Kill It: Series review, episodes 7-12 (Final)
Kill It has come to a close, and while my emotions went in pretty much every direction while watching, one thing I didn’t expect was to have my heart torn out by the ending. After all, action thriller doesn’t exactly shout “You will cry your way through the final credits” — but maybe that’s what made Kill It different.
When we last left our hero, he was entangled in a mess of clients, kill orders, and trying to answer two questions that haunted him. The first was, “Who is my father?” The second was, “Why did the numbered children of Hansol Orphanage have to die?” Kim Soo-hyun not only answered these questions, but uncovered an entire ecosphere of corruption and some the most heinous crimes you can imagine. And what Soo-hyun learned about his own past, and the numbered children, changed everything for him.
I went into this drama knowing I hadn’t been a big fan of OCN productions previously. If I found Kill It a little cold, spare, or even predictable, it wasn’t something that I didn’t see coming. What I often feel like I’m missing in stories like this is the depth of character that we usually get in K-dramas — in Kill It, and dramas like it, there’s no time for that level of character exposition. Most of the plot movement is external, and has our characters reacting to threats, reveals, and the actions of others, rather than the characters themselves pushing the story forward.
Still, the characters that we met in Kill It were enough to keep me invested, and I watched mostly to see where they would land after everything played out. Though I wasn’t without my frustrations over the impenetrable silence of Soo-hyun in the first half of the drama, by the second half I can safely say I fell in love with him just as much as the women around him in the drama did.
Seul-gi, the teen who he saved as a child and protected as a little sister, shared a special bond with him. She was as jealous of his attention as she was fiercely protective of him. And then there’s Hyeon-jin, Soo-hyun’s childhood friend at the orphanage. Their bond as they reconnected, the spark between them, and the inner conflict that Hyeon-jin suffered as she began to realize who Soo-hyun really was: these relationships were the best and richest parts of the drama.
The first half of Kill It made it clear that there was a whole lot of ugly waiting to be unturned, and in the second half, they don’t spare the gruesome details when all is revealed. (TMI, show! I did not need to see inside peeks at bloody operating rooms to understand the heinous extents of the crimes committed.)
We needed the details to be filled in to understand the mystery around the orphanage children, but it wasn’t the details that made me stick around. What I wanted to know was what would happen to our characters when they found out. After all, the audience knew more than each of the characters during the bulk of the drama. We were given the big picture, and multiple storylines, so the tension didn’t lie so much in the reveals to the audience, but the reveals to the characters.
While I wasn’t crazy about the actual ins and outs of the plot, or think the plot was particularly interesting, the strength of this drama was definitely in the directing. It was slick, graceful, and made the most out of the performances from the cast (Jang Ki-yong might be getting all my attention here, but Nana, Jung Hae-kyun, and Jo Han-chul were also great).
The drama was also punctuated with some really strong moments. Many of these were the action sequences, where the camera work made Jang Ki-yong look cooler than you thought possible. But there were also smaller, quiet moments in the drama that added depth and color, like Seul-gi sitting in front of an empty plate waiting for Soo-hyun to turn up. Another example: the still moments between Soo-hyun and Hyeon-jin, where nothing was happening on screen, yet so much was happening under the surface.
When you have a hero that’s notoriously silent, being able to get emotions and conflicts across without words is essential. In this respect, Kill It was lucky to have a leading actor with such a strong screen presence. Instead of wishing for more dialogue and interaction between our characters, I eventually gave up and instead enjoyed the actors’ performances without it.
While the direction was really strong, the drama missed out on utilizing some great plot angles and metaphors it set up early on. The first was the metaphor around animals, and canines in particular. In the very first episode, we learn of young Soo-hyun’s connection to them, and his cover as a veterinarian (however poorly played) soon makes sense on a deeper level.
He and Hyeon-jin have an early exchange about how dogs don’t make memories likes humans do, but rather, they are imprinted. Hyeon-jin mused what it must be like for some dogs to be “imprinted with abandonment,” and the thought is left there. I hoped against hope that the drama would pick it up again, but they didn’t. Still, the plot was ripe for this: Soo-hyun himself was imprinted with abandonment, and the drama is really the story of who that made him become.
Other metaphors were waiting to happen here too — there was his intense loyalty to those in his “pack,” and there was his gorgeous dog Grey. I don’t think it was a coincidence that both Soo-hyun and Grey had bright blue eyes. Those blue eyes are another storytelling layer I wished Kill It had had more time to unpack.
We learned early on that those electric blue eyes belonged to our hero Soo-hyun, and in the flashbacks of him as a boy at Hansol Orphanage, his eyes stood out in the grime and filth of those scenes. We caught a glimpse of Soo-hyun putting in contact lenses to mask his blue eyes in Episode 1, but beyond that they were totally dropped until an off-mention in Episode 11. Here we learned that the “playing with the chromosomes” of the numbered children sometimes yielded blue eyes.
Blue Eyes was the working title of this drama, and by gosh I wish they had kept it. The title Blue Eyes sets up questions around the story’s hero so much more effectively than the awful title Kill It does. For a drama that relies on us caring about an anti-hero with questionable morals, the more sympathy and understanding built for that character, the better.
Beyond my disappointment that they didn’t make better use of these story elements that were ready and waiting, it was also a bit of a head-scratcher that Soo-hyun’s blue eyes weren’t the first thing people mentioned or remembered about him. But, with its short 12-episode run, Kill It might have just run out of space to add in these nuances and layers. Either way, we’ll have to take the story that we were given.
That story, as we might have guessed, was not made for a happy ending. The more Soo-hyun uncovered about his past and the crimes around the orphanage, the deeper he got — too deep to give up, and too deep to extricate himself. The drama might not have been big on character development, but we did witness enough of a change in Soo-hyun to give his character arc some impact.
When the story opened, Soo-hyun was a killer for hire, weighed down by his own past. At the close of the story, Soo-hyun had become much more. The truth behind his past gave him something to fight for — and so did all of the people around him that he had to protect. “My duty,” he said, “is to make sure there are no more children born to die.” Without even realizing it, Soo-hyun had transformed from a cold-hearted assassin into vigilante with a cause.
In contrast to our vigilante killer, Hyeon-jin acted as the story’s moral compass — she never faltered in her pursuit of justice, nor her beliefs about right, wrong, and just punishment. She warned Soo-hyun that what he thought was revenge was just murder, but the world of Kill It was not so simple. The tension between their world views, mixed with their obvious affection for each other, was one of the strongest tensions in the drama, and certainly one of the more interesting ones.
What Kill It wasn’t able to deliver in terms of character development and originality (so, so many plot devices carried this story along), it was able to deliver with subtle emotional tensions, like the one between Soo-hyun and Hyeon-jin. Between this and the strength of the direction, I’m actually pretty satisfied with the conclusion of this drama.
A story about heartache, abandonment, and bloodshed, can only end with the same, and though the drama dealt justice where it was due, Kill It wasn’t afraid to show us that it wasn’t without its cost.
- Kill It: Series Review, Episodes 2-6
- Kill It: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Doctor Prisoner, Confession, Kill It
- Fashionable killers and dogged detectives in OCN’s Kill It
- Jang Ki-yong, Nana face off at gunpoint in new teaser for OCN’s Kill It
- The sanctity of life according to Jang Ki-yong’s hitman in OCN thriller
- Jang Ki-yong and Nana confirmed for new OCN melo-thriller