With an impressive setting, production, writing, and acting, Kingdom gives us a refreshing zombie tale, enhancing further the growing set of South Korean series’ on Netflix.
Netflix is getting coy with South Korean TV shows – Mr. Sunshine, Memories of the Alhambra and Hymn of Death are stories I have comprehensively covered in the last six months. What strikes me in all of them, including Kingdom, is the level and effort in production, and how the acting is always superbly consistent. I’m becoming a fan of South Korean TV, and it would not have been possible without my monthly subscription to the world’s leading streaming service.
Anyway, enough of promoting Netflix’s international scene, and onto Kingdom. The story nestles itself in Joseon, with a monarchy threatened by rumors that the King is dead. The rumor, of course, is just a rumor; the more consistent gossip is that he has contracted smallpox. Due to the tales of his death, his Royal Members decide to punish those who spread the unmerited rumor, imprisoning and slaying some of their citizens. The opening episode is gloriously violent, surprising in fact – but it has a purpose.
The lead character Kingdom, Prince Chang (Ji-Hoon Ju), is the heir to the throne and finds himself not allowed to visit his father, due to finding himself at crosshairs with his mother who is politically constricting him to be the next King, due to an incoming baby on the way. Ultimately, his investigation into his father reveals that there is a deadly outbreak that threatens the land – the plague turns those who contract it into a zombie state and feed off the living.
Now, of course, it has The Walking Dead vibe and any other zombie material before it, but a bold story saves Kingdom. Prince Chang is ousted by those who should support him, and he finds himself taking on the outbreak to protect his people. His conflict is admirable as a character, even if he poses a slight arrogance when talking to his peers.
Kingdom’s setting, costume design, and overall writing are impressive all-around, making you feel convinced that this is an entirely different zombie story. It tries to patch over the phrase by calling it a plague, but you cannot play games; they eat people. Like Mr. Sunshine, Kingdom respects the culture, the history, and somehow embeds a crazy-infested story within the confines of the setting. It works well, and it is refreshing to see a zombie story merged into a different part of history.
Kingdom Season 1 is only six episodes long, avoiding over-egging the premise, and it will leave you eagerly waiting for the second season, which is rumored to start production in February 2019.