Since my college days, I have been a great fan of the South Korean film industry. My first drama was ‘Boys Over Flower’. It was the first South Korean drama of every girl I knew in my hostel. And obviously, Lee Min Ho and Kim Hyung Jun were our princes of the dream. As the time flows by many other dramas such as ‘Playful Kiss’, ‘Sunkyungkwang Scandal’, ‘City Hunter’,’Moon Embracing the Sun’, ‘Personal Taste’, ‘Coffee Prince’ etc. became our top choice. I was introduced to movies as well. ‘Millionaire’s First Love’ was the first Korean movie I ever watched. And it made me cry like hell. ‘Innocent Steps’, ‘Miracle in cell no. 7’, ‘Song of Flower’, ‘A Moment to Remember’, ‘The Fortress’ were some notable pieces among what I have watched.
As time was ticking towards 2020, the drama contents became more mature. In the new era dramas. more fierce female characters were introduced. Like in ‘Ruler’, the character called Hwa Gun was a notable badass character. She was not the traditional damsel in distress, rather the saviour of the crown prince. When I first saw the trailer of ‘Kingdom’ on youtube, I was excited. Though my favourite genre is a period drama, I never thought that someone could mix a zombie apocalypse into it. Starring Ryu Seung Ryong and Heo Joon Ho, this drama made me impatient to finally subscribe for Netflix.
(P.S: Torrent is more popular here.) When you are mixing a zombie thriller into a historical drama, you must have a strong storyline to do the justice for the audience. Kingdom didn’t disappoint me.
The introduction starts with a ritual where a royal dead body is brought back to life and the series started with a snarling of a beast in the king’s bedchamber; followed by a sudden death of medical personnel. The story revolves around the only son of the king, Lee Chang whose mother was a concubine. He was named as the crown prince. But the current situation in the royal court was mysterious. The king had been sick for a prolonged period and he was not attending the royal assembly. In the palace other than the young queen, her father Cho Hak-Ju and their retinue no one was allowed to meet the king. Out of suspicion, with the help of his bodyguard Mu-Young Lee Chang found out that something is odd about the king’s sickness and set out to a journey to find the doctor who had treated the king. Meanwhile, the attending doctor Lee Sang-Hui returned to his clinic in his town with the dead body of his assistant (mentioned earlier). The town was suffering from terrible famine and various diseases. Out of hunger, the starving people cooked the dead body and eat it up without the doctor’s knowledge. As the sun set, they started to turn into zombies. That night only Seo-Bi (Assistant physician) and Young-Shin were able to survive the attack. But the next day the prince found out the bodies and asked the local magistrate, Bom Pal to investigate the matter. Later Seo-Bi and Young-Shin begged them to burn the bodies while it was daytime but they were ignored. As a result at that night, the whole town was under attack of zombies and only a few survived. Devastated with the situation Lee Chang and the survivors set out for Sangju to take refuge under Lord Ahn Hyeon.
In Sangju Lee Chang was informed that someone in his team was leaking the intel to Cho Hak-Ju and was advised to stay alert by Ahn Hyeon. Meanwhile, Ahn-Hyeon seemed to have information about the zombies and they started to build a barrier against the zombie attack in the night. But to their surprise, the zombies started to attack in the daytime. Unable to control the situation the crown prince decides to go to Cho Hak-Ju to find out the truth accompanied by his team. On that night the people found out about the death and zombification of the king. Though the prince was able to set the king free, he had to pay a heavy price. Under the charge of patricide, Cho Hak Ju arrested him. Before setting out for capital Hak-Ju was attacked by a zombie and was severely injured. With the new support of the officers, present there Lee Chang started his journey to the capital. Meanwhile, all the time Seo Bi was busy in researching the zombification and found the plant responsible for it. While treating Cho Hak Ju she found the fundamentals and stopped him from turning into a zombie. But Hak-Ju kept her by his side. He sensed something wrong with the Queen’s pregnancy. Later the prince arrives at the capital but the queen already had taken power with the help of her newborn son. While asking for the legitimacy of the child, Lee Chang and his group found out that the palace was under attack of a surge of zombies. The second season ends with a huge question for the fate of the kingdom and the mysterious appearance of a woman with many chained zombies under her control.
In My Views
The best part of the characters in this drama is they have different shades of grey. You can’t judge them whether they are completely right or completely wrong. Everyone on this was fighting to survive. The crown prince’s transformation from an ignorant person to a true leader would make you fall in love with him. As for Mu-Yeong, he had his reasons for every action. He was a perfect example of a loyal bodyguard and a responsible husband. Beom Pal was a pitiful character. He shows that how much forced career choice by families can destroy a person. Seo Bi and Young Shin reflect the struggle of common people crushed under the pressure of nobility. The series could have had given Ahn Hyeon’s character a bit more screen time. Though Cho Hak Ju was a villain with class but his daughter was the epitome of ruthlessness. The drama has successfully depicted the curse of class system. Improper distribution of food throughout different classes were shown in a scene where some nobleman wasted few piece of abandoned meat and a poor on-duty guard was thinking about eating that piece. While the people were eating a dead human body, the queen burnt her silk gown just because it soaked few drops of blood.
The series also depicted the contrast of living standard of common people and nobility. While few people are living in a luxury while majority of common people are forced to live in misery. They could be sacrificed at anytime for the sake of kingdom.
As for the casting, everyone is appropriate. Ryu Seung Ryong is a veteran actor. I have seen his many films and series. Whatever characters he has picked so far; be it a gay character, be it a Pansori teacher or a powerful villain he has done the justice. He will manipulate your judgement for the characters for sure. But I would like to mention the name of Kim Hye-Jun (The Queen). I have never seen an actor expressing so much wickedness and ruthlessness by just a cold stare. She will give you chill for sure. The story is not always told on a serious note. It had moments of comic relief too. Specially the moments of Lee Chang and Mu-Yeong were quite funny and warm.
The best part of this drama was its sound effect. Unlike western horror films where the shrill sound effects irritate, the makers had used more subtle low-tone music which will make your heart beat faster out of tension. VFX, costume and cinematography are superb. But the hero of the series is its storyline and plot twist. Even after watching it twice, I could not get enough of it.
I highly recommend you to watch this series if you love thriller genre. This series has a perfect introduction to perfect ending of the concept of zombies.
Damn this Netflix. The story could have been wrapped up in two seasons. Was it really necessary to introduce Jun Ji-Hyun’s character without giving us any clue? Now we have to wait for another year amidst this pandemic for another season.