Taiwan has in recent years produced a number of fascinating drama series involving crime and investigation. One of the most riveting ones that I have seen lately and highly recommend is The World Between Us, which is also on CATCHPLAY+. In the newly-launched Trinity of Shadows, we get what could be another top-notch crime series to binge on. There are fifteen episodes of roughly 45 minutes each, but this review will be of the first one.
As far as first episodes go, Trinity of Shadows already proves that it has what it takes to deliver a complex narrative with interlinking characters. I won’t reveal too much in terms of plot; instead, I’ll give a flavour of what you can expect from the narrative, characters and themes, as well as its tone and style of filmmaking.
There are three main characters that you will be acquainted with as the first episode sets them up as individuals whose paths will surely cross in significant, life-altering ways. We have Tze-Wei (played by Sandrine Pinna), whom we are first introduced as a police detective whose direct, uncompromising approach to managing rowdy and potentially violent scenarios gives us a sense of a steely woman who takes her job seriously. Her sometimes feisty attitude (towards suspects, that is) belies her warmth and caring nature, to the extent that she sometimes works outside of her duty hours to make sure things are alright. (Overworked police officers does appear to be a point of contention at least from the first episode as a city councillor confronts the police chief in a parliament-esque setting.)
This city councillor, Chi-Hsiao (Kaiser Chuang), the second key figure in the series, is a rising star in politics whom I assume would later suffer some kind of ignominy despite the respect he appears to have earned from the public—well, an ostensibly righteous person wouldn’t make compelling drama anyway. How his path will cross with Tze-Wei, and by extension, how this could create the tension between politics and crimefighting that Trinity of Shadows seems to be driving towards will be something to look forward to.
Lastly, we have a rookie cop, Chia-Hao (Kuan-Ting Liu), whose inexperience is obvious, yet one might suspect that he is the type of policeman who prefers to employ his “own methods” to solve crimes. Coming from the same professional milieu as Tze-Wei, it would be interesting to see how the dynamics play out between a veteran and a novice, from an investigative, “police work” point-of-view. Although not clear yet from the onset, Chia-Hao’s path will surely intertwine with that of Chi-Hsiao as well. What is perhaps more elusive is Chia Hao’s back story, which could play out in dramatic ways.
A supporting character that has significant screen time in the first episode is Nicole (Huang Wei-ting), who appears to ply her trade as a reluctant social escort. Her performance is the most striking so far to me as she plays her character with an acute sense of insecurity and paranoia. She is someone that Tze-Wei really wants to help and is central to the series’ main inciting incident.
The first episode opens with a short suspenseful prologue, a flashback it seems, that sets in stone the dark tone that could figure for the rest of the series. A piece of casual conversation with Tze-Wei also suggests that something happened to her in the line of duty years ago. All these and more are strategically-planted to further create more mystery as past connections, secrets or trauma (re)surface in time to come.
While the first episode doesn’t have a very distinctive visual style nor does it aspire to be cinematic, what is strongest about Trinity of Shadows is the setup, which is most important for viewers desiring to continue on. How deeply it engages with the myriad of themes, be it politics, crimefighting or localised social issues, and how well they are contexualised for non-Taiwanese viewers will determine how successful this series will be.
As a Singaporean with a deep love for Taiwanese cinema, particularly the works of Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Ming-liang Tsai and Edward Yang, I’m always fascinated by the sociopolitical conditions of Taiwan and how culture and society are portrayed in their art and entertainment. Taiwanese series also fulfil that role and in Trinity of Shadows, the potential is there for all to see. If you love Asian crime series, do give this a go.