenders joining the race. I saw the real time ratings and it’s neck-to-neck today, so the final ratings will probably have IRIS 2 leading the pack slightly, with That Winter, the Wind Blows a notch below, and 7th Level Civil Servant ranking 3rd but the difference isn’t much. The last time there were three truly competitive K-dramas battling it out for rating supremacy in this time slot was last March with Rooftop Prince, The Equator Man, and The King 2 Hearts. This will be a fun next 2 months and truth be told, I’m ready for some adrenaline pumping excitement to kick start the year amongst the network channels. TWTWB aired two episodes today and I’ve only watched 1 before doing this recap. I haven’t even checked out IRIS 2 so my decision to keep recapping this or any drama in this time slot remains noncommittal at this point. TWTWB was intriguing, with deft execution, solid acting, a passably interesting plot, and some food for thought as it delves deeper into its narrative. Take one nihilistic gambler and womanizer, mix him up with a partially-blind lonely heiress, toss in some money woes and inheritance plots, this is as generic as it gets with the set up. But I enjoyed the intriguing dialogue and the sense of foreboding in this melodrama, leaving me wanting to keep watching when episode 1 ended. I guess this is a promising start, no? I guess if the romance element falls apart, I can always enjoy the pretty darn adorable bromance on the side.
Episode 1 recap:
As befitting the title of this drama, the camera pans over a cold winter scene. On some desolate country road covered in snow, a woman leaves a baby and some blankets before hurrying away. The camera lingers on the innocent baby’s face. Dude, so not cool lady! I hope you slip on that ice as you scurry away and get run down by a Zamboni.
Quick cut to a nighttime scene and our dissolute anti-hero Oh Soo lays in bed naked with a woman, Jin So Ra. He thinks to himself – does a person need a reason to live, can a person live life without any purpose? Hhhmm, I hope this voiceover thing isn’t here to stay for the long haul.
So Ro asks him about his family and Oh Soo scoffs at the word, and the camera pans back to the abandoned baby, which is likely him. Yeah, Winter abandonment in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE might explain this guy’s myriad emotional issues.
A woman runs on the treadmill while the news reports on the imminent death of Chairman Oh. He has only one child, daughter Oh Young, and Oh Young’s fiancée Lee Myung Ho has taken over as acting Chairman for the time being.
Oh Young finishes her run and walks into her father’s sick bed and says she cannot inherit the company, refusing to accept that her father is dying.
Oh Soo is gambling at a casino and wins. He’s leaving with his buddy Park Jin Sung, passing by another who hands Jin Sung a briefcase.
They boys break out running. Clearly they are in on the grift. When they are confronted by the unhappy losers and their minions, Oh Soo tries to send Jin Sung off first but all the guys arrive and the two engage in a beat down. Oh Soo floors his thugs first and then go to assist Jin Sung.
Oh Soo and Jin Sung beat those guys up and run away happily with their ill-gotten gains. Oh Soo continues his voiceover. People look for purpose in life and may even bet their entire life on it. Maybe he ought to be like the rest of the decaying world and find his purpose. But what would that change – since he was born the only one he could trust was himself. Could his life be filled with sunshine?
Oh Soo is in the hotel room with So Ra and says she’ll leave him in the end, she’ll follow her own beliefs. He ends their relationship before that happens. So Ra says Oh Soo lives so cruelly but she accepts that is his choice.
It’s nighttime and Oh Young gets ready for bed. Secretary Wang, who pretty much acts like a stepmother, tucks her in solicitously. Oh Young lays in bed unable to sleep. Her room is decorated in such a baroque fashion that it adds to the oppressive heaviness of Oh Young’s life, a world where she cannot see and she has no one to trust.
Oh Soo and Jin Sung are out jogging with another of their gambling buddy, who also happens to be named Oh Soo. The guy claims to be the long lost son of Chairman Oh, his mother told him on her deathbed.
Jin Sung is annoyed this guy has the same name as his hyung and warns him to change his name. The other Oh Soo says his name has a different Han character. He shows them the letter he penned to his sister showing how his name is written in Han characters.
His Soo means to protect, whereas abandoned nihilistic Oh Soo’s character of Soo means tree, because he was abandoned under a tree. It’s sad how one Soo means something positive and powerful, while the other Soo is a reminder of the place where he was discarded.
The three guys head back to their hotel for breakfast and Moon Hee Sun comes by to see her oppa. Oh Soo is changing and tells her to scram instead of annoying him everyday.
Hee Sun sees some painting gear and asks Oh Soo if he’s still painting? Outside, the other Oh Soo asks Jin Sung if the rumors are true and Oh Soo killed his first love? Jin Sung says no, it wasn’t like that. They talk about Chairman Oh’s family and the other Oh Soo says he has a sister Oh Young.
Hee Sun’s here to ask for money and grabs some from Oh Soo’s wallet, finding lots of cash and even ladies underwear. She takes the underwear out and tosses it in Oh Soo’s breakfast and then pours tea on his head before storming out.
A delivery guy arrives with a letter for Oh Young. She comes out and signs for it, though with her partial blindness he helps her sign for it. Oh Young asks what the letter is and the driver says it’s from her brother Oh Soo. Every time he sends a letter, its given to Secretary Wang who signs for it. Oh Young is shaken up with this revelation.
Secretary Wang comes home and wonders where Oh Young went? She searches the house. The camera shows Chairman Oh barely kept alive. Oh Young gets dressed and ready to go out. When Secretary Wang asks where she’s headed, Oh Young snarks that she’s blind so where else could she go but to the company.
Oh Young declines the offer to have the driver take her. Secretary Wang asks if Oh Young still doesn’t trust her? Oh Young points out that Secretary Wang is the reason her parents divorced, why should she ever trust her? But her father trusts Secretary Wang, more than Oh Young ever could, so that’s enough.
Oh Young asks if her dad knew that her mom passed away? Secretary Wang says the Chairman didn’t want any news of her. Oh Young is sad her father wouldn’t let her look for her brother, despite how lonely her life was. Secretary Wang wants to ask about the letter that just arrived but Oh Young feigns surprise and says she never got a letter. She leaves when the car pulls up.
Oh Young asks the taxi driver to take her to the address on the letter. Secretary Wang tries to confirm whether a letter arrived at the house and finally gets confirmation but then the Chairman’s health takes a turn for the worse and the medical alert goes off. She ignores the warning signal and says it was a mistake when someone calls to ask if the alarm went off.
So Ra is leaving Oh Soo, who is sleeping in bed. She opens his safe deposit box and puts an envelope in there. She looks at him longingly but still leaves. On her way out, she passes Oh Young who is walking through the hotel looking for her brother.
Oh Young stands in the lobby as people pass here, unwilling to ask for help but unsure of where to go. A front desk clerk sees her and offers his assistance. He is wary that she is the sister of the Oh Soo who lives here, but takes her upstairs to his room.
Oh Soo is woken up by the doorbell ringing and goes to the intercome to ask who it is? Oh Young says “Young-ah” and he doesn’t know who she is? She asks if Oh Soo lives here and he confirms that he is Oh Soo. Oh Young says she got his letter.
Oh Soo realizes she’s looking for the other Oh Soo and says he’ll be back later this afternoon. Oh Young is confused since he just said he was Oh Soo himself. Oh Soo is annoyed and shoos her away, telling her that he has the same name as her brother. He’s tired so she needs to leave now.
Three hours later, Oh Soo goes downstairs and is told that Oh Young has been standing there this entire time. He goes over to her and asks why she doesn’t sit down and wait. Oh Young shows him the letter and he offers to let her wait in his room until the other Oh Soo returns.
Oh Young asks him to read the letter for her, she hasn’t been able to read it yet and she really wants to know what her brother wrote. Oh Soo says he’s busy right now but Oh Young begs for his help, her dad is very sick and she wants her brother to visit him. Oh Soo says they should go somewhere to talk and offers to lead her down the stairs but she declines, she can listen to footsteps and gauge direction and distance.
Oh Soo and Oh Young are outside the hotel and he reads the letter to her. Brother Oh Soo didn’t know that she had gone blind. He now runs an Italian restaurant and asks if she wants to come find him. He lives with a hyung he knows. Their mom passed away and now the only person he can trust is Oh Young. He asks if she’s living well, is she as cute as before? He thinks about her everyday, has she grown taller.
Oh Young listens to the letter and cries, so Oh Soo hands her a handkerchief. Has she been lonely living a life without him or their mom, just her and their dad. Brother Oh Soo starts to write about the hyung Oh Soo he is living with…….. Oh Soo is annoyed that he makes it into this letter and that makes Oh Young laugh.
A police car arrives in the vicinity and Jin Sung calls Oh Soo to warn him that the cops are there to arrest him and he’s been charged with embezzlement. Apparently So Ra embezzeled money from gangster Chairman Jin and pinned it all on Oh Soo.
Oh Soo grabs Oh Young and hides behind the wall. He drops the letter and books it, but he calls back to Oh Young that her brother will come back for her but he’s got to run now. The last words her brother wrote in the letter is “I love you.”
Oh Young bends down to pick up her walking stick and the letter. She gets a call from Stepmom that her dad is near death and to hurry up and come home.
Oh Soo runs and is chased by cops. The other Oh Soo happens to be coming back and sees Oh Soo running off and joins in the chase in confusion, trying to figure out what is happening. Oh Soo runs into the street when suddenly he hears someone else get hit by a car.
It’s the other Oh Soo and he’s bloody on the ground. Oh Young walks to that very intersection and tries to flag down a taxi, crying because of the news that her dad is dying but unbeknownst to her, her brother lays dead on the street in front of her. Oh Soo is captured by the cops.
Oh Soo is in a prison visiting room and glaring at So Ra, who claims she has nothing to do with it. But then she admits what she did and said she did it out of love. But she is happy that he’s going to be in prison for a year, waiting for her while she goes to film in the US. She wants him locked away while she is gone otherwise she is afraid he will stray from her. Crazy bitch this one is.
Oh Soo says he’ll get a lawyer and be out. So Ra says she loves him and doesn’t want him to leave her. She tells him to come find her in Europe after he comes out. He can’t stay in Korea because Chairman Jin thinks he took the money and will chase him down. They can live there forever. Oh Soo is so furious he’s overturns a table.
Oh Soo says even if he gets out and dies in the hands of Chairman Jin for the embezzled money, he still won’t do what So Ra wants.
Chairman Oh dies and is buried on a rainy day. Oh Young sheds tears. Oh Soo spends the year in prison and finally gets out.
Jin Sung goes to pick Oh Soo out from prison, revealing that the Chairman Jin has taken his assets. Jin Sung went many times to confront Chairman Jin for this injustice but each time he came back with a broken arm or a broken leg.
Jin Sung takes Oh Soo to a frozen lake and revealed he sprinkled dead other Oh Soo’s ashes here per his dying wish. Oh Soo tries to get rid of Jin Sung and tells him to go back home, clearly not wanting this kid to keep suffering beside him.
Jin Sung reveals he tried to help Oh Soo and went to find the gangsters and kept getting beaten up, and now his front teeth are all caps. Oh Soo and Jin Sung decide on their plan to change their fates.
Oh Soo and Jin Sung go to find their old gangster crew to help them. No one will since Chairman Jin has ordered it, so they try to give them money. Jin Sung and Oh Soo won’t take any sympathy from the underlings who feel bad for them and everyone ends up fighting because they are so disloyal.
Jo Moo Chul finds Oh Soo and says he owes him and Chairman Jin a total of 78 billion won. He gives him 100 days to come out with the money. He stabs Oh Soo in the gut and says next time he’ll stab a vital organ and deeper, so he is clearly not kidding. He tells Oh Soo to go to the hospital.
Oh Young is introduced as the Chairman of Pl Group. Oh Young gives a speech and then heads home with her Stepmother who compliments her on doing well. Oh Young says she’ll be replaced in a few months since she’s a blind person and this is just for publicity.
Lawyer Jang declines a lunch invite and says he’s off to oversee a surprise that the Chairman left for him to do. He gets a call that something or someone has been found. Before leaving, he asks when Oh Young and Myung Ho plan to tie the knot? Oh Young says she won’t get married, that was her dad’s doing.
Jin Sung is at the hospital but can’t find Oh Soo, who left already.
Oh Soo goes back to the nightclub where he is angry that a former friend betrayed him. The friend pleads forgiveness but then gets the upper hand and tells Oh Soo that he has to survive in this world and loyalty is worth nothing.
A beaten up Oh Soo is dropped out of a car all bloodied up on the side of the road. He heads back to his place and Lawyer Jang finds him on the rooftop.
Lawyer Jang asks if he’s Oh Soo, asking if Oh Soo doesn’t remember him as ahjusshi Jang? He’s the lawyer for PL Group, the group owned by OH Soo’s father.
Oh Soo remembers Jing Sung saying that dead Oh Soo claimed he was the long lost son of the PL Group Chairman. Dead Oh Soo even told his hyung to go ask PL Group for help if he needed it. Lawyer Jang keeps asking of Oh Soo doesn’t remember him? Oh Soo says he does remember ahjusshi, he seems to have aged quite a lot.
Thoughts of Mine:
The role of Oh Soo is so classic Jo In Sung it’s not even funny. This man can play Oh Soo in his sleep because its like most every indelible character he’s played mashed together. The dead-inside lout with a penchant for physical violence, either give or take. But I can’t fault the guy for taking this role – it’s tailor made for his brand of lanky physical presence mixed with smarmy dissoluteness. Kim Bum’s character is awesome right off the bat, a true side kick in a drama that feels three-dimensional but used perfectly to add depth to the male lead and his world. I love the bromance of Oh Soo and Jin Sung, and am actually super sad the other Oh Soo had to die for this entire charade to take place, because he was a cool character as well. Jung Eun Ji is wonderfully introduced right off the bat, prickly and sassy, but wonderfully played with Eun Ji’s brand of natural spunk with edge. Love her! I’m not a Song Hye Kyo fan (I think she’s pretty enough but will never get why folks think she’s some sort of goddess level gorgeous), but she’s doing a solid job of fleshing out Oh Young – her isolation, her limitations, her shred of hope. Playing a partially blind person, she never comes across as “acting” like a blind person, but that’s likely because the role requires Oh Young to try to go through her life as normal as possible.
This drama is filmed like an ode to Winter. If there was a sequel to Winter Sonata, this might be it in terms of cinematography alone. The subject matter is vastly darker, of course, and the drama doesn’t shy from introducing copious amounts of violence and infusing everything with foreboding. It wraps the characters in icy facades and then occasionally the bursts of action and danger shake us out of the dawning chill. I’m pretty sure Oh Young’s surrounded by mostly snakes and vipers, from her Stepmom (Secretary Wang), to her so-called fiancée Lee Myung Ho with his darting eyes, to Lawyer Jang who can either be all-evil or surprisingly good. It’ll be interesting to see that the person who wants to con Oh Young, her not-brother Oh Soo, will turn out to be the person who ends up protecting her. This drama really recalls shades of Nice Guy, even down to the evil Stepmother wanting the family fortune and the conman trying to ingratiate himself with the heiress (this time for money instead of revenge), but presented through Noh Hee Kyung’s prism of the juxtaposition between hope and hopelessness. It’s very Padam Padam-ish, with the leading man serving prison time and being from the underworld, while the leading lady is the light in his darkness. Now onward to episode 2!