Since the explosive success of the 2016 zombie flick Train to Busan, it is clear that love for the living dead has become a global, if not Asian phenomenon. From the animated Seoul Station to recent box office hit Rampant and now Kingdom, it seems like Koreans just can’t get enough of the undead genre.
While we all know how the use of zombies can result in a repetitive narrative, this new Netflix original actually does the opposite. Set in the medieval Joseon period, Kingdom infuses the elements of history, politics, mystery and horror to bring you a thrilling drama about a crown prince who despite getting caught in a power-grabbing conspiracy, embarks on a personal mission to investigate a mysterious plague that threatens his people and his kingdom. If that doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps our list of five things that we loved from this debut series might change your mind. Oh, and did we mention it stars Ju Ji Hoon and Ryu Seung Ryong?
#1 The fast-paced plot that surprises
Though there may be some similarities between the 2018 Korean film Rampant and Kingdom, the latter actually holds its own in terms of its ability to intricately weave the undead element in with real details from the Joseon era such as their belief in Confucianist ideologies, which almost threatened to ruin any hopes of survival for the characters. In addition to that, we really enjoyed the fast-paced storytelling which kept us at the edge of our seats. The limited use of zombie appearances also helped to keep us from predicting what comes next, and allowed us to experience the surprise twists without disruptions.
#2 The relationship between the crown prince and his royal bodyguard
In place of a non-existent romance in the debut season of Kingdom, viewers are treated to a brief but present bromance between Lee Chang (Ju Ji Hoon) and his royal bodyguard Moo Young (Kim Sang Ho). When Lee Chang first appears, it is pretty evident that the crown prince stays rather isolated from others due to political reasons since he holds the least amount of power despite his title. As such, the only person he can turn to for aid is his bodyguard whom he also treats like a personal friend. Having seen a glimpse of what the crown prince has been through, it’s nice to see that he has someone in his corner who not only banters with him but still provides support when it matters.
#3 Character-building 101
It’s not easy to substantially develop characters in just one season with only six episodes, but this Netflix series made it possible to evolve their characters within each episode using time-sensitive situations which elicits certain qualities in a person. We particularly loved the obvious character development for Lee Chang, who was first introduced as a haughty person with a privileged attitude but eventually becomes a humbler version of himself after witnessing the loss of innocent lives first-hand.
#4 The ambiguity of Young Shin
If there’s one character that continually mystifies in the entire first season, it’s the enigmatic lone wolf Young Shin (Kim Sung Kyu). Since his appearance in the first episode, not much is known about this agile, sharp-shooting young man who was the first to encounter the living dead together with Seo Bi (Bae Doo Na). The uncertainty behind his character creates an air of mystery about him, which works in the show’s favour as he continually surprises with his useful skill sets. It also presents a world of possibilities to his real identity where he might just be the beneficial ally that the crown prince needs to take back his throne.
#5 The overtly talented cast of characters
What makes a brilliant Korean drama if not for its actors? Helmed by a stellar cast of hard-working veterans and seasoned actors, Kingdom has an incredible mix of talent that all play an integral role in this newly created world. From Ryu Seung Ryong’s quiet and intimidating villain Cho Hak Jo to Jun Suk Ho’s bumbling magistrate Beom Pal, every actor seemed to embody their characters seamlessly, allowing viewers to suspend their beliefs as they go on the journey with them. It also helped that the cast had such great chemistry with one another, as this gave each person the ability to share the spotlight without the worry of overshadowing their scene partners.
Photo credits: Netflix Singapore
Catch all episodes of Kingdom starring Ju Ji Hoon, Ryu Seung Ryong and more on Netflix now!