A Killer Paradox, or Sarinja-ng-Nangam in native Korean, is a new crime thriller series released on Netflix that tries to raise questions of whether killing can ever be justified. The plot has a young man named Lee Tang at its center, who kills a man in a fit of rage and is burdened with guilt, until he realizes that his victim had actually been a vicious killer as well. On the other side, a police detective named Jang Nan-gam starts looking into the matter and has a strong hunch against Tang, continuing to investigate the protagonist throughout the eight episodes. Although A Killer Paradox takes too many diversions and could have been more intense had it been shorter, it makes for a fairly enjoyable watch nonetheless.
Plot Summary: What is the Netflix series about?
A Killer Paradox introduces us to the central character, Lee Tang, in the opening minutes. A young man in his early twenties, Tang is not at the best time of his life, as he is jobless at the moment. After having been discharged from the army school a few months earlier, he has been struggling to find a decent job and has been attending college, hoping to come across better opportunities through higher education. But Tang has to rely on his parents to pay for this education and also his livelihood, as his meager job as a cashier at a local convenience store does not pay enough for either. He is not satisfied with this arrangement at all, seeing himself as a burden on his family, but there is not much that the young man can do either. His only dream is to leave Korea and settle abroad, most preferably in Australia or Canada, as his favorite pastime entails watching travel influencers abroad.
On a very small and insignificant level, it is this interest in leaving his country that leads to all the trouble for Tang. Wanting to hang a painting of the Canadian landscape in his room, Tang borrows a hammer from his boss at the convenience store since he does not want to bother his parents. But on that very same evening, two men come to the store in a drunken state and cause some ruckus. Although Tang mostly abides by their demands at the store, he runs across them in an alley while returning home and is shocked to see that one of the men has killed the other. As Tang confronts the killer, he, too, is attacked and cornered, reminding the protagonist of the levels of similar bullying he had to face both in school and in the army. Years of repressed anger burst out at this very moment, and Tang violently bashes his attacker with the hammer lying in his bag. The man dies from the gruesome injuries within a few minutes, and Tang is left feeling terribly scared and guilty.
As the police authorities investigate the murder, the lead detective in the case, Jang Nan-gam, tries to trace back the events of the previous night and even interrogates Tang informally. But the young man is able to get away because of the very lucky presence of a housefly on the CCTV camera, which incredibly blocked the moment when Tang took the hammer from his workplace. Very soon, it is also revealed that the man killed in the alley had actually been a serial killer who had been a fugitive for the last many years. With this announcement, and the sheer luck that has always seemed to be on his side, Lee Tang starts to get accustomed to the feeling of being a murderer, also believing that he is actually a vigilante bringing down murderers.
Why does Roh Bin plan the murders?
After finding a sudden boost of confidence, or at least as he is able to get rid of the guilt, Lee Tang goes on to commit some murders, and in an almost eerie manner, no evidence against him is found at either of the crime scenes. By this time, he also starts to notice a strange occurrence—every time he commits a murder, he does so as a response to his senses heightening and the hair on his neck rising. Surprisingly, each of his victims turns out to have been terrible criminals themselves, who were not caught by the law because their crimes could not be proved. Therefore, Tang is somehow able to supernaturally recognize any such criminal who walks by him, and he immediately plans their murder as a punishment for their wrongdoings. It is to be noted that A Killer Paradox does not actually have any supernatural element in it, and the whole matter is psychological, as Lee Tang basically justifies his violent outbursts through this logic. Although coincidence does ascertain that all four victims of his are found to have hidden criminal pasts, the man’s dangerous vigilantism can very well turn against innocent people any day.
But this very coincidence is used by the character named Roh Bin to convince Tang to participate in the very unlawful and ruthless series of murders that take place over the episodes. Roh Bin is the stereotypical geek, with impressive skills in hacking and making use of technology to gather information for himself. But beyond the seemingly lazy and introverted appearance that the young man has, there is a very troubled and vengeful soul who is still out looking for revenge for an incident that happened many years ago. When he was just a young boy, Roh Bin’s parents had been violently killed by a burglar who had broken into their house. This already affected the boy’s mind terribly, and when the burglar could not be punished by law because of a lack of significant evidence, his mental growth was stunted even more. He grew up with the sole aim of punishing such criminals who manage to get away from punishment, either by luck or because of their influence. After having successfully learned how to use and manipulate technology for his benefit, Roh Bin had truly become the vigilante’s sidekick, as he prefers to be called.
But unlike any traditional sidekick, Roh Bin himself chooses his lead heroes, even naming them so, and it is by sheer luck that he comes across Lee Tang. A quick search through the protagonist’s small flat makes the intelligent Roh Bin realize that Tang was the murderer in the recent cases. Roh Bin successfully convinces Tang that the latter is a supernaturally talented superhero vigilante who can not only sense criminals but can also get away with murder. Thus, after the two meet, Tang goes out killing people who Roh Bin marks for him, as he had been keeping track of every such criminal who managed to get away from the law. Although over this whole time Roh Bin develops a special bond with Tang, and he admits at the end that he had wrongly driven the young man towards murders, the intention of Roh Bin always remains clear. He wants to ensure that no other criminal can escape punishment like the killer of his parents had.
What had happened between Song Chon and Jang Nan-gam in the past?
The police detective Jang Nan-gam reveals quite early in A Killer Paradox about an old case in his life that he had failed to solve and that involved a police officer. Incidentally, this very police officer, named Song Chon, soon returns to the scene, as he is actually revealed to be a vicious serial killer as well. Although it does not seem like Song Chon’s escape from the law had been in a case directly looked into by Jang, the latter had grown vengeful against the man because of some serious incidents. Jang’s father, Jang Gap-su, had also been a very strict and harsh police officer, and the relationship between the two was quite tense and unusual. Young Jang would always be picked on by his father at the police station, and so he never had much love or admiration for the man after growing up. However, when Gap-su was beaten horribly by a subordinate police officer, Jang was naturally angered, and he wanted to put the perpetrator behind bars. This perpetrator was Song Chon, and his attack on Gap-su had left the senior police officer bedridden in a vegetative state for life.
Jang knew that Song Chon was the reason behind his father’s illness, and he also believed that his mother was having an affair with the subordinate at the time. But Jang was wrong about the affair, as his mother was involved with the police chief at the time, and the detective actually did not know the whole truth about Chon’s attack either. Song Chon was always ridiculed and looked down upon by his colleagues, and Gap-su was particularly harsh on him at all times. Regardless of this behavior, Chon remained respectful towards his superior until he discovered that Gap-su was actually running an illegal drug trade.
The police officer regularly made use of poor, helpless people who were traveling between South Korea and China as drug mules. So whenever they got caught with drugs, the innocent people were put behind bars, while Gap-su never faced any repercussions. When Chon found out about this and confronted the police officer, only to realize that Gap-su had no regrets, he lashed out against him and terribly injured the man. There had also been some history between Gap-su and Chon’s own father, who used to be a criminal, as the police officer had basically helped Chon become a part of the police unit. This past also played a role in the attack, as Gap-su insulted Chon’s father, and the latter could no longer keep his calm.
Why does Song Chon go looking for the new killers?
After being fired from the police force, Song Chon managed to get out of the public eye, especially since he was not charged for his attack, and the man became a serial killer over the years. Chon had come across Roh Bin as well, and he was actually the first murderer created by Roh Bin’s twisted ideology, so to speak. Therefore, Chon also had the same absurd feeling of righteousness and God-complex that Tang developed over the present time, which made both men feel like they were helping society by getting rid of criminals. Undoubtedly, Roh Bin had a significant role to play behind this development in both men, and now the young man faces trouble because of it as well.
The trouble is in the form of Song Chon himself, who starts to look for Roh Bin and the new murderer, Tang, not hesitating to use violence along the way. It seems very likely that Chon wants to kill Tang and Roh Bin for having replaced him in this godly act of cleansing, but when the confrontation finally takes place at the end of A Killer Paradox, a psychological desire is also expressed by Chon. The ex-police detective wants to genuinely know whether Tang is any better than him, as the young man feels to be, and it is to ask this very question, and possibly also to kill him, that Chon goes on his search. In fact, Tang is really not any better than Chon, and the latter only embodies the deranged state that the former would soon reach if his murderous acts were not stopped in time.
What happens to Lee Tang?
During the confrontation at the abandoned factory, Roh Bin is accidentally shot by Jang, and the young man dies instantly. Chon is also left injured and is ultimately brought down by Jang and Tang. Tang offers to kill the man for the police detective, stating that Jang has not yet killed anyone in his life and might want to avoid bearing the guilt of it. But Jang refuses to give up the chance of avenging his father’s death, for Chon had killed the sick man shortly before coming to the factory, and so Jang kills Chon. With Roh Bin and Chon both dead, the fate of Lee Tang lies in the hands of Jang, but the police detective lets him go, clearing his name in the official records.
The reason why Jang lets Tang walk away free is because he believes that the young man had been brainwashed into committing the murders and should get a second chance in life. It is also revealed that Roh Bin had indeed set up a situation where no evidence against Tang would be found, as he genuinely felt for the protagonist. Roh Bin ensured that no evidence of Tang was left behind at any of the crime scenes, and since an apple bearing Tang’s bite marks was found by the police, Roh Bin went to the extent of changing his own tooth placement to make it look like his own. To top it all off, both the dead bodies are destroyed in an accidental fire that takes place at the factory.
Therefore, when the police authorities investigated and closed the case, they came to the conclusion that Roh Bin had committed the recent murders and that both serial killers had been killed in the fire. During this time, Tang made use of his contacts to flee the country and take shelter in the Philippines. But when he is caught by the police there for not having valid documents and is deported back to South Korea, he learns that his name has been dropped from all the cases.
During A Killer Paradox‘s ending, Jang is seen coming across a news report about a man who was a lead suspect in a criminal case having been suddenly found to be murdered, and the detective immediately realizes that Tang is back to his serial killing ways. The show’s ending suggests that Jang has once again made a mistake by letting go of a murderer as an act of forgiveness since he had shown similar forgiveness to Roh Bin earlier as well. Unfortunately, the gritty real world does not have space for such second chances, and despite the opportunity to build a different life, Lee Tang decides to remain a murderous vigilante.