‘Kingdom’ is an excellent foreign six-episode series from Netflix, focused on a story of an undead outbreak intertwined with the political machinations of a royal family in feudal Korea. The creative team includes director Kim Seong-hun and writer Kim Eun-hee, who have expressed in interviews their gratitude to the streaming giant for taking a chance on their show. They’ve had ‘Kingdom’ in various states of development since 2011, but due to the strict PG-esque standards of Korean TV, they were unable to find a proper outlet for their vision of a beautiful-but-bloody tale – until now.
WARNING: We have attempted to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but minor spoilers for this episode of ‘Kingdom’ do lie ahead. Continue reading at your own risk!
RECAP: Picking up directly where the second episode left off, the night-time zombie attack on Dongnae is in full effect. In an interesting juxtaposition, last episode was calm early with heavy zombie-attack carnage at the end, and this episode features the opposite approach, with the first 20-ish minutes some of the best-flowing undead attack sequences I’ve seen recently.
Eventually, the zombie attack subsides (I’m trying to keep things intentionally vague here in case you haven’t seen the episode yet, but it’s a very unique and cool component to this story), but not before the Haewon Cho Clan goons, led by Commander Cho himself, continue their mission began last episode of tracking down Crown Prince Chang. Having previously been caught by the Clan somewhat off-guard while investigating the Jiyulheon doctor’s residence for clues to the origin of the undead outbreak, the Crown Prince was bested in a sword fight with Commander Cho, but the timely intervention of a few zombies allows the tides to turn.
Meanwhile, the Dongnae Magistrate and his cronies have decided that there is no way they can effectively eliminate the entire zombie threat before the undead are due to “wake up” and begin to run amok anew, so they decide to board a boat and hightail it out of town – leaving many citizens behind to fend for themselves.
Not being an evil man, the Prince offers to work with Cho on a means of escape – but this being a zombie story, the threat of the undead is always lurking and waiting to strike. Back at the royal palace, we the viewers are finally given confirmation of what has befallen the King and how/why this situation came to pass…
- I loved the juxtaposition of the zombies trying to get to the characters who were stuck in the jail cells – normally, you think of zombies trying to break out of places, not break into them, and the fact that this is one of the few times that, as a living person, you’d actually want to be locked in a jail cell – it all worked very well for me.
- To the above point, add in this hilarious setup: two jailed guys who were physically connected by a common stockade-style board on their necks. One guy was bit and turned into a zombie – so now, for the other guy, you have a zombie uncomfortably close to you but at the same physically unable to get to you (as long as that board holds). A very unique moment.
- This is the first episode in this series where the characters seem to truly grasp the only way to permanently stop the zombies: per “classic” rules of the walking dead, you have to burn them or incapacitate their brains. As the Crown Prince says in the episode: “You must aim for their heads.”
CLOSING THOUGHTS: ‘Kingdom’ continues to move at a steady pace, effectively blending royal political machinations with good old-fashioned zombie carnage. With only three episodes left in the season, I am hoping that we start to get a bit more information and answers to the inner workings of the royal family and how this situation may resolve itself.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Ju Ji-hoon as Crown Prince
Bae Doona as Seo-bi
Ryu Seung-ryong as Jo Hak-joo
Kim Sang-ho as Moo-yeong
Kim Sung-gyu as Yeong-sin
The first six-episode season of ‘Kingdom’ is released on Netflix on January 25, 2019.