Jo In-sung and Song Hye-kyo‘s “That Winter, The Wind Blows” is based on the 2006 movie “Love and Such Are Not Necessary” starring Moon Geun-young and Kim Joo-hyuk, which was based on a Japanese drama called “Love Isn’t Necessary, Summer” from 2002.

The plot can only be describe as the kind that exists in an Asian verse, because nowhere in the world is there ever a guy who plays a blind girl’s long lost brother in order to get her inheritance, only to fall in love with her. Nowhere. But. Asia.

I’m not opposed to this storyline because I liked it played out in the movie, and did feel like a story as big as this could benefit from hours of expansion and detail. The downside to this is that [SPOILERS AHEAD] Jo In-sung’s character in the movie dies at the end and building his character up for hours is not going to help my feels. [/END SPOILERS] I can already feel myself getting attached to his version of the character in ways I definitely was not with Kim Joo-hyuk’s movie version.

Jo has killer chemistry with Song Hye-kyo. So much so that I don’t think anybody is buying for a second that So Young thinks she’s met her long lost brother. I think this is a flaw both in the writing and in the acting.

The acting issue is mostly with Song Hye-kyo. She’s serviceable but she isn’t great, and I think her character could be helped with some more nuance. There’s coldness but also a desire to yield to a forbidden someone’s affection, which is burdened by the possibility of incest. Song doesn’t have the ability to convey any of that conflict, which is why Moon was by far the better actress to play the role and I’m glad she did.

But it’s an interesting dichotomy because while Moon’s take on the character definitely wrestled with those uncomfortable feelings, her and Kim Joo-hyuk’s romantic chemistry wasn’t as strong as Song and Jo’s, so ultimately the romantic love didn’t feel as fulfilling towards the end. Maybe this is because Moon looks more like a child than Song does.

But I also think Moon played the character the way she should have been played, which leads to the problem of the writing. Some of the interactions can in no way be interpreted as sibling love, no matter how you dice it, and that’s the writer’s fault. She’s writing with a disregard for the familial relationship and that’s taking the easy way out. I seriously cannot fathom a grown woman who would want to cuddle with a grown older brother like Oh Young and Oh Soo did in episode 5, and I don’t chalk this up to merely cultural difference.

This is the same sort of thing I’ve discussed in the past with a similar problem exhibited in gender-bending stories: male/”male” relationships are okay only because the Korean audience knows that it’s actually a man with a woman and not really a man with a man.

This translates well with the brother/sister dynamic here: Oh Soo is suggestive and too-close-for-comfort at times, but the audience knows he’s not the biological brother, so it’s “okay” that he acts like this. Song, however, plays her character also as if she were the audience and knows that Soo is not her biological brother, which cuts out the internal conflict created by the possibility of incest. As in, she doesn’t ever feel uncomfortable with any of their romantic exchanges. There is a brief moment in episode 4 at the party where Oh Soo whisper narrates a scenario for her where she feels awkward, but it isn’t a “Incest! Brother!” moment so much as it was a “Hey, that stirs me in my loins, maybe!” moment.

But this drama has got me hook, line, and sinker in a way I haven’t been with dramas in a while. It’s achingly beautifully shot, the use of flashbacks is effective and revealing, and I like the plethora of side characters. I do think there is some change in the Secretary Wang character (in the movie version, she was an ally to the Oh Young character, not a threat) but she’s developing nicely as a villain regardless. Eun-ji‘s character was created just for the drama, but her existence adds a nice story tangent and gives the plot some more momentum.

I actually really love the Oh Young character, so I wished Song were a stronger actress. I’m going to give it a couple more episodes before I go hardcore on the Moon Geun-young comparisons, because the first five episodes have really slanted more towards Jo In-sung’s character development than Song’s, so we’ll revisit the next time I write about the show.

And then Jo In-sung: the man is phenomenal. He plays the type of gangster/conman really well (“Dirty Carnival,” anyone?) and this role is perfect for him. I mentioned that I never really understood the Jo In-sung love, but I get it now, people, I’ve been converted. He can be raw and vulnerable, just like he can be calculating and mischievous. I love actors who have so much range.

And he wears a suit damn well.