A Shop for Killers is the latest in a slew of action-thrillers on Disney+. For the most part, their shows are quite boring and follow very similar storylines; however, this one, like The Worst of Evil, stands out in the way it’s presented, the kind of action it has going on, and the characters and their motivations. Although one would imagine it’s a show about Lee Dong-Wook’s Jinman, it actually tells the story of his niece, Ji-An, played by Kim Hye-Jun. The actress is well known with a bunch of movies and series to her name and does a fantastic job at playing a naive yet strong-willed young woman struggling with her identity and her future (much like this author, except for the strong-willed part). The main story of the show is that of Ji-An finding out exactly who her uncle is and how she fits into the picture. It’s one of those “my whole life was a lie” kinds of situations, but somehow it never feels that way, thanks to how quick-paced her self-realizations are. I suppose we can attribute that to the drama being only 8 episodes long.
A Shop for Killers shifts between the past and the present. It’s a non-linear story that slowly shows us the beautiful relationship that developed between Jinman and Jian over the past decade or so. From the beginning, Ji-An is fascinated by her uncle’s demeanor—the man who showed up 8 years after she was born. How could he claim to be her uncle if he never spent any time with her? Circumstances had the answer to this question, I suppose. Thanks to their proximity and the fact that these two were the only ones left to look out for each other, they’re the perfect pair. I reckon Jinman was trying to teach Ji-An the ways of his business subtly and without a hint of what he did in the past. Pasin was always around, so Ji-An learned how to defend herself. On the other hand, Jinman ran the business without letting anything on to Ji-An. She went on to go to university and study hard, while he continued selling murder weapons from the basement of their remote home. Surely, those are signs enough? I’d have assumed he was a serial killer, in all honesty.
Ji-An’s personality is 3/4th that of her uncle, and the rest comes from the love of her parents, her grandmother, and those around her. Of course, there’s a bit of Pasin in her, too, thanks to him being her “master” and all. When Ji-An meets Min-Hye, she finds someone else to look up to. Until then, it was all these harsh and stoic old men; now she’s got a woman who is closer to her in age and a queen of badassery. Ji-An initially trusts Jeong-Min, the boy who went to elementary school with her, only to learn that he joined her uncle to betray him and that he was also the one who locked her up in a room back when they were in school. When her parents first died, Ji-An became mute. Fortunately, Jinman knew exactly how to break through her hard exterior and reach out to her little paws. Little Ji-An never gave up; she was stubborn too. He did teach her to say his name three times if she ended up in danger, though, and that’s how he found her locked up. From this, we can see how strong their bond truly is.
As an adult, Ji-An finds out that her uncle’s died, and this is too much for her to handle. It’s so sudden; it’s a suicide, which he would never do, and she thought she had time with him at least. As is the norm with such cases, the kid can’t separate themselves from the problem and believes they’re the root cause of it all. However, Ji-An doesn’t have time to delve into it. She’s put on a rollercoaster that seems to never stop, going from learning about Jeong-Min, what Jinman did after her parents died, and his past. I suppose Ji-An has all the right to be angry with her uncle because he is technically the reason her family died; however, she doesn’t seem to care about that. I guess it’s their rapport that gives her the strength to stay by her uncle’s side. Plus, the fact that he is dead (or so she thinks, at least).
So why does Ji-An choose to stay?
When Ji-An learns that the business will now belong to her and she needs to make the big decisions related to it, her initial reaction is fear of not making the right calls, not of leading such an organization. Ji-An spends most of her time fighting the thugs with the thought of what her uncle would do in such a position. She’s able to make decisions for herself through her uncle’s lens, which is both fascinating and a little bit upsetting. I suppose in this case, though, it’s the most helpful thing possible. Ji-An is trained for such a role, and despite her wanting to escape it occasionally, her ultimate answer will be to side with her uncle in any kind of scenario.
You see, Ji-An is scared; she’s tainted and she’s innocent, but she’s also got nobody else in her life. The only person she ever truly cared about was her uncle, and now he’s gone too, so of course, she would choose what was left of him, despite not knowing anything about it before. Ji-An’s choice has always been made for her; it only takes time for her to actively agree with it. Why would she want to forget such a wonderful time with such wonderful people who kind of treated her like a princess of her own kind? Ji-An could’ve chosen to run away, but being a mini-Jinman, she chose to stay and fight and take charge, just like her uncle. At the end of the day, It’s a simple story of attachment, I suppose. At the end of A Shop for Killers, when they’re reunited, the two give each other very similar, almost Mona Lisa smiles, just like the day they first met. It was the beginning of a new chapter for the two of them.