Taxi Driver (2021) Episodes 11-14

There’s little doubt that the last 4 episodes have generated some controversy among viewers and fans for a variety of reasons and that has been attributed to the change of writers. A charge that I’m not convinced is correct. The change was in all likelihood prompted by the PD who it seemed wanted a change of direction so another writer was brought in to pen the final act and resolution. It’s obvious now in hindsight that the PD always envisaged the outcome that we saw in Episodes 11-14 because both Baek Sung-mi and the prosecutor’s office were introduced right out of the blocks as unlikely allies and operational foes.

Baek Sung-mi head of Nakwon Credit was introduced at the start as Director Jang’s dubious collaborator in his bid to reform individuals that the team had apprehended. He was at the time a man who had lost faith in the legal system which was broken, impotent and even inept. So many victims were falling through the cracks as he would be aware of as director of the Blue Bird Foundation. In his mind he believed that creating his own regime for reform was the way to go because the system had let him down too. A man with incredible determination and compassion, he threw whatever resources were available to him into pulling a team of victims with specific a skill set together to aid him in his endeavour. He naively believed, in my view, that his purely transactional relationship with Baek Sung-mi was not (or ever going to be) a conflict of interest as an advocate for victims of crime. He thought she ran your run-of-the-mill loan sharking business but failed to dig deeper into the rest of her business and how that could potentially put him in a morally compromising or life-threatening position. This was perhaps his blind spot and hubris.

There’s no denying that the crime fighting enterprise was problematic from its conception. While his merry band of well-meaning individuals achieve a lot of good for those who have no one they can turn to, it is a reminder that they work outside the law and have no official status or connection to law enforcement agencies. In a real enough way, they are only accountable to each other. Yes, they are people who believe in justice but they are let’s face it, operating illegally. Although I would hasten to add that I wouldn’t make any moral equivalence (like some characters in the show do) between what the dregs of society connive to do in secret and what the Rainbow Taxi crew are trying to achieve.

I have no doubt now that the PD always wanted the Baek Sung-mi collaboration to blow up in the faces. The uneasiness the audience might have felt regarding this partnership was never without foundation. The moral ambiguity surrounding vigilantism had to be resolved in some fashion to mitigate the hubris that the team might have been guilty of in their successes. The fact that they didn’t see Nakwon Credit as a threat or underestimated the threat they posed was seen in the resulting escalation of violence. They played with fire and got burnt.

It was also always there in the background that there would be some kind of collaboration between Ha-na and the Rainbow Taxi gang at some point because her character would otherwise be completely unnecessary. It is true that her character is also representative of a system that has lost sight of its primary purpose. Justice is more than navigating legal red tape and kowtowing to authority figures. Her overconfidence in the system was shaken to the core and it made her more amenable to working cooperatively with Do-ki. There were lessons to learn on both sides.

If there’s any fault in the writing, it’s not about the switch in writers or so-called narrative shift but in the fact that Director Jang and the rest of the team were written to be so naive about their pragmatic involvement with Nakwon Credit. I initially speculated that Jang Sang-chul had some kind of long-term plan devised to take Baek Sung-mi down by using her personal dungeon but that never eventuated sadly. Just wishful thinking on my part. For a bunch of people who are really quick at thinking on their feet, they were pretty slow on the uptake where Nakwon was concerned. They were too careless right from the start not just in Episodes 13 and 14 because vigilantism is ultimately a dangerous game.