Since our world is presently crippled by a devastating pandemic, there’s something oddly comforting about watching a band of fictional, sword-wielding heroes hack and slash their way against a seemingly unstoppable enemy. In the highly-anticipated Season 2 of Kingdom, Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-Hoon) continues to lead the people of Joseon in the fight against the undead horde.
The Beardict: 8.5 out of 10. Unlike shows with second offerings, Kingdom (Season 2) does not suffer the sophomore slump at all and exceeds the action and intensity of the first one. From opening to closing, the show keeps viewers invested by giving us an unlimited fill of blood spatter and 17th-century zombie goodness.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Merciless violence and carnage.
Season 1 ended with a cliffhanger, with the forces of Sangju bracing for impact as they discover the hard way that [SPOILER ALERT!] the zombies can eat them during daylight. I’m glad that they gifted us by showing exactly how they fought and escaped an impossible situation.
I enjoyed Kingdom Season 2 a lot because most of the setup and character/world building were already done at this point, so there was a lot of space for carnage. Pace was not slow at all because every talking scene alternated with mini-melees and skirmishes. The trench moments were particularly exciting, as well as the way they delivered food to Sangju with the cannons providing cover fire.
Kingdom Season 2 was more violent and merciless and certainly not for the faint of heart. Main characters perished, and people just kept dying either through stabbing, arrows, zombie ingestion, suicide (sacrificing to stop a horde of zombies from passing through a gate was done a couple of times), strangling, and tea poisoning. That last one was just really nasty, don’t you think?
Seo-Bi and the science of the infection.
“Chaos in such a tiny package.” We finally find out how the resurrection plant infects the host–through small, worm-like (disgusting) creatures. Once again, at the heart of the discovery is Seo-Bi (Bae Doo-Na), who is the unrecognized Most Valuable Player in the entire show. She may not have impressive fighting skills, but she has done the most by journaling how the plague can be stopped. Perhaps her only flaw during the entire season was to oddly not mention to Prince Chang right away that the worms hate cold water, something that His Highness and crew figured out on their own when their bodies got submerged below the ice.
Nonetheless, Seo-Bi is such a boss, and they need to protect her at all costs.
Lord Ahn Hyeon and his death (and second death).
He wasn’t there for a long time, but Prince Chang’s old mentor turned friend had two of the best scenes in the entire season. Lord Ahn Hyeon (Heo Jun-Ho) atoned for past mistakes by sacrificing for Chang and hatching a secret plan (moments before his death) to reveal Cho Hak-ju’s true colors. When all was lost and our heroes were going to be executed (following a failed Leonidas-esque assassination attempt by Yeong-shin), Ahn Hyeon rises from the dead and heads toward Cho Hak-ju like a homing missile. Seriously, I watched this three times because of how awesome the sequence was!
Some food for thought: it also occurred to me that maybe, if, as a human, you were hard to kill, then your zombie counterpart would also be difficult to get rid of? It had to take a beheading before Ahn Hyeon finally dropped–just saying.
Crown Prince Lee Chang – from reluctant hero to bona fide savior of Joseon.
We mentioned last time that Chang didn’t really start all heroic back in Season 1. However, this time around, he had immense character growth. Simply put, by prioritizing the people’s needs before his ambitions, he became a royal worth fighting for. Government officials, take note!
That part where he came face-to-face with the Queen, where he lectured her about neglecting her responsibility, was quite powerful. He also became more relatable as flashbacks showed how important his father the King was to him, and because of how emotional he became when he found Moo-Young (Kim Sang-Ho)’s almost lifeless body. It would be interesting to see how his character arc further develops in Season 3, especially with the introduction of his uncle (a storyline which is still hanging).
Unique Korean period drama, with a blend of zombie bits.
Kingdom garnered a huge fanbase because of its intersection of genres – it’s a 1) K-drama but foregoes the traditional format (no love story focus and no cheesy music), a 2) period series about politics and clans set in 17th century Joseon, and an 3) honest-to-goodness zombie survival thriller.
Even though everyone else is streaming it, it feels cool to watch Kingdom because the show is, in fact, pretty darn cool. I even have a friend who’s such a Crash Landing On You supporter (Hyun-Bin and Son Ye-Jin fans, let’s go!) but believes Kingdom is a whole lot better than CLOY. Of course, this is a highly debatable, but we cannot deny the mass appeal of this Netflix offering.
Transition from Game of Thrones to Resident Evil?
In the Beardict for Season 1, we outlined several reasons why Kingdom is the Korean version of Game of Thrones. For one, the Haewon Cho clan are basically the Lannisters, and at its helm is a Tywin Lannister-type figure in the form of Chief State Councilor Cho Hak-ju (Ryoo Seung-Ryong) . The show’s Cersei is Queen Cho (Kim Hye-Jun), and is as manipulative as her GoT counterpart, but a whole lot crazier as we found out in the last episode. Haha. Prince Chang is bastard royalty who finally proves he’s a more heroic and knowledgeable version of Jon Snow.
The whole of Season 1 and most of Season 2 may have dwelt on political power struggle, but the last scenes point to a different focus for Season 3. Instead of throne wars and internal conflict, it seems Prince Chang and company will be up against some sort of Umbrella Corporation-like syndicate from China which may have been responsible for the outbreak in the first place (Remember, it was not revealed how Cho Hak-ju came across the resurrection plant before they used it overwhelm the Japanese soldiers). The appearance of the mysterious woman (Ji-Hyun Jun – yes, the lead from OG Korean sensation My Sassy Girl) at the end did not give away much, but it’s a sign of a lot more badassery next season.
There’s going to be a long wait before we get more Kingdom content, but it’s a wait we will happily endure. In the meantime, let’s all do our best in solving the real-life pandemic right before our eyes.
Photos courtesy of Netflix. Kingdom now available for streaming! To sign up, visit Netflix for more details.