A Killer Paradox: Netflix K-drama Explained

A Killer Paradox: Netflix K-drama Explained

Through its protagonists, the Korean series does not just create complex or amusing situations worthy of a thriller: the K-drama especially enjoys deconstructing the myth of superheroic justice.

Netflix has hit hard by looking at Korean series in recent years: between the pleasant surprise of Squid Game or the success of adaptations of monstrous manhwas like Sweet Home or Hellbound, the streaming giant has allowed a Western audience to discover talented creators. And the new K-drama A Killer Paradox already has everything it takes to join the ranks of the best productions visible in the catalog.

The series adapts the webtoon of the same title by kkomabi, and its starting pitch is simple: while returning home, Lee Tang is attacked by a drunk and kills him while defending himself. The next day, he learns that the man was in fact a serial killer. The incidents quickly follow one another, and the student discovers a superpower. Not only does his path cross that of the worst scoundrels in Korea, those who never get arrested, but his new ability allows him to assassinate them and always get away with it without the police being able to prove his guilt.

A Killer Paradox skillfully juggles action, drama and comedy, and benefits from a solid cast to play its main characters: Choi Woo-shik (Parasite, Last Train to Busan) plays Lee Tang and plays Son Suk-ku (Sense8) as Lieutenant Jang Nan-gam. The protagonists evolve in a careful staging and rhythmic editing, enhanced by well-chosen music.

However, it is not only a question of a rivalry between an assassin and a cop in A Killer Paradox. The K-drama in fact takes a completely different direction than the investigative thriller, and is closely interested in another genre: that of superheroes, to better deconstruct it by intelligently using its clichés through four main characters. We will explain everything to you.

Warning: this article contains spoilers from the series!

Lee Tang is the vigilante superhero in A Killer Paradox

If initially the circumstances of the acts perpetrated by Lee Tang are more reminiscent of self-defense, things change quickly, and the K-drama does not hesitate to put its feet in the dish: the hero has a superpower!

superhero outfit only heroes a killer paradox
song kyoung sub/netflix

It’s said with humor in the K-drama, playing on certain elements of fantasy – is it true or are they just coincidences? But if we assume that this power is real, then it must be understood.

Lee Tang has to come across and recognize criminals. These are only killers or rapists who are not brought to justice. But it doesn’t stop there, because the young man will constantly be forced to put an end to their lives. If he doesn’t do it on his own, the situation will force him to: when he meets the first serial killer, he defends himself. When he is blackmailed by the fake blind woman, he gets rid of the blackmailer. Gradually, he learns to recognize the signs himself, namely these goosebumps with the characteristic noise, appearing almost like a mutation of his body thanks to the very close-ups of the camera.

Finally, the last effect of the superpower, and not the least, lies in the inability of the police to get their hands on him. Incriminating evidence is always suppressed. Either because it’s raining, or because a dog comes to lick her prints… but also in more complex ways: when Lee Tang forgets the hammer from the first murder, the blind woman recovers it and begins blackmail which will sign her arrest of death. When the young man leaves an apple at the scene of a crime with traces of his teeth, it is Roh Bin who acts, performing dental surgery to be accused in his place.

Lee Tang is therefore a superhero in A Killer Paradox. And who says superhero, also says sidekick…

Roh Bin is Lee Tang’s sidekick in A Killer Paradox

netflix

Ironically, he chose to change his name to match Batman’s teammate, a vigilante with a reputation for never killing his targets. Which, obviously, is absolutely not the case for Lee Tang.

Roh Bin has his own origin story: witnessing the death of his parents when he was a child, he will always blame the police for not having properly searched for the assassins. If he could, the boy would have taken on the vigilante costume himself, but his weakness did not allow him to do so. So he looked for someone who would be worthy of his expertise.

Lee Tang represents his ultimate goal. And his dedication even pushes him to request dental surgery to cover up his hero. Listening to him while he discusses in the finale with Lieutenant Jang Nan-gam, his path crossed that of Lee Tang thanks to the power of the protagonist. The latter is “special” , he assures throughout the series.

But before finding the hero, Roh Bin was manipulated by a completely different character: the villain.

Song Chon is the villain in A Killer Paradox

Song Chon has everything the villain of a superhero story: he is driven by a feeling of hatred and a desire to destroy which find their origins in the history of the villain, once the victim of injustice by forces beyond him.

song chon rouge a killer paradox
song kyoung sub/netflix

There was a time when Song Chon was the epitome of honesty. One of the most motivated recruits in the police force, he intended to prove himself by being promoted to investigate criminals. A motivation drawing its source from the arrest of his parents who were themselves assassins, and from whom he wanted to distinguish himself. But Song Chon encountered betrayal and corruption: his savior, Lieutenant Jang whom he adored – and Nan-gam’s father – was in reality a corrupt cop. Disappointed, pushed to his limits, Song Chon then changed his hat and decided to no longer let it happen and take revenge.

After being contacted by Roh Bin, Song Chon was able to flourish in his new role as a vigilante. But unlike Lee Tang, he does not have a superpower allowing him to know for sure who “deserves” to die or not at his hands. Things ended up getting out of hand, Roh Bin cut ties, and Song Chon plunged a little deeper into his murderous madness.

The villain represents the mirror of the hero: his actions are the same, while being different. Song Chon is the most perverted version of the vigilante Lee Tang, using his sense of justice to satisfy his desire for murder. He is not just an assassin, he is the supervillain, the hereditary enemy of the superhero. Aware of his opponent’s techniques, jealous of his power making his life easier, he will not be as easy to eliminate as the other thugs Lee Tang has faced so far.

Its goal is to pervert the ideals of Lee Tang, but also the righteousness of another character: the man of the law, in the person of Lieutenant Jang Nan-gam.

Police Lieutenant Jang Nan-gam is the lawman in A Killer Paradox

Jang Nan-gam is the embodiment of the lawman in the superheroic genre: he has a true sense of justice, a desire to do good, but is often held back by the law he has sworn to serve..

jang nan-gam crime scene a killer paradox
song kyoung sub/netflix

Jang Nan-gam must juggle her own problems. But unlike the villain or the sidekick, he does not give in to the easy way by abandoning the path of legality. Integrity, he nevertheless often oscillates on the thin border between what is authorized and what is not. He is tired of a system that requires him to catch criminals, while preventing him from achieving this goal with rules that are sometimes mocked – we are tempted to roll our eyes with the police every time the word “mandate” is pronounced.

The law is a handicap for the lieutenant, whose intuitions are precise and his thinking sharp. Unfortunately, the police officer often finds himself helpless in many situations, the handicap of the rules also serving to justify the actions of Lee Tang.

A Killer Paradox: Are Lee Tang’s actions excused in the Netflix K-drama?

However, Lieutenant Jang Nan-gam is necessary to the story, to remind us that the three other characters remain what they are: murderers. A Killer Paradox lives up to its name. In French, it is translated as the “killer paradox” , and it precisely echoes another paradox, that of the vigilante.

lee tang scene knife a killer paradox
song kyoung sub/netflix

What is the line between assassin and vigilante? Does the fact that Lee Tang only attacks murderers excuse his actions? The Korean series offers a half-hearted and fatalistic response: as he uses his power, Lee Tang faces nightmares and visions of his preys – who are always referred to as ” victims”.

He himself becomes aware of his own paradox: in the finale, he tries to kill himself with the police lieutenant’s pistol, but his power seems to prevent him by arranging so that the weapon’s magazine is empty. And when he works in the fish market, his reflection actually tries to eliminate him. After all, he himself is a serial killer who breaks the law and eludes the police. So it’s normal that his power tries to target him too, right?

But ironically – or paradoxically, you have it? -, the young man escapes in the end: the finale of A Killer Paradox makes us clearly understand that upon his return to Korea, the former student returned to service by assassinating a man who was never arrested for a three-year-old kidnapping and murder case.

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