Ever watch a show and scratch your head? In other words, you come out of the first episode not knowing much more about the story than when you came in? A new Taiwanese series gave us just that sensation.
COPYCAT KILLER: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A voice says, “Let me ask you something: Do you believe that anyone can become a murderer?” Then we see the lens of a camcorder; it mounted on a tripod and a tape is popped in.
The Gist: That question is a dilemma a serial killer posits; do you push a button while sitting in a chair controlled by someone else, knowing someone on the other end of that button may die? That tape, labeled “Noh,” is sent to TV stations, who eagerly air it. The tape is directed right at prosecutor Kuo Hsaio-chi (Chris Wu).
“Eight Weeks Ago.” Kuo is called in to investigate the brutal murder of a couple, with their adopted son sitting in handcuffs, covered with their blood. He has some doubts about that, given that there are no fingerprints on the blood-stained fruit knife, and the video game that’s paused on the TV in the son’s room.
As part of his investigation, Kuo buys the video game and plays it until he gets to the level where the screen shot is from. Playing the game proves to him that the son didn’t kill his parents. But finding out who did is distracting him from the triad investigations that his colleague wants him to work on.
But when Kuo finds evidence of corruption, he has that colleague arrested at the scene of a raid. The first to get the story is a tiny newspaper, the footage leaked to them by Lu Yan-jhen (Cammy Chiang), a reporter for the TNB news network. Her boss knows that she’s been leaking news about corruption in the prosecutor’s office, and wants her to stop.
In the meantime, a hand is found in a local park. It’s in a gift box, with bright red nail polish on it. A veteran cop, Lin Shang-yong (Tsung-Hua Tou) is investigating. Kuo comes on the scene and pushes the cynical cop to interview everyone whose routine took them past that spot in the park. The medical examiner calls him and Lin in to show them a dislocation ion the thumb of the severed hand.
It reminds him of what was seen in the forensic report from a murder two years earlier in 1995. It’s the same murder that TNB shows in a clip package of prosecutorial victories. However, Lu sees the video and storms out of the studio, because that victim was her friend and she feels the prosecutors got the wrong man.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? For some reason, we kept thinking of Mindhunter, though Copycat Killer isn’t the same level of creepy.
Our Take: It took a bit of doing to wrap our minds around everything that’s going on during the first episode of Copycat Killer. You’ve got the murder case of the couple, the triad investigation, the prosecutorial corruption, the hand in the park, the cold case that may be related, and the serial killer that seems to be torturing the media and Kuo.
That’s a whole hell of a lot, and it didn’t give us a lot of opportunity to figure out who the key players were, besides the main three: Kuo, Lin and Lu. Even with those three, we just get the barest of character sketches. Kuo is dedicated, Lin is less so. Lu has a personal stake in everything that is connected to this serial killer. Not exactly in-depth stuff.
Will all of these somewhat fractured story elements come together? We sure hope so. But things are so completely scattered in this first episode, we don’t even get a good idea of what time period the show takes place in. We see tube TVs, big computer monitors, candy bar cell phones, etc., so we know it’s the ’90s. But we’re about halfway into the first episode before we see that it’s 1997. That’s either done on purpose or it’s just poor storytelling. Either way, it didn’t give us a very well-established sense of time or place.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: A woman, bound in tape and with the same thumb cuffs that caused the dislocation Kuo and Lin discovered, is bounced around the back of a van. She calls out to people she sees out the window, but she isn’t heard.
Sleeper Star: Like we said, we don’t really get a sense of who else the players are here, so there are no real standouts.
Most Pilot-y Line: Lin when he sees a story about Kuo arresting his colleague: “There are two possibilities: One, he’s really stupid, or two, he’s really, really stupid.”
Our Call: SKIP IT. There’s too much going on in the first episode of Copycat Killer to get a handle on what the real story of the series actually is.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Copycat Killer’ On Netflix, A Thriller About A Serial Killer Playing Games With Cops, Prosecutors And The Media appeared first on Decider.