When watching a new series, there’s an unwritten rule that you give a show four episodes before you decide to finish it or to let it go. From the get-go, though, ‘A Killer Paradox’ sets the stage for the thrilling cat and mouse chase that’s to follow after Lee Tang (Choi Woo-shik of ‘Our Beloved Summer’ and ‘Parasite’) accidentally murders a serial killer. The show withholds judgment over Lee Tang’s crime.
On the first episode, it carefully sets up the pieces: our protagonist is not the nicest or the most likable of characters – he’s a directionless bum – and he seems surrounded by people whose struggles they wear out in the open for all to see. When he suddenly gets attacked near the convenience store where he works, he successfully defends himself but kills his attacker in the process.
This event thrusts Lee Tang into a whirlwind of some of his neighborhood’s darkest corners. The cops are always at the periphery but only one detective, Jang Nan Gam (played by Son Suk-ku of ‘My Liberation Notes’), has kept him on his radar.
As the episodes unfold, Lee Tang must decide to turn himself in or to stay out of harm’s way as the circumstances of that first murder somehow manages to yield no evidence of our anti-hero’s participation in the homicide.
But the show does not stop there. There are more dark and villainous people who orbit around Lee Tang and Jang Nan Gam and in the first four episode of this thrilling series, the tension builds up as the body count grows but somehow Tang manages to escape with Jang Nan Gam just hot on his trail. There are even hints of something beyond the ordinary in this story – that these coincidences are pointing to something extraordinary or even supernatural. The first four episodes leads you to think that but maybe there’s something else hidden underneath.
Despite Lee Tang not being a likeable character, the casting of Choi Woo-shik feels like a coup. They make full use of his innocent, youthful appearance – according to the internet, he’s 32 but he still can pass as a college student, which he plays in this show – and his features and physicality can make him appear harmless or innocent. So, the turn around after that first murder and how it affects him is such a powerful visual, especially because Choi Woo-shik is such a good actor that he makes it believable. And then, as the episodes start to unfold, his transformation is quite startling. This is very exciting territory for him to explore and it makes for great television.
On the other hand, Son Suk-ku is dashing as the jaded, tired detective Jang Nan Gam even though he’s not leaning into his rugged, good-looks. But it’s his character’s singular focus and his unflinching moral center that creates an image of this solid authority that adds to the tension of the suspense. If anyone is going to catch Lee Tang, it will be Jang Nan Gam. This is what Son Suk-ku brings to the table.
Director Lee Chang-hee (director of ‘Strangers from Hell’) is no stranger to this genre. He knows how to set up the stakes, to build the tension, to maneuver the scenes and the characters to maximize the thrill. Watching the first four episodes was so fast. Since the show is based on a webtoon of the same name (created by Kkomabi), the story is already laid out before us, and it takes such interesting and unfamiliar turns every episode.
What makes this show extra appealing is how it illustrates the brutality of the violence of the murderous acts that happen in the show – regardless of who does it – and it creates arguments over whether these deaths can be justified or not. The character of Jang Nan Gam is there to remind us, always, that it never is but the show also shows us how justice in never truly realised in this world. It shows us how easily one can slip and think to take matters into their own hands.
There’s no mention online on how many episodes this is going to be or whether it will be released in one go or not, but after four episodes, I’m definitely in it for the whole ride.