Trolley – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review


Episode 1 of Trolley begins with a woman named Kim Hye-Joo at the police station looking for her daughter, Yoon-Seo. She’s at middle school and didn’t leave a note or anything before going. She and Yoon-Seo did have an argument before the latter left left, but she’s never disappeared or anything like this before. According to Hye-Joo, this is the first time this has happened.

We then cut across to 13 hours earlier, at a Book Conservation studio. Hye-Joo works to restore pages in books for different clients. She brings up how her son is 22 and her daughter is in school. The client she has is pretty eccentric but Hye-Joo seems uncomfortable with answering these questions. She eventually points out that she doesn’t love her daughter more than her son, telling her client that she loves them both equally.

Yoon-Seo is quite the model student though, given she’s the Class President. She doesn’t even take a lot of after-school classes either and she doesn’t get involved in her daughter’s studies. As for Yoon-Seo’s father, Hye-Joo claims he “has an ordinary job.” he’s actually the District Assemblyman and as for Hye-Joo, she seems to give up most of her money, donating it off to others.

Nam Joong-Do is the Assemblyman, and he’s tough on crime. He wants to eradicate all illegal real estate speculation by the members of the National Assembly, who are inbound for an inspection shortly. He reveals that they’re launching a special investigation to look into this in more detail.

As we soon find out, Joong-Do got in his position thanks to his wife’s wealth, which saw him elected. She’s never been with him on campaign rallies or even intervened. Apparently, she didn’t want to be any part of his political career, explaining the secrecy.

With the National Assembly inspection upcoming, Kang Soon-Hong, another Assemblyman, mistakes him for a secretary outside. The pair exchange a forced chuckle, before Joong-Do forgives him for the mistake, given Kang was actually a secretary at his age. Daaamn! Anyway, they part ways, with Kang pointing out how young and brash Joong-Do is.

Joong-Do is pretty humble but he has aspirations to make it big. He messages Hye-Joo, telling her he’ll be home at midnight and pointing out he got called young twice. As for Hye-Joo, she stops by to pick up some oil but the owner, a grieving grandmother, is off mourning her granddaughter who ended up committing suicide following a fight with her boyfriend. He threatened to spread embarrassing photos of her. Hye-Joo shows up to pay her respects but she refuses to sign the guestbook.

Meanwhile, Joong-Do writes down all the concerns the citizens have, seeing each of them and even handing over his personal number for them to call at any time with their concerns.

Speaking of concerns, Yoon-Seo heads home and confronts her mother about the SNU situation. Given she’s cancelled the invitation, Yoon-Seo is not happy, pointing out that Hye-Joo didn’t even go to university. Eventually she heads into her room, slamming the door. Thankfully, Joong-Do returns and goes some way to help, but his phone ends up buzzing. Despite him being off the clock,. he’d called in to attend a wake. Apparently the Taeyang Shopping Center’s leader’s mother-in-law has passed away. It’s pretty late and Yoon-Seo is disappointed, with another evening between them thwarted.

When Yoon-Seo awakens in the middle of the night, she finds her daughter is gone. Given it’s lashing it down with rain, she’s worried and desperate to find her. This catches us up to the beginning of the episode. As she leaves the police station, Joong-Do is there to greet her. The pair frantically look for her but they aren’t able to track her.

At the police station, when the officers realize that he’s Joong-Do and an Assemblyman, they look set to fast-track this up the chain of command. He doesn’t want preferential treatment but Hye-Joo pleads with him to make an exception just this once. Eventually he concedes, and the Chief rings, telling him they’re upgrading this to a Missing Persons case, complete with a number of detectives searching for the truth.

Unfortunately the truth is unbearable for both of them to handle. The red windbreaker jacket is found down by the docks belonging to a death body. Only, it happens to be their eldest son, not Yoon-Seo, who ends up coming back home. The context and framework for the early conversation at the book repair shop now makes more sense. Hye-Joo told her eldest son Ji-Hoon to leave, getting into a massive argument with him. And now he’s been found dead, in a shocking turn of events.

Ji-Hoon was released from prison 15 days back and his biological mother has been dead for a while. This explains the animosity between Hye-Joo and Ji-Hoon. It turns out Hye-Joo actually showed up to pick him up from prison when he was released. Hye-Joo took him to his own apartment, offering to pay his rent and giving him a card for top-up money.

Ji-Hoon believes Hye-Joo is only being nice and buttering her up because she wants to protect Joong-Do’s career. This explains the context of the argument we saw, with Hye-Joo admitting she’d rather he disappear than cause trouble for the family like he is. After handing over a red jacket, she leaves. Since this argument, she hasn’t seen him.

To complicate matters further, Ji-Hoon was found with a gram of meth in his pocket. The phone he had with him was actually a burner too. His mobile is still turned off but the last ping they got was 4.5km upriver. The officers reassure that they’re checking all the CCTV cameras but as there’s heavy rain during the time of death, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact location.

The officers continue on and reveal that he was drinking heavily a few hours prior to his death. The autopsy result is due in 10-15 days which should tell them more. However, the lack of trauma and physical signs of exertion seem to point that he did drugs, drunk heavily and then fell in the river, drowning.

Yoon-Seo  comes bursting through the door, apologizing for what happened. She jus wanted Hye-Joo to care and worry about her. She breaks down crying, as Hye-Joo does too, throwing her hands around her daughter.

We then skip forward two weeks later, after the funeral has taken place. Hye-Joo begins emptying and tidying up Ji-Hoon’s apartment. The place is full of empty bottles and rubbish. Eventually she signs the death certificate but it’s cear this has taken its toll on her. When she eventually heads back home again, Hye-Joo is greeted by a visitor showing up. The young woman reveals that she’s pregnant with Ji-Hoon’s baby.

The Episode Review

Well, this looks like quite the intriguing K-drama to kick off a whole bunch of winter Korean projects about to start. Trolley is well edited, with a lovely re-contextualized scene involving Hye-Joo at the book repair shop.

Whether Joong-Do has more dark secrets up his sleeve remains to be seen but there’s certainly enough here to suggest that his squeaky clean persona could all be a big façade for a much darker past. If that’s the case, could it be that this whole situation with Ji-Hoon was orchestrated by him in order to get an easier ride in the election? Could he be aware of Ji-Hoon getting this girl pregnant? It would certainly add up, especially given the scenes at the funeral.

The pacing for this episode is just about right too and the tone, which swings between mystery and crime thriller, is almost pitch perfect across the hour-long chapter. There’s plenty to like with this and the characters are well-defined for the most part. It’ll be interesting to see where this one goes next but for now, this was a very solid opener.

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You can read our full season review for Trolley here!


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