A Killer Paradox is an impressively stylish genre mash-up with a central conceit that won’t suit everyone. Still, it’s worth a look.
A Killer Paradox is a vigilante thriller, but that doesn’t do it much justice. Sure, Season 1 starts that way, but across eight episodes this Korean Netflix series, adapted from the same-titled webtoon, reveals itself to be more ambitious and ultimately sillier than your usual crime show.
Beyond the hokey twist that strains credulity, though, it’s otherwise a rather entertaining, genre-blending affair with impressive performances and a surprising (for Korean TV) amount of adult content. Some will think it’s great. Others will find the conceit too trying. Both will be right in about equal measure.
A Killer Paradox Season 1 review and plot summary
Here’s the idea. A Killer Paradox follows Lee Tang, an idle college student with a laundry list of personal failures that keep him circling the same drain. He’s lazy, he’s irresponsible, he never follows through on any of his ambitions and ideas, and he reliably makes terrible decisions.
One of these decisions is to beat a man to death with a hammer. To be fair, it happens suddenly. Tang has a history of being abused by others and has never lashed out before. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, figuratively speaking. He finally stood up for himself.
But Tang’s sudden outburst is also vindicated by a fantastical conceit. See, his victim was himself a wanted serial killer. When circumstances conspire to have Tang take another life, he’s morally exonerated again. It seems he has a knack for identifying evildoers, those seemingly deserving of the brutal fates he becomes increasingly keen to bestow on them.
A detective, Jang Nan-gam, begins to investigate the serial murders of serial murderers and pursues Tang. To say more would be telling, since A Killer Paradox frequently widens its scope and reinvents itself as the episodes progress, finding new and creative ways to mash up a variety of obvious influences into something that ultimately ends up feeling stylish but insubstantial, despite a lot of mealy-mouthed discussions about the ethics of murdering those who apparently “deserve” it.
What I didn’t expect of A Killer Paradox was it to be so funny. The humor is deadpan, but it’s certainly there, and often more effective for how unexpected it is. It also revels in broad archetypes – Nan-gam is a real offender in this regard – that it doesn’t have any interest in subverting. This is the kind of TV that aims to please people very familiar with this kind of TV – a paradox in itself, one supposes.
It’s undeniably well-made TV, though. Some of the formal flourishes get a bit trying after a while – almost every scene transition is a clever match cut with similar lines of dialogue or objects or actions – but they nonetheless give the show a distinct sense of rhythm and style. Slow motion is another obvious one, but even that’s well-implemented, and the full-frontal style leaves little to the imagination in both action and… other areas.
Style over substance
All this aside, it’s still difficult to buy into A Killer Paradox since it’s not half as interesting as it thinks on any level beyond a facile surface one. The superficiality might be the point, but it’s hard to recommend a show on that basis, especially in such an overcrowded genre.
And yet I find myself quite liking this all the same, and happy to advise most people to watch it, even if there are some caveats involved. You could certainly do worse.
What did you think of A Killer Paradox Season 1? Comment below.