Trolley season 1 review – a fascinating politically-tinged melodrama

By Nathan Sartain
Published: December 21, 2022 (Last updated: February 3, 2024)
View all


Syringed with relentless underlying intensity, this politically-tinged melodrama is a fascinating watch.

We review the Netflix K-Drama series Trolley season 1, which contains minor spoilers in the first two episodes. 

Mixing the cynical, tactical, cutthroat grandeur of politics with a wide-reaching tragic accident, Trolley provides viewers with a concept that is instantly intriguing. At its core, it could be argued this is a show about a family forced into dysfunction when controversy hits, but while not incorrect, such a sweeping definition would do some of the underlying strands of this melodrama a real disservice.

K-Drama Trolley season 1 review and plot summary

Generally, proceedings revolve around two key players. The first, Kim Hye-joo (Kim Hyun-joo), is a book repairer protective of her past, as well as those around her. Guided by strong emotions like empathy, the private woman is someone out to make the world brighter, whether by looking after those with nowhere to go, feeding the underprivileged, or donating whatever she earns. Beside Hye-joo is her husband, assemblyman Nam Joong-do (Park Hee-soon). Favoring his idea of rationality over anything overtly emotional, the politician is a seemingly sincere man in his aims to help constituents, yet someone evidently willing to be a careerist too. None of that is clearer than when Joong-do uses the death of his son as an opportunity to, as he himself describes, “exploit” the suicide of a young student who was a victim of digital sexual violence for his own – and the Daehan party’s – gain.

While this battle of conflicting emotions and political maneuvering is itself enough to keep viewers engaged, the familial drama unraveling around this contained world is where Trolley truly thrives. With subtle stories of favoritism and neglect operating in the same sphere as wider plot developments on young pregnancy, honesty, and estrangement, there’s always something to unpack, and Hye-joo’s house as a result never feels like the sanctuary it should. Rather, it can occasionally end up an anchor to ongoing woes. From the unannounced arrival of Soo-bin (Jung Soo-bin), who is pregnant with the son of the late Ji-hoon (Jung Taek-hyun), right the way through to Yoon-seo’s (Choi Myung-bin) early attention-seeking departure from the house, writer Ryu Bo-ri wastes no time in demonstrating to audiences how fractured life is (or can be) for this family, despite whatever successes come their way.

In terms of performances, Kim Hyun-joo is phenomenal as Kim Hye-joo, a humble mother who lives a life usually sheltered from her husband’s frantic political career. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Kim ensures there’s a constant air of vulnerability to her character, and depicts the life of someone who has lost seemingly just as much as she has gained with a real subtle vigor. Likewise, Park Hee-soon paints his depiction of Nam Joong-do with a rigid flair, making the assemblyman really feel like a true-to-life politician. Together, the on-screen couple works extremely well in showing the sometimes only slight differences between humility and ambition, heated emotion, and composure.

READ: Best Korean Dramas of 2023

The whole show is beautifully shot, too. Lingering camerawork on devices like hidden mobile phones and ominous post-it note messages give a brooding air of forebodingness, just as director Kim Moon-kyo’s generally darkened palette lets us know there isn’t much for our protagonists to be optimistic about. Complete with the smart filming of a house that can feel claustrophobic and tense, this is a world brought to life with genuine attentiveness.

Is the K-Drama Trolley worth watching?

Overall, this K-Drama is definitely worth its investment. A story just as much about how tragedy can drive us in different directions as it is about a political and familial power struggle triggered by one man’s death, it’s quickly apparent why this show takes its name from the ethical ‘Trolley Problem’ dilemma. Packed with twists, revelations and sometimes poignant messaging, this political melodrama shrouded with tinges of mystery promises viewers an intense watch.

What did you think of the Netflix K-Drama series Trolley season 1? Comment below.

More Stories

Netflix, Streaming Service, TV Reviews
View all