Winter weather

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is about a drama that draws me (and more broadly, us) into its orbit. Not the concrete details of headlining talent, or writing pedigree, or even plot, but that variable element that might speak to you one day but for no discernible reason lacks zest on another. The kind of thing that makes you unexpectedly willing to immerse yourself in a 50-episode period drama when normally you’re strictly a 16-episode rom-com type of person. Or how there might be a drama that’s right up your alley of tropes and setup and genre that you’d normally be itching to watch, but somehow you can’t bring yourself to push play on today. Or how you might get sucked into a drama that under “normal” (other, different, somehow-not-in-keeping-with-your-weird-inclination-today) circumstances would seem so dull, so uninspired, so not your cup of tea — but today it somehow speaks to your heart and makes you feel a little warmer in the world.

Not unrelatedly (I am queen of segues), I liked Chocolate (it was straightforward, but sweet). I struggled to fully appreciate Crash Landing on You (fun, but insubstantial — Hyun Bin was beautiful, but that goes without saying). I initially bypassed Extraordinary You when it aired live, but am burning through the episodes this week (lots of interesting thought-provoking nuggets of existentialism buried under a shiny sugar coating). I find myself enjoying Hyena, despite all the lawyering (at least they’re sexy lawyers?). I got bored of predictable Itaewon Class (haven’t I seen parts of this so many times before?). And I am deeply enthralled by the spare, wintry, fraught, everything-is-spoken-in-the-unspoken-in-between-moments tension of When the Weather Is Fine (aka I’ll Find You When the Weather Is Nice).

I’d like to think I’d appreciate the quiet intimacy of When the Weather Is Fine no matter the circumstance given its introspective writing and earnest character moments, but I don’t know if I can give my fickle taste-meter that much credit. Maybe in a different scenario I’d find it too slow, or frustratingly withholding. I can see a parallel world where I thought to myself, “Oh, another Park Min-young drama, I should check it out” and never followed up because I was occupied with the more accessible, immediate feels of Hi Bye Mama (so simultaneously heartwearming and tear-inducing). Maybe it was more luck than choice that made me start this show, and an unluckier me would have had to go without.

But whatever the case, in the here and now, everything about When the Weather Is Fine feels absolutely perfect. It’s sparse in the right way. Tempered just so. Emotionally elusive while dropping little hints of gratification in just the right balance. Melancholy with just enough sweetness to stave off bitterness. It’s not so closed off as to be emotionally shuttered, but is withdrawn in a way that echoes the hurt souls of Park Min-young and Seo Kang-joon, who bring to mind the kind of skin that has scarred over from a lengthy abrasion, dulling sensation to protect the tenderness underneath.

It’s because it’s partially closed off that I get so much vicarious thrill out of minor exchanges, which is good since a more impatient me would hate that sometimes (or always) we don’t get the dramatic, endorphin-producing version of a scene with the grand gesture or big plot movement. Instead we’re served the muted version, which feels rather like drinking a soda after the cap has been loosened and caused the bubbles to die down till they barely tickle at all. It shouldn’t seem appealing, but in the undramatic version the smallest progress feels like a victory. Each tiny drop of connection that the show gives us has me leaning in for just a tiny drop more, and every time an episode ends I wail that it’s over and I’ll have to sit patiently for the next dose of soothing balm. I’m pretty sure I’ve mixed my metaphors, but you get the point.

I must be in a wintry frame of mind, not quite ready for big demonstrative acts of emotion, but craving small doses of comfort. The world is nonsensical now, and I don’t want to process too much. Just a little. Bit by bit. Maybe I’ll be ready for more when the weather is nice.