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Taxi Driver: Episodes 1-2 (Review)

Justice is delivered under cover of taxi cabs in SBS’s latest crime thriller Taxi Driver. The drama excels in style, attitude, and world-building, but leaves a little to be desired when it comes to rich character development. But, when it’s Lee Je-hoon that’s driving the revenge plot (pun intended), that might not matter so much, since he can easily convince me that the story is real, and the stakes are high.

Note: This is an opening week review only.

 
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW

If there’s one thing that stands out right away in the premiere week of Taxi Driver, it’s the richness of the world it creates. The drama leads with its mood and style, even though we first meet our main characters in their cover stories, not their clandestine side missions.

Our hero is KIM DO-KI (Lee Je-hoon) and we first meet him as a pretty standard taxi driver — he pulls up onto the scene just as a criminal is being released early from his lifelong sentence. But, as you might expect, the cab is not just a cab. The criminal thinks he’s off scot-free, but our hero has other plans. With some pretty impressive driving, and a particularly awesome tunnel scene where two cars change plates and transfer items while driving in tandem, we learn that there’s nothing average about Do-ki — or his skill set.

But we knew that, right? Taxi Driver is based on a webtoon about the Rainbow Taxi Company, and we already know from the get-go that behind the front of a fully-functioning taxi company, there’s an on-call revenge service. The fun, then, is not really what’s revealed but how — and I really like how Taxi Driver does it.

First, we see the yard of the taxi company, then we meet the girl that keeps the books — GO EUN (Pyo Ye-jin) — and two of the main mechanics that work on the taxis: the hilarious and coiffed CHOI KYUNG-GOO (Jang Hyuk-jin) and PARK JIN-UN (Bae Yoo-ram). Do-ki drops off his taxi, has an exchange with the mechanics, and goes on his merry way.

It’s not until we follow Go Eun from the regular taxi office, into a filing cabinet, which turns into a secret elevator, which leads to an underground tunnel, which leads to a secret lair, that we realize how deep their cover really is. Their HQ is much like the Batcave — only it’s almost a little bit cooler, just because it’s so banal. When we get to the part of the reveal where we might see the luscious Batmobile, instead, propped on its dais, is… a deluxe taxi.

We’ve met our crew earlier, but now we see them in their true identities: JANG SUNG-CHUL (Kim Eui-sung) the mastermind of revenge service, Go-eun the hacker, our two engineers, our favorite driver, Do-ki. Together, they make up all the moving parts of any good vigilante operation.

In our premiere week we get a close look at the team in action, as well. We meet a woman, KANG MARIA (Jo In) who’s at the brink of jumping off a bridge, but she’s stopped by a “Deluxe Taxi” sticker that’s placed only where people who have reached their most desperate point would see. “Don’t die — get revenge. We’ll do it for you,” it reads. And so she takes them up on it.

It turns out this woman is part of a disgusting food company that, while pretending to be humanitarian, actually abuses the mentally and physically disabled people that work for them. It’s arguably one of the most heinous things you can do as a human, and Taxi Driver shows us the physical torture and sexual assault in a way that leaves no room for interpretation: these guys are straight-up evil.

We follow Maria from the point of calling the phone number on the sticker, to getting picked up by Do-ki in his taxi, to giving a full record of her situation, and then agreeing to employ their revenge services. The way this whole thing plays out is so imaginative, from the cassette tape recorder that Do-ki has in his taxi, to the arcade video game that Deluxe Taxi uses to confirm terms and clients.

What the drama doesn’t really have in originality of theme, it makes up for in originality of execution, and I loved the technology mashup as much as I did the souped up taxi with its changeable plates, insignia, and markings. Throw in a deadly serious Lee Je-hoon wearing black sunglasses and showing off some slick driving skills, and I’m loving it.

While we’re on the topic of what else I loved about Taxi Driver, the soundtrack really made it for me, and was another element that fed the drama’s world-building. Do-ki driving around at night to an electronic soundtrack like something out of the original Blade Runner was pretty much my favorite thing ever… which is why it’s difficult for me to admit that despite enjoying things about the drama, I don’t think I actually enjoyed the drama itself.

For crime thrillers to really work for me, they have to tell an overarching story about our main characters, and I’m honestly not sure if we’re going to go there with Taxi Driver. Though we do gain some insight via flashback on when/why Do-ki was recruited, and the tragedy that pushed him to that point (sheesh, the boy can act — you could even see the agony in his throat during that scene!), it wasn’t enough to make me feel like the drama was going to be about the journey of its characters. I’m just guessing, but we open with Do-ki as a badass revenge-taker, and I’m pretty sure we’ll end in pretty much the same space.

That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting things waiting for us, though. Our vigilante crew might have won revenge for Maria, but there are many more people that need their help. There’s also the prosecutor KANG HANA (Esom) who, like most prosecutors, runs high on intuition. She senses something is lurking beneath the surface of Rainbow Taxi and Sung-chul’s other cover company, and she’s like a dog with a bone.

At the end of our premiere week, Hana shows up at Rainbow Taxi and meets Do-ki for the first time. I’m sure it will be a while before she sees the inner circle, but in addition to the new revenge cases I expect we’ll meet next week, I’m especially looking forward to how Hana finds out the truth behind Rainbow Taxi.

Right now, our vigilante crew might be operating outside of the law, but they’re very much rooted in justice, and just punishment, and are committed to delivering it where the legal system so often fails.

The world they live in is a dark one, where justice is hard to come by, people are capable of unthinkable crimes, and the agony of losing someone you love to thoughtless violence is the bond that brings them together. For a rogue group capable of violent retribution themselves, though, they also seem to be a pretty moral bunch. The motto hanging in Sung-chul’s office is a scripture from the Bible: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Our prosecutor also seeks the same justice, though in contrast to our taxi service vigilantes who operate outside the law, she’s operating very much inside the law at this point. However, we’ve gotten enough hints that she’s frustrated by the lack of justice that she witnesses in her post, and I’m guessing (hoping) they’ll all be on the same page before long. And if she wants to ride shotgun with Do-ki in the deluxe taxi, I’m not gonna complain.

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This drama is kinda a mix between Mad Dog and Healer.

I'm curious about the team, I guess they all have a story that made them to help people to get revenge. So I think, the characters will be more developped in the future.

I wonder about the place where they keep the bad guys, Baek Sung-Mi looks shady.

We didn't see so much Esom. I was scared that her character will be like Lee Da-Hee in LUCA, but she seems less rude. But why Korean think curly hair = badass women in law? LUCA, Vincenzo now Taxi Driver... But for guys, it means cute ? Koreans have a thing with hair...

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Oh finally a drama, I am excited to watch. First of all: is it Batman? It remind me of Batman for some reason. Why the scene of him going downstairs and getting the car and the bike reminded me so much of Batman lol Second: Why is this not on OCN? I guess I am so used to see this kinda of drama on OCN that is so weird to see it somewhere else.

I really need more of Esom. Why all her dramas are like this? Go Eun got more screen time than her. It is not the first time that this happens. It seems that all Esom dramas, she doesnt get as much screen time as she should (yes, even you Third Charm). She is so beautiful and a great actress, please more Esom! Esom and Lee Je-Hoon are a drama couple that I never thought I needed and now that I have, I want it!

Overall, I am excited for it. I am curious about it, about the team, about the story and the female boss. She looks badass.

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It's because they have a Batcave!

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Came late to deliver the same joke 🤣
They really splashed out on dungeons for this drama

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I am not sure about watching this drama before it ends. People who take revenge without noticing the law usually end up being punished in Kdramas. Delux taxi group is not exactly following the law. They also kidnap people. I am sure their story will not continue for a long time.

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Yesterday @sspat talked about how this vigilante stuff isn't really the answer for injustice on the Beaniewall, and Sal (sorry, Sal, can't find a way to notificate you through your handle) mentioned an interview with the Writer in which they say that there is development in store for Doki, that he will question their methods. That gives me good expectations for the drama, because I'm really not into the retributive justice they're delivering right now

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This! It was really fun seeing them serve revenge on a plate but after watching for a bit, I realized it's not the silly stuff kdramas usually have. These guys are seriously out for blood. It made me question my morals so hopefully Do-ki does too. It will be interesting to see that unfold.

Also, anybody has a link to that interview with the writer?

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Been looking but can't find it 😔, I'll ask Sal in yesterday's thread

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Thanks, Sal!

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Yes. I also have my reservations towards this dramas. However, I should check the link Sal sent.

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Thanks for replying and informig me. I will check the mentioned matterials.

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I think the intent of this drama is to give us vicarious justice-prevails satisfaction, not so much character development. But even that I felt was anti-climatic. Ep 1 kicked off at such a great pace, establishing an undoubtedly strong motive for revenge. But for all the atrocities committed, the prolonged abuse and trauma they put Maria through, the "revenge" that took place seemed to me to be too simple-minded in comparison -knock them around a bit, scare them so much they pee. Could it be that lately I've become more bloodthirsty thanks to Mouse?

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I am on the fence about this drama. I have my reservations about vigilante justice. It sounds good. It can satisfy thirst for revenge but does it really solve any problem? It is just surface level band-aid where a surgery and long-term care is needed.
I did not find the way revenge was executed satisfactory. Does kidnapping people and holding them hostage solves every problem?
The biggest problem I had was the way glossed pain, suffering and emotional trauma Maria had endured. She gets rescued and immediately all her emotional scars get healed? Even if she has child like persona, she would need years of emotional assistance to overcome the trauma. At the end, she is still alone and open to manipulation.

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I'm hoping that the drama doesn't move on so fast from Maria! I also felt it was weird that the victims weren't given much protagonism - it's all about revenge! By the end of ep 1 I was worrying if they just left Maria to wander alone in the streets post-suicide ideations, because we see her getting off the taxi to play the arcade game, and then we don't see more of her... Fortunately, on ep 2 we see that she was at the Rainbow Taxi Office. That was a relief!

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Maria doesn't really realize what happened to her. She's too innocent for that. She just wanted it to stop and see the orphanage's kids. She doesn't even know that she takes the contraceptive pill and why...

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I don't think they are implying that all of Maria's emotional scars have been healed. It seems to me that they showed us the immediate relief she felt knowing that the people who were making her life feel like hell are gone. There will definitely be aftermath and struggles she'd go through while healing. Plus, I don't think she fully knew what the process was like to get rid of her assailants. To her, they're just gone.

Isn't Bluebird an organization that helps victims and protects them even after the perpetrators get reprimanded? I'd think that the boss of the taxi company would see to it that she gets help even after this.

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That soundtrack really sets the mood!

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There is an old feel with the OST that I like a lot.

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Me too! The techno beats and that rock theme song sure take me back to the late 90's, but they don't feel nostalgic at all. And they fit the tone of the drama nicely

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Ahh I wanted to watch this so bad!! Next time...

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i'm looking forward to watching more eps

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If that Friday the 13th mask wasn't a clue to stay away from Lee Je Hoon, I don't know what else would've --16% rating for episode 3; that's no joke he and the Rainbow Deluxe Taxi team will be breaking all kinds of records at this point. I love him and them.

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They can build a "bat cave" and sophisticated communication and engineering systems but they have to rely on a total criminal to hold criminals for them? That pretty contrived but it won't stop me from watching.

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My guess is that it's all part of a plan - they'll get to her at some point

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Is anyone here watching Taxi Driver? I guess we can discuss them here, since this isn't going to wee-capped :(

Ep 3/4 were intense ngl. The bullying aspects were a lot, and to think it does happen in rl too :/

Seems like there's a lot of potential in this story, but I just hope they fix the editing issues b/c its not great. Other than that, the episodes fly by quickly, and I really like our anti hero ML!!

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The bullying was 😡, same as in eps 1 and 2. The situations depicted are so unfair, and the cruelty is so extreme but it is somehow believable - which makes it even more upsetting. Anyhow, I think they balanced it nicely with the beautiful mother-son relationship. And the humor was a nice relief from all the darkness 🤣 Nerdy LJH is delightful, and watching him trolling the baddies was 👏👏He's doing great in this - the type of character reminds me a bit of his movie Anarchist from colony, I don't tire of that smirk

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Oh hey! Glad to see a fellow comment :) !

Its def. harrowing, b/c it exists in rl. Yeah, when LJH pushed the guy down, I was like gasps! And the jail scene where all of them are held captive :O I just hope the show doesn't let down on the antics, and lose sight of the purpose of the show. I can't believe we're 12 episodes left (Still a lot left), but it went by so fast for me!

This is a great role for him! He gets to be cocky, suave, dorky, funny, somber, dejected, and etc in just a span of a scene! Reminds me of Kim Nam Gil who also can flip a switch too! The mother/son relationship made me go aww, the way it wrapped up w/ the scholarship was good. Altho, the bullying aspect, even if he works like that, will his nature ever change? It's a loaded question.

Yeah, he's versatile. I know some people still hold his overacting in Signal in the early episodes. But I think he's a great actor, and under appreciated. But it seems finally, this is the show where its finally his time to shine (fully front and center!!). I smell a Daesang (SBS) for him!

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Watched Signal some months ago and loved it and didn't notice him overacting at all - but I might have been too mesmerized by his nose to notice 😂 Anyway, I'm really happy he's doing great in this - and the ratings have been good too! My only complaint is that Esom still hasn't had a lot to do but I hope she will, in due time. Oh, and props to scary loanshark lady! It's clear Cha Jiyeon (my first time seeing her, needed to go look up her name) is having fun doing this, and omg, she's so pretty!

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I might be in the minority here, but I felt like it fit his character (the more it went on, you find out more). I too, didn't notice the overacting or whatever (this was what people said in the first few episodes), it was why he had to come out and say "Yes, I apologize that y'all can't take my acting. But I'll take this for further consideration," or something like that. It was silly ngl lol. Not enough to warrant a statement from him lol.

Sighs, his nose!! I contend he and Ralph Fiennes have the most stunning nose on their faces!! They both look like Greek Gods, god their noses! His pointy nose is natural, like damn esp. when he's warning sunglasses driving in a car looking all stoic, just kill me :D

For me, bigger issue is the choppy editing and lack of Esom. Esom imo is more interesting/gorgeous looking than the 2nd FL (Who feels like the FL, which is weird b/c she started shooting like last month when this show was already filming since Dec/Jan). Like huh? esp since Esom has gone up b/c of Samjin's English film w/ nominations/recognition. Don't think she'll like that what is suppose to be her breakthrough drama is minuscule rn. Someone said elsewhere that if they were to be a loveline, that they prefer Esom+LJH b/c we know that Esom can bring it when it comes to adult emotions.

Cha Ji-yeon is a musical actress! Always amazes me how in Korea, you can debate late on screen, but working on stage before then. She's a femme fatale, she gives me an older glamour vibe so I was shocked when she's only 3 yrs older than LJH :O. Speaking of, that scene in Ep 3, when there speaking together, and there faces are so close together. That sexual tension, OMG!! It sounds like all 3 women here have a thing for our ML lol. (Oh so I wish I was commenting this on the Ep 3/4 recap/wee-cap but alas :(

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Soulsearch, thanks for all the intel about Esom and Cha Jiyeon 😉
And you like Ralph Fiennes too? I feel so validated! 😂 RF was one of my biggest crushes when I was in my teens, my girl friends were always laughing of my nosy obsessions - still like him a lot, he's aged very gracefully

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Np! Its fun to know ha!

I was so into Ralph Fiennes a few yrs back, I was watching his older works. He's still has that RF's look to him. But man, he was stunning when he was younger. Like a Greek God, his nose isn't straight as LJH's but its such a beautiful nose on his face!! Ha, well we've great taste aha 😂

Noses really make someone's face! LJH is blessed to have a nose like that naturally. Seriously, his profile is just *chefs kiss. I would love to have his nose haha ;)

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Marathon Taxi Driver over one night and happy to say i have completed 16 episodes (and i heard Season 2 is coming soon). This is an underrated drama and im so sad not many people watched and recapped it.

(Spoilers ahead)

Since i'm an avid fan of action dramas and movies (don't watch TD if you have weak heart or sensitive on violence, bullies, suicide and other heartless crime action, engrossing scenarios), i can say TD was not only entertaining with its unique take on revenge and justice, it also raised awareness about crimes that really happened in South Korea. The victims’ stories highlighted in the drama are said to be based on real-life cases in South Korea.

The cases in TD reflected the harsh reality and also the struggles the victims had faced or the family left behind had indured.

Some of the cases in this drama based on the real life crimes happened in South Korea - the first case is similar to the Cho Doo-soon's child raping and killing case an event which shocked and angered South Koreans in 2008 and the offender was given light sentence and set free in 2020, the abuse of disabled workers in South Korea's salt farms which still going on till these days, and, a workplace abuse that happened in real life WeDisk, a real cloud storage company in South Korea.

In ep. 15, after credits, there is Hidden Track 3, Hyung Jung's story, a real life case about a disabled man framed for a murder and spent 20 years in a South Korean prison.

As for the drama's characters, i love Do Ki coz he can be a different person when he's in a cover - its like a fun roleplaying for him. He got me rolling when he poses as a suave Chinese-Korean gangster. The other members of Bluebird foundations are superb too and their backstories strengthen their characters. Im glad that the TD's writer remember to give a character growth to them and that makes them good partners in the team.

Im not familiar with Esom, havent seen much of her work before; in TD she plays the first female lead but often times she feels like a supporting character and not a very likeable or interesting one at that. Her Kang Hana appears not only bores the audience but also annoying for her lack of realization and ultimately not that helpful because of her strong principle.

Except for Esom's Kang Hana, i really cant wait for TD's second season.

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