Copycat Killer recap guide: All 10 episodes explained

Copycat Killer. Cr: Netflix.
Copycat Killer. Cr: Netflix. /
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Copycat Killer. Cr: Netflix.
Copycat Killer. Cr: Netflix. /

Copycat Killer is a new Chinese-language psychological thriller perfect for fans of Netflix shows like Mindhunter. Set in ’90s Taipei, Copycat Killer follows the first-ever serial murder case in Taiwan and is based on the novel The Copy Cat by Miyabe Miyuki.

The ten-episode first season was released on Friday, March 31, and is bound to hook viewers who enjoy serial killer thrillers and psychological storytelling. It’s a dark and gritty show following a sadistic and media-savvy murderer who kidnaps and tortures several victims, all the while taunting the lead prosecutor on the case, Kuo Hsiao-chi (Wu Kang-ren).

Spoilers ahead for Copycat Killer

For those interested in the show, bookmark this page to follow along with our recap guide!

Copycat Killer episode 1 recap

Copycat Killer begins with one of the most disturbing opening sequences I’ve seen on a Netflix show in some time. The show promises to be a psychological thriller, and the first three minutes certainly establish the show’s dark tone. It comes with all the trappings one expects from a serial killer thriller: a masked psychopath, grimy killing grounds, and a viral video taunting the lead investigator on the case, prosecutor Kuo Hsiao-chi (Wu Kang-ren).

This serial killer is a media-savvy lunatic terrorizing the general public by kidnapping and killing women. Copycat Killer opens with a look at one of the killer’s videos. In it, he taunts Hsiao-chi, claiming that everyone is capable of murder if the circumstances are right and hinting that the prosecutor has a dark secret of his own. The killer has a woman in captivity and electrocutes her by pressing a button in what appears to be a twisted version of the famous Milgram experiment. His video is picked up by multiple news stations.

After the opening credits, we pick up eight weeks before the killer’s shocking video leaks to the public. Prosecutor Kuo Hsiao-chi is called to investigate a double homicide where the victim’s 17-year-old son is the prime suspect. He doesn’t even try to defend himself. Luckily for him, Hsiao-chi is a very thorough investigator and soon learns the kid was just playing a video game with headphones on and didn’t hear the murders.

In fact, it’s likely because he didn’t hear anything and stayed in his room that his life was spared. Still, the teen blames himself for his parents’ deaths, which is why he doesn’t say anything. Ultimately, Hsiao-chi drops the charges against him, and he’s taken to a foster home. This case doesn’t tie directly into the serial killer, but it’s a good introduction to Hsiao-chi as a character, demonstrating his determination and detailed approach to his work. Most of the first episode is about establishing character moments before we get into the main storyline.

Hsiao-chi’s day turns for the worse when he returns to his office and uncovers corruption from one of their own, another prosecutor named Syu You-wei. Hsiao-chi is forced to arrest You-wei for profiteering and leaking confidential information to Zhenbang Construction.

Two stories fight for airtime at a local TNB News station the next day. One of the reporters working at TNB, Lu Yan-jhen (Cammy Chiang), secretly films prosecutor You-wei’s arrest and leaks it to rival newspaper Minli Morning News, and a severed hand is discovered tucked inside a red gift box in a park. TNB is scrambling for a new angle to cover the arrest in light of the newspaper stealing their big scoop. But why did Yan-jhen sabotage her own workplace?

Leading news anchor Yao Ya-cih (Ruby Lin), known as the “leopardess” by the staff, orchestrated the leak. She confronts Yan-jhen shortly after arriving, berating her for leaking it too early to such a small newspaper. “The prosecutor is looking for the informant. Give me a reason not to fire you.”

Afterward, Ya-cih calls a staff meeting in light of MMN “stealing” such a massive exclusive right from under their noses. Ya-cih, who is connected to the general prosecutor, suggests having him on the show to explain what led them to arrest one of their own. One of the other staff members suggests getting the story of the severed hand into the news, but no one thinks that’s relevant yet. Remember, this show is documenting the first serial killer in Taiwan, so the story wouldn’t be at the forefront of most people’s minds just yet.

Speaking of the severed hand, Hsiao-chi is one of the only investigators taking it seriously. An Interpol officer assigned to assist Hsiao-chi with solving the case, Lin Shan-yong (Tuo Tsung-hua), thinks it’s a case of debt—either gambling or love. Hsiao-chi calls in forensics and examines the hand close-up, noticing the thumb has been dislocated, resulting from a specific type of restraint. He asks the pathologist to reflect on cases where a victim sported a similar injury.

Hsiao-chi re-examines the leaked video footage of You-wei’s arrest at his desk and notices Yan-jhen filming in the background. He looks up her credentials at TNB.

There’s a sinister connection between the severed hand and Yan-jehn. The forensic investigator recalls a murder that took place in March 1995. A man named Tian Cun-yi (River Huang) strangled advertising employee Jiang Yu-ping to death, and she also had a dislocated thumb with an identical mark to the latest victim.

After killing Yu-pin, Cun-yi buried her in his hometown and turned himself in. He’s currently imprisoned. Hsaio-chi discovers that Yan-jehn was Yu-ping’s roommate and is personally invested in her death. She’s upset because even though Cun-yi was caught, a story was spread that Yu-ping was a prostitute at the time of her death, besmirching her reputation and good name. Yan-jehn has always wanted to make things right.

Since then, Yan-jehn has been working on a “missing urban women” special to air on TNB. It’s part of why she’s so diligent about doing whatever Ya-cih asks of her so she can air her report. But Ya-chi has yet to approve it and continues asking Yan-jehn to make edits.

Detective Shan-yong and rookie detective Da-chao try experimenting with different restraints to see which one could leave a distinctive mark on someone’s thumb. With Hsaio-chi’s help, they settle on thumbcuffs.

Copycat Killer episode 1 ends with another peek at the killer’s whereabouts as he kidnaps another victim. He drives around in a creepy red van while wearing his white mask, and as we can see at the end of the episode, he has a woman trapped in the back, restrained in his soon-to-be trademark thumbcuffs.