The Killing Vote – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

The Masked Man

Episode 1 of The Killing Vote begins with a scene from eight years ago. Kim Mu-chan, a police officer is running in the rain while another man gets stabbed by a hooded stranger. Mu-chan follows a trail of blood and finds the hooded man stabbing the victim repeatedly. Mu-chan begs him to stop and holds him at gunpoint.

At present, we see a woman dancing in front of a webcam, surrounded by what is clearly an illegal racket where women are forced to make videos of themselves. Mu-chan watches the video and uses the woman’s hints and clues to find their location. He bursts in and begins to take all the men down while the woman, a cybercrime cop named Joo Hyun, collects the digital evidence.  

While looking for the business owner, Mu-chan goes into another room. Hyun watches him plant a photograph and some strands of hair in the room. She takes a video of him but he catches her and takes her phone. As the rest of the police team comes in and takes charge, Hyun and Mu-chan argue. Hyun accuses him of breaking rules and planting evidence and he remarks on her whistleblowing tendencies.

He takes off with her phone, leaving her behind. Later, while interrogating the leader of the racket, Mu-chan goes as far as to hit himself in the head to make it look like the suspect attacked him.

At her workplace at the cybercrime division, Hyun’s colleague, Kim Jo-dan tells her how Mu-chan used these techniques to go up in the ranks but at the same time, the police agency often uses him as a scapegoat for difficult cases. The news report shows that Bae Gi-chul, a man accused of selling child porn, is being released early from prison. And Mu-chan is in charge.

While escorting him to the car, Mu-chan ‘loses’ hold of Gi-chul and the surrounding protestors attack him. After a while, Mu-chan and the others manage to drag Gi-chul back to the car. Inside the prison, three inmates discuss how Gi-chul was able to get out of jail thanks to Professor Kwan, another inmate. Gi-chul is back with his people, including a Russian woman and he intends to start his business all over again.

Joo Min, Hyun’s younger sister, bids her schoolfriends goodbye and waits for Hyun on the street. Nearby, a man conducts a deal with another person and takes a red cup from him. Hyun rushes over, stumbling into the man and dropping his cup as she does. She and Min then go on their way.

At home, Min watches a reporter named Do-hee interview a politician named Min Ji-young about Gi-chul’s early release. Hyun then tries to fix Min’s laptop, which is infected with malware, while wondering why Min wants to become a reporter. Hyun then sees a framed newspaper report of one of her achievements and puts it down. When Min comes in, she lifts it and tells Hyun she should be proud that she saved their family.

Meanwhile, Gi-chul and his team are ready to send a new batch of videos out. They laugh about how they brought the Russian woman in to get married to Gi-chul while he was in jail and then use her tearful testimony to rig an early release. However, Mu-chan secretly meets with the woman and tries to convince her to testify against Gi-chul. When Gi-chul arrives and is about to beat her up, Mu-chan puts on a mask and attacks him.

Hyun finds a video message from a man in a dog mask on Min’s laptop, where he rants about making criminals pay for their crimes because the law isn’t holding them accountable. The next day at work, Hyun tries to find the man but her boss orders her to stop. When she complains about the measly work she’s given, her boss says she shouldn’t have blown the whistle on her previous team leader.

She then heads over to Nambu Police Agency to hand over the IP and videos from the previous case. There, she sees Gi-chul accusing Mu-chan of attacking him. Mu-chan denies it but Hyun sees right through him.

While Min sits on an exam, the supervisor opens his laptop and communicates with someone. All of a sudden, all the citizens in the country get a notification from something called The Killing Vote. It asks them a question, whether Bae Gi-chul should die for his crimes or not. There’s a countdown along with the question.

On the way home with Min, Hyun tries calling her boss but can’t get through. Her sister seems to think it’s harmless. So does Gi-chul himself. By the time Hyun reaches her workplace, 84% of the people have voted yes. Gi-chul wakes up and finds himself tied to a chair, with only a pair of shorts on. The man in the dog mask walks around him and tells him he’s going to get what he deserves.

The next day, Gi-chul’s body is found at the worksite where he was making more child porn. Mu-chan and his team examine the place and when they head out, everybody gets a video from the masked man. He admits to killing Gi-chul and offers proof and why he deserved to die. The Mask claims citizens will have the chance to decide whether criminals live or die, on the 15th and 30th of every month. If the votes go over 50, the person will be killed.

The chief of police and other higher-ups decide that Mu-chan is the perfect person to take on the case of ‘The Killing Vote’, seeing as whether the team catches the masked man or not, they will still be criticised. In return for catching the man, Mu-chan asks them to appoint him to the HQ investigation team.

Meanwhile, Hyun and her colleagues have been unable to trace where the texts came from. Her boss instructs her to pretend she never found the original video on Min’s laptop, since it would imply his negligence. This pushes her over the edge and she finally gives him a piece of her mind.

Jo-dan joins the special investigation unit, Mu-chan’s team, and realises that every team member is someone deemed ‘unworthy’ by the agency. Mu-chan gives a public briefing on the situation and the team then retraces Gi-chul’s footsteps. He left a club in a taxi and the last person he spoke to seems to be his Russian wife.

Hyun goes to Mu-chan’s office and tells him she might know the killer’s identity. She shows him the video she found on her sister’s laptop, which was probably sent as a test round before the real thing. In the video, the man calls criminals who escape justice ‘devils who were deemed innocent’.

Hyun says only one person has used that exact phrase before — Kwan Seok-joo, the father who killed his daughter’s rapist, the same case Mu-chan worked on eight years ago. The flashback returns and we see Seok-joo smiling at Mu-chan who keeps pointing the gun at him. Cut to the present, we see Kim Seok-joo in a prison cell.

The Episode Review

The Killing Vote starts off on a strong note. There are plenty of characters, quick back-and-forth dialogues and a lot of plot development in general, which makes the 70-minute episode go faster than one would expect. The quick pace is definitely one of the show’s strong points and can keep viewers hooked as long as they stick to it.

We’ve got a good sense of our main leads, Mu-chan and Hyun, as the episode has clearly established what kind of people they are. It’s the principles and morals of each person that is most interesting to me, seeing as they will come into the spotlight once the masked man’s killings go on. Mu-chan’s ethics are intriguing in particular since he already bends the rules to ensure justice is delivered, just in his own way.

This episode delivers a good dose of mystery and thrill while setting up all the characters and systems for the story to go on. A fast-paced plot and the exploration of morals seem to be the two key aspects of this K-drama. Should they be balanced out well, I think we may have a really good thriller on our hands.


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Read our season 1 review of The Killing Vote here!

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