REVIEWED: SEASON 2 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
Despite being one of its more low-key releases, Kingdom, was very much a game-changer for Netflix. It was the company’s first South Korean production, and the $1-2 million budget pumped into each episode of the first season proved that the service was as ‘all in’ on producing original foreign content as it is when it comes to its usual, American fare. Based on the webcomic series The Kingdom of the Gods, written by Kim Eun-hee (who also writes the TV adaptation), Kingdom is utterly remarkable for managing to put a genuinely exciting fresh spin on the tired old zombie mythos.
Out of the gate, Kingdom sets itself apart from your Walking Deads and Z Nations and even your Trains to Busan and Seoul Stations, simply by virtue of its medieval (or, more specifically, Joseon Dynasty) setting. The action avoids the genre clichés of soldiers gunning down zombies in a spray of bullets because most of these soldiers are armed with swords.
Perhaps more excitingly, though, Kingdom takes its living dead concept back to ideas rooted in ancient mythology. Drawing upon things like revenant and vampire lore, Kingdom’s zombies are noteable for their apparent need to lie dormant during sunlight hours, meaning that the show provides us with an incredibly interesting dynamic whereby the characters get twelve hours a day to prepare for a twelve-hour zombie onslaught as their castle or stronghold begins a siege, each night.
Quite frankly, the show is a very real contender for the title of ‘greatest zombie television series of all time’. On one hand, you’ve got the show’s political drama following the dynamic between various royals vying for power throughout everything that happens. Completely remove all supernatural elements and this side of the show would be more than enough to sustain a very well-respected prestige drama. But whenever it feels like the bickering over the rightful heir to the throne is getting a bit dry, the show unloads its action set-pieces on you. Expertly directed by Kim Seong-hun throughout Season 1 (and one episode of Season 2), followed by Park In-je for the show’s remainder, the show is a true roller-coaster of a thrill-ride, balancing nail-biting zombie carnage with the sword-based military action of countless samurai movies with a handful of darkly comedic moments that would make Sam Raimi proud.
Season 1 started with a solid pace and continually picked up steam through to the last episode, so it’s something of a shame that the newly released second season feels much more like filler material in comparison. In terms of moving the storyline along, the newest six episodes feel like they should have been compressed into one, serving as last season’s finale or, perhaps, this season’s premiere episode. That said, a third season is still, very much something that we’d welcome so they must have done something right.