Kill It: Series review, episodes 2-6
OCN’s Kill It was a little too much fun to leave with just a first episode recap, so here are our thoughts on the first half of this 12-episode action thriller.
When we left our hero, Kim Soo-hyun (Jang Ki-yong) at the end of Episode 1, we not only got a glimpse of his unorthodox childhood, but the descent and demise of his father figure Pavel (David Lee McInnis). Pavel is something of an unfortunate father figure for our hero, what with being a bloodthirsty and paranoid assassin and all, but he’s not entirely without a sense of righteousness. On his deathbed, he urges Soo-hyun to change his course, and live a good life. Our hero mostly ignores this message (for now at least), which is why we have a drama to watch — and painstakingly pick apart — so let’s get to it!
I should start out with a disclaimer. I started watching this drama because of the appeal of Jang Ki-yong with a sniper rifle in head-to-toe assassin gear, and because I love a good action thriller. For me, a good action drama must contain larger-than-life heroes, and be chock full of moral dilemmas — like the internal war of being a ruthless killer versus being loyal and protective over the people you care about, for instance.
An action drama without a hero (or anti-hero) to root for falls flat, so getting behind our troubled assassin is crucial. While Jang Ki-yong really excels in the drama’s action sequences — they make such good use of his roving gaze and cat-like movements — it took me a while to warm up to him as Soo-hyun. The issue I was having was the same one I had during Come Here and Hug Me: Jang Ki-yong is so stiff and silent. In Come Here and Hug Me, it won me over, and I found it worked well in his portrayal of the emotionally-burdened son of a serial killer. In Kill It, he’s the same ratio of stiff and silent, but it was frustrating at first. Then something clicked.
Had I fallen under the Jang Ki-yong spell, or did the character of Kim Soo-hyun just take a while to make sense to me, and be worth getting emotionally invested in? By the time I hit Episode 5, all the strands of the story started to weave together more fully, and I started to get behind the drama as a whole.
I forgave the fact that Soo-hyun doesn’t actually do anything as a vet except stare blankly at the computer and stock shelves with empty bottles. I forgave the fact that everyone strangely converges at his clinic, and that every scene in the first four episodes seemed to revolve around the random table in the middle of his office (seriously, is this the only set they had?). I even forgave the lack of back story for Do Hyeon-jin (Nana), the detective who’s both chasing a killer and befriending a neighbor — little does she know they are the same man.
Kill It’s quick pace and steady pulse of reveals and recognitions keeps things not only moving, but advancing. In the space of the five episodes covered here, Soo-hyun is quickly drawn into a web by a client who knows more about his past than he does.
With each episode, we learn of a new level of connectedness, as each character’s past is not only deeply intertwined, but converges over a past case (or hit, depending on whose story you are getting). The case, and all the lines that lead to and from it, connect our characters not only to each other, but to the creepy orphanage where our leads began their story. Improbable? Yes, but I’m in deep enough to suspend my disbelief now, and all of the interconnectedness between good guys, bad guys, and good-bad guys is a flashing siren: major conspiracy ahead.
While the background scheming of textbook evil and double-crossing politicians and their right hand men is on the dull side (as ever), it escalates things quickly for Soo-hyun. The power struggles that are going on, and the need to suppress what happened at Hansol Orphanage, sets off a whole chain of events and kill orders. The deeper Soo-hyun gets, the deeper Hyeon-jin gets.
Kill It gets stronger as it continues, though very few of the reveals are of actual surprise to the audience, since we’re purposefully clued in way before the characters themselves are. Still, the ground gained between our assassin and detective is quite impressive: they go from acquaintances, to neighbors, to almost-friends, to a game of cat and mouse that’s interjected with the realization that they were dear childhood friends. The shared childhood trauma trope is probably my least favorite form of interconnectedness because it’s so overplayed — but I was willing to swallow it here for the sake of the wider story. I hope I don’t regret that.
Although it’s a little typical and patched together as a whole, Kill It makes up for it with some really great sequences that add a nice edge to the storytelling. One sequence that was really well done was the morphing of the 11-year-old murder witness that Hyeon-jin has been searching for, into the high schooler that Soo-hyun has taken under his wing. We get an eerie head-on shot of this shell-shocked bleeding child, and then see her at her present age, all while she’s standing in front of the bathroom mirror as if she’s staring at us.
Another great sequence featured our leads sitting across the table from each other over Hyeon-jin’s birthday cake. They talk about past childhood friends (if you can call short one-word answers actually “talking”), and Soo-hyun says he had a friend that was good at making paper airplanes. Hyeon-jin muses that she used to be good at making them as a child. This is an important scene where we get some clues that these two were the childhood friend they have each been searching for, but the scene is even more impactful because of how it’s shot. The candle flickers between them, and Soo-hyun stares at her while she gives thanks over her cake. The effect of the head-on camera shots in this scene is mesmerizing.
Is this a scene of recognition? Does Soo-hyun remember her from his past, or does she remember him? Is this a peek into his soul, or are we witnessing his growing attraction to her? (They crackle on screen together, that’s for sure.) I’m not sure if the ambiguity is intentional, but it really worked here. Both of the actors can do a heck of a lot with their eyes, and it’s scenes like this that made me forgive the drama for using the paper airplane device, and other well-worn plot devices, to keep the plot moving forward.
We close out Episode 6 with another fantastic moment. Soo-hyun has backed out of his latest “assignment,” and told the client he doesn’t care about the repercussions. But, in the same breath, he runs at top speed to save Hyeon-jin. She’s walking across the street unaware that she’s about to get mowed down by his client. Soo-hyun runs for her, grabs her, and the scene cuts to black. The cut is so fast you can barely process his arms wrapping around her before the episode abruptly ends.
Such a brilliant bit of editing. It just goes to show you can take the most tropified scene in all of dramaland (vehicle of doom, girl lost in thought crossing street, hero rushing in to save her) and make it something fresh and impactful. It’s all in how you do it. Kill It, if you cannot give me depth of storytelling and uniqueness of plot, give me glorious and well-filmed moments like these, and I’ve got enough to keep me watching.
With these six episodes behind me, I can safely say I’ve totally fallen for this silent hero with a mountain of problems and pain ahead of him. So much has been revealed by our midway point that I wonder what is left to unfold in the next half — but that’s a good place to be. It’s better than knowing exactly what is going to happen, and just waiting for it unfold. We’ve got questions that need answering, and a conspiracy to uncover, but something tells me there are many more cards to be played before we learn the truth behind Hansol Orphanage, and Soo-hyun’s dark and mysterious past.
Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.
- 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