Kingdom is a show where a near autocratic government has to deal with an outbreak of a plague, all while infighting threatens not just the leadership but the country as a whole. Did Kim Eun-hee, the writer of the original webcomic and now the Netflix tv series, realize how prophetic her work might be?
To set the scene a little further, Kingdom takes place in Korea’s Joseon dynasty where bloodlines and succession are of utmost importance to the country. So when the king mysteriously takes ill, and his minister Cho Hak-ju sets in motion a plan to take over the Kingdom, the King’s son and true heir Crown Prince Lee Chang gets caught in the middle. After discovering that his father has become victim to a mysterious plague, and that villagers have also succumbed to the plague and have begun viciously, mindlessly attacking and eating people, Chang has to fend off these zombies and the coup.
I am not really a fan of zombie shows/films, but with Kingdom the unique blend of action, intensity, and political intrigue makes it appealing to both zombie aficionados and newcomers like me. Kingdom has it all: the fast zombies of 28 Days Later, the political scheming of A Game of Thrones, and the humanity driven drama of The Walking Dead.
In addition to an incredibly riveting story, there’s some really fantastic characters for you to love as well. First and foremost there’s the prince himself, Lee Chang, played by the debonair Joo Ji-Hoon. Unlike many in the Kingdom’s power structure you can tell the Prince has a true love for his country and its people, as he often risks life and limb for others. Following him close behind is his confidante Moo-Young. Moo-Young, played by the venerable Kim Sang-Ho, is in many ways the heart of the show. As both a devotee of the Prince, and a man of the people, he represents the bridge between the two classes as they’re threatened alike by the impending plague. Alongside them is the wonderful Bae Doo-na, who may be the most familiar to Western audiences because of her roles in Sense8, Cloud Atlas, and The Host. Doo-na plays medical expert Seo-Bi, who is the lone survivor herself of a zombie attack early on in the series.
Though I am always here for a show’s heroes it must be said that Kingdom’s villains are played perfectly as well. I don’t want to spoil anything though so just tune in to see what I mean.
Perhaps what I loved most about this take on zombies is the use of the historical setting. While historical epics are a bit cliche in Korea, and to be fair quite beloved as well, for Western audiences especially it’s a fresh take on the zombie story. Korea has a storied history of war and invasions, so the setting is not only novel to our eyes but in some ways accurate (sans the zombies of course). Beautiful cinematography of the countryside, the fights, and the interior of the Kingdom’s palaces, really make the setting an integral part of why the show is so great.
There’s not much more I can say about the show Kingdom except that if zombies and history mesh for you in a way that makes you perk up then go watch the show. Even if only zombies peak your interest still give Kingdom a watch!
(Kingdom is available on Netflix with subtitles and English dubs should you prefer. Kingdom Season 2 just dropped appropriately enough on Friday the 13th of March 2020)