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[K-Drama Review] ‘The Killer’s Shopping List:’ An Interesting Yet Turbulent Comedy Series

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Eun Gee Joh

The Killers Shopping List review
Credit: tvN

Lee Kwang Soo, who starred as a part-timer in Unexpected Business 2, once again wore his clerk uniform for his new Wednesday-Thursday series, The Killer’s Shopping List. This new tvN drama will mark his first small-screen return in 4 years, and this time, he will transform into a mart cashier with a photographic memory who will kick off a thrilling hunt for a mysterious killer.

Ahn Dae Sung (Lee Kwang Soo), who has failed countless civil service exams, was called a genius when he was young. He was the pride of his family as he was smart enough to detect fake currency by memorizing serial numbers when he was a grade-schooler. However, all he is left with now is his overly-introverted personality that doesn’t let him socialize with anyone. Han Myung Sook (played by Jin Hee Kyung), who once took her son as her pride, kicks Dae Sung out of her house to her attic when she learns that he decided to give up taking the exam for good. Shortly after Daesung gets a job as a cashier at a supermarket, a guest is found killed, and the first person who discovers the body turns out to be Dae Sung.

The Killer’s Shopping List is a second collaboration between Lee Kwang Soo and director Lee Eon Hee. Although it’s based on Kang Ji Young’s novel of the same name, the whole series seems awfully similar to their previous work, The Accidental Detective 2: In Action. The fact that it has comedy and thriller together and that it revolves around an ordinary main character whose ability gets brought to light due to a mysterious incident is much like that of their previous collaboration. However, the drama shows the charm of a comedy detective series and composes various characters around Ahn Dae Sung to tell an interesting story between people.

Choco Pie, a snack cake that appeared in the first episode, is one of the most common metaphors for “Jeong.” (Jeong is generally understood as love, affection, feeling, heart, and all manner of deep emotional connections.) However, this drama uses it differently as the counterfeiter, who has been plotting revenge against Dae Sung for ruining his life, uses the snack to draw his attention. Moreover, Myung Sook reacts coldly to Daesung’s idea of using the marketing strategy of Choco Pie to attract family customers. The drama suggests that the word “jeong” is somehow outdated and overused and that it has lost its true value. The show starts right there. The mysterious body found in an apartment complex slowly fractures the lives of people living in the town who were more interested in redeveloping their properties than their neighbors around them and reveals the hidden aspect of the town that they have never noticed before. For instance, Nunchuck Oh turns out to be the notorious counterfeiter who has been staying low profile for the last ten years. The show effectively builds suspense as it suggests that what we see is not everything there is.

The Killers Shopping List review
Credit: tvN

Dae Sung uses a receipt as a key clue to track down the murder culprit. It’s interesting how the drama utilizes a grocery receipt as a shred of key evidence to identify the suspect. The photographic memory that allows him to remember every single detail of his customers adds to the fun of its plot. However, his stunning ability is not much of a help when it comes to coping with a society where it is natural not to pay attention to others’ business. Like what his girlfriend Do Ah Hee (played by Seol Hyun) says, it only makes him suspicious and phony. The beauty of the comedy detective genre begins when Daesung’s very trusting nature and his unusually prodigious ability create an interesting discord with his surroundings.

However, there is room for improvement for the drama to better develop its characters. Even considering that Dae Sung is only an amateur detective and that there’s a need for him to pull some comedy skits to spice up the drama, the character itself is sometimes a little too much for the viewers to bear. For instance, the disturbing scene where he was seen secretly chasing after the seafood section clerk almost reminded us of a stalking crime. His overly caring nature sometimes gets in the way as well, as he doesn’t get when to jump in and when to wait. This may be because the drama emphasizes each character’s personality more than the process of tracking down the culprit. The same goes for the detective who suspects Dae Sung of the murder.

Nonethless, The Killer’s Shopping List is an interesting detective series that boasts a fresh take on identifying a culprit. Plus, the fact that an ordinary man, who could be our friendly neighbour, kicks off a hunt for the killer offers a unique take on the series. The story is about to pique our interest as the hidden stories of Nau-dong residents and the suspicious MS Mart employees come together with the show’s central plot. The story would become more interesting if Dae Sung focused on the case instead of minding everyone’s business. (6/10)

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