Earlier this year, a friend posted a message to Facebook that he was so glad to see the second season of Kingdom drop and that he hoped more people would watch it. For me it served as a good reminder. I had heard of Kingdom but, as so often happens, got distracted by drinking from the fire hose of streaming choices and new releases. Don’t make the same mistake I did. If you haven’t heard of Kingdom hopefully this will serve as notice, if you have heard of it but haven’t made the time yet please do so. Kingdom is a great show that is worth your time.
Kingdom is a South Korean, historical, action-horror, zombie show (say what!). It’s set in the early 1600s. There is a strict social class system in place and there is constant intrigue as people scheme to improve their station in live and/or move closer to the center of power. Savvy characters need to be constantly aware they they are playing a game, one that can have devastating consequences. At the start of the show the King has fallen ill, those in power closest to him are closing ranks, and word spreads of a possible political conspiracy. Within this fraught environment, there come word that a plague has broken out in the southern province that may be bringing the dead back to life.
Here’s the thing about Kingdom, it rips by at blistering pace. It quickly build momentum and rarely lets off that pace. Even at such a fast pace, clarity is never forsaken. The characters are all clearly drawn and their action and motivations are always in sync. There is attention to period detail that greatly helps the viewer. For example, the different groups and social classes all have distinct styles of dress, specifically their hats, that always make it clear to the viewer what member of what group is doing what and who we need to be rooting for.
I made a stray comment to my wife that I think is worth sharing. Kingdom has some broad stroke similarities to Game of Thrones (zombies, political intrigue, strong female characters, power struggles, historical time periods) but never resorts to rape as a plot point or means of “character development”. The female characters are powerful, are placed in dangerous situations, fight bravely, are smart and the writers never saw a need to have any of them assaulted. Defeated in some cases yes, but not assaulted.
Kingdom also has political undertones that parallel events happening in the world today. Specifically with regards to how those in power are willing to keep that power at any cost once they have it and how those machinations are often on the backs and at the expense of the regular citizens.
Kingdom is a great show to binge, there’s only 12 episodes. It will appeal to fans of fantasy, horror, Korean TV/film, and action/adventure stories. It remains to be seen whether there will be a season 3. It should be noted that all of the major plot lines are wrapped up by the second season but it does end on a cliffhanger that introduces new information and new characters and hints at what a future direction for the show could be.