Grieving someone that you cherish is not an easy process. If their death leads you to discover that they were running an illegal but lucrative business from under your nose, that leaves you with even more on your plate to process.

Jeong Ji-an (Kim Hye-jun), a university student, is thrust into this exact situation as her uncle and guardian, Jeong Jin-man (Lee Dong-wook), dies. Upon his death, Ji-an inherits an empty house, an arms-dealing business called murthehelp, and grudges held against her mysterious uncle by killers. As friends and foe of Jin-man flock to Ji-an, she is left to piece together what kind of life her uncle led outside his role as her guardian.

This review contains spoilers.

Based on the novel The Killer’s Shopping Mall by Kang Ji-young, A Shop for Killers packs a lot of plot and action into its eight-episode run. Amidst the fast pacing and excitement throughout, A Shop for Killers hammer home the point that no matter how close you are to someone, there is always more than meets the eye.

The opening scene of the very first episode sets the tone for the rest of the series. Three people, who we later learn are Ji-an, Bae Jeong-min (Park Ji-bin), and So Min-hye (Geum Hae-na), are stuck inside a house as others are actively shooting at them. For now, we have no idea what the relationship between the three people are, and the action that ensues only expands the questions to be answered. Why are they being attacked, and by whom?

The drama, however, insists on answering each question one by one as it flips back and forth between the present and the past. In the present, Ji-an and company are being ruthlessly pursued in her childhood home by a variety of killers who all seem to be connected to her uncle. In the past, we learn about her enigmatic uncle’s involvement with a group called Babylon, and how his past has influenced Ji-an’s life and his unorthodox parenting decisions.

Each episode slowly pieces together the present situation, and nothing is ever explained away through quick dialogue between characters. The drama does not have time for filler scenes, so each interaction between characters is important and relevant to understanding Jin-man’s life, as well as how Ji-an’s upbringing has affected the type of hero that she becomes.

In general, the first half of the drama explores the past through Ji-an’s perspective. We learn about the circumstances in which she came to live with her seemingly paranoid uncle, and the slow, but sweet ways in which they start to communicate with and trust each other. While Jin-man may not have been the most affectionate parental figure, he leaves Ji-an with some valuable life lessons. Learning about her childhood gives insight into Ji-an’s present-day abilities. As a young woman, she is underestimated by a number of people she encounters as she fights to stay alive. As she shocks them all with her decision-making and tactical skills, the trained, armed, and vengeful killers discover the same thing about Ji-an that she is learning about her uncle: people are more secretive and more capable than they appear to be.

The second half of the drama goes back further in time to finally reveal the type of life Jin-man led. Scenes from the first half of the drama are revisited through his perspective to fully fill in the gaps that were missing. For example, in the second episode, Ji-an’s parents meet a man that we assume is responsible for their death. The man’s connection to Jin-man and the details of the parents’ death, however, is only revealed as we learn more about Jin-man.

In the present, Ji-an’s fight continues in a secret basement warehouse that she had no idea existed. Her physical descent echoes her entrance into the darker side of the world that Jin-man had carefully shielded her from up until his death; now, she has no choice but to face it head-on.

Scenes in the present and the past are chock full of action. Ji-an and Jin-man are obviously the stars of a majority of such scenes, and Ji-an even has her own training montage as she learns Muay Thai. The variety of fight scenes make the drama a great one to watch if you’re craving an action drama. Min-hye arguably has some of the most stylish and intense action sequences. For example, as Min-hye fights a man out to kill Ji-an, the fast-paced beat of the music, it turns out, matches his pulse. As she emerges the victor, the music slows and stops when he collapses to the ground, dead.

Packed full of action and exciting and unpredictable to the very end, A Shop for Killers serves as a reminder that you can never claim to truly know a person. As a short watch meant to keep you on your toes, it’s a great show to keep in mind for your next binge watch.

(Images via Disney+, YouTube)