Disney+ has recently released a new mystery Taiwanese drama with a very undisguised title: Taiwan Crime Stories. As obvious as the title suggests, the series is inspired by real criminal cases in Taiwan and probes the motives behind the crimes.
In the sea of Korean dramas like Connect (2022) and Shadow Detective (2022), gone were the days when Taiwanese dramas reigned as the talk of the town. But as the Taiwanese entertainment scene pivots away from idol romance dramas, it seems like they’ve found a footing on dramas with social topics like The Victims’ Game (2020) and those with a supernatural theme like Sometimes When We Touch (2021).
Taiwan Crime Stories falls under the first category, and here’s what to know about this thriller.
1. It is a four-part anthology series.
Taiwan Crime Stories contains four different events that explore themes of faith, temptation, redemption and obligation. They include a train derailment insurance fraud case, a family annihilation case, a murder case of an elementary school teacher, and a child homicide on a military base. Each story is made up of three 50-minute long episodes and stars an entirely new cast of characters.
2. The first story is more loosely based on a real-life Taiwan crime case.
The first story, Derailment, opens with a disclaimer saying that “certain characters, names and incidents were fictionalised for purposes of dramatisation.” However, after finishing the story, I felt that there were more elements of dramatisation than the actual event.
Derailment follows the story of Qiu Wen-qing (Allison Lin), whose husband (Shih Ming-shuai) is a victim in a train derailment incident. To find the culprit, she helps her long-time friend and prosecutor Yu Chen-lang (Rhydian Vaughan) and uncovers an insurance fraud case.
One interesting point about Derailment is how it plays on the double meanings of “derail” in Mandarin, which can also mean infidelity. But this gives rise to a sub-plot, which diverts attention away from the main issue: insurance fraud. It also ends up reducing the horrors of the actual train derailment insurance fraud case to fit the tone of the sub-plot.
Perhaps it wasn’t the intention of this series to be too critical, but I think Derailment would have been more impactful if it shows the crime’s darker side. Unfortunately, Taiwan Crime Stories is not as adventurous as Anthony Wong’s Legally Declared Dead (2019) and the award-winning Taiwanese film The Silent Forest (2020).
3. Vivian Sung and Kent Tsai are among the cast.
However, the series still has its potential with Vivian Sung coming up in the third story and Kent Tsai in the last story. Vivian Sung is known for her leading roles in Cafe. Waiting. Love (2014) and Our Times (2015), while Kent Tsai previously starred in The Teenage Psychic (2017) and Sometimes When We Touch (2021). Their performances in the respective stories will be something to look forward to.
4. It is one of the few Taiwanese series by Disney+.
Although Disney+ produces more Korean dramas like Son Suk-ku’s Big Bet (2022) and Lomon’s Revenge Of Others (2022), they have begun to explore dramas from Japan — such as The Files Of Young Kindaichi (2022) and Kazunari Ninomiya’s My Family (2022) — and Taiwan.
Before Taiwan Crime Stories, Disney+ has introduced Women In Taipei (2022), which is adapted from the 2016 Japanese drama Tokyo Girl, and Small & Mighty (2022). Women In Taipei stars Gwei Lun-mei, who acted with Jay Chou in Secret (2007), while Small & Mighty stars actor-model Chen Bo-lin.
If the subsequent episodes in Taiwan Crime Stories do not pull down the viewership ratings, we can probably see more Taiwanese productions in the coming years on Disney+. It is also nice to hear some Taiwanese accent and Taiwanese Hokkien in dramas from time to time.