Kingdom is a South-Korean supernatural-period-thriller-drama series - the first of its kind - on Netflix. The show has aired since January 25, 2019, and returns for a sophomore season on March 13, 2020.
Based on the webcomic series, The Kingdom of the Gods, the series explores themes that include - among other things - political turmoil, historical elements, and an undead uprising.
A critical and commercial success for Netflix, the series laid the groundwork for a succession of original shows of foreign origins to call Netflix it's home.
Here is what you should know about the Kingdom:
The trope of the dead coming back to life has seen many renditions since George Romero first used the term "zombie" in his 1968 cult phenomenon, Night of the Living Dead.
The term and the theme would be so ubiquitous in horror flicks that it would sprout into its own genre. Since then, the genre has been regurgitated to the point of oversaturation.
Kingdom doesn't fall into this trap and is a true and faithful re-imagination of the zombie horror genre.
Set in the Joseon era of Korean history when Japanese Imperialist sentiments were set on Korea, Crown Prince Lee Chang becomes the heir apparent when his father is pronounced dead.
But when the crown prince gets word that his father is alive and sequestered in his abode, Chang sets out to get to the bottom of things. What he finds is a grotesque monster - the first of many - in what is ground zero of the plague that takes over the kingdom of Korea.
After narrowly escaping death, he enlists the help of a physician, Seo-Bi; a master marksman, Yeong-Shin; and his personal guard Moo-Young; to journey to his home of Hanyang, in what is the epicenter of a zombie plague and amidst a sinister political coup by Minister Cho Hak-ju to dethrone the crown prince.
Kingdom features the who's who of South-Korean actors at the top of their game.
Ju Ji-hoon steps in as the central character, Crown Prince Lee Chang. Despite being an illegitimate child, he is named the heir when the king - his father - dies. As the heir apparent, he is the target of a military coup by Minister Cho Hak-ju. He is also at the center of an outbreak of a strange undead plague sweeping over his sworn kingdom.
Ryu Seung-ryong plays Minister Cho Hak-ju, the main antagonist of the series. He aspires to be the ruler of the kingdom of Korea by marrying his daughter to the king. Before his plan could come to fruition, the king dies, and his dreams are dashed. He employs a different tactic and leads a military coup to see Lee Chang dead.
Bae Doona plays Seo-bi, a nurse who is one of only two survivors of the initial undead plague outbreak. She joins Crown Prince Lee Chang on his journey to find a cure to the outbreak.
Kim Sung-kyu plays Yeong-shin, a master marksman who joins the Crown Prince on his journey.
The first season of Kingdom has received positive reviews from critics and remains a fan favorite. On IMDb, the first season holds a score of 8.2/10 based on reviews from the site's 14,081 users.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds an approval rate of 89% based on 9 critic reviews. The audience rating currently stands at a whopping 97% based on reviews by 280 users.
The first season of Kingdom holds an average score of 62 out of 100 on Metacritic based on reviews by 5 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Kingdom has achieved cult status among the lovers of the undead zombie genre. One such critic who praised the show was Michael Pementel, writing for Bloody Disgusting, who called Kingdom a "Must-Watch Contribution to the Zombie Genre".
He went on to praise the premise, the cinematography, and the performance by the cast members, and concluded saying:
“'Kingdom' is by far one of the most compelling works to come out of the zombie genre. Through its style and handling of themes, the series proves there is still plenty of room for creative zombie stories. As a six-episode long season, the ending leaves viewers on an intense cliffhanger that’ll get them hungry for season two. Thanks to strong acting, gripping action and drama, gruesome visuals, and an overall powerful narrative, “Kingdom” is a must watch for horror fans."
Another critic who reviewed the show positively was Aloysius Low, writing for CNet, who said of the first season:
"Kingdom is a wonderfully shot and scripted take on the zombie genre, one that feels like a period drama -- just with undead monsters as a bonus."
Kingdom is a trailblazer in more ways than one: not only is the series reinvention of the zombie-thriller drama, but it also marks the first South-Korean original series to air on Netflix.
The show is not a shallow attempt at inclusivity, but rather an exploration of the rich history of Korea - the Joseon-era to be precise.
Bae Doona, who plays Seo-bi in the show, expressed her delight at having her culture being represented in the show. During her interview with the Singapore-based CNA Lifestyle magazine, Doona said:
“Because I feel that Kingdom is an extremely Korean work of art – whether it be actual visual arts, the costumes, the makeup – all of these factors are based on actual historical studies. And so while it’s still a fantasy universe that we’re depicting, it’s also historical. And I’m extremely proud to be part of a project that has proven that once again, the most Korean content is the most global."
Netflix announced the sophomore season of Kingdom to be released on March 13, 2020. Netflix made things official by dropping a main trailer for the second season on its YouTube channel on March 5, 2020.
The second season promises to be bigger, better, and bloodier than the first season. The story picks up where the first season left off, and the main cast is set to reprise their roles - although Ju Ji-hoon ominously hinted that he might not live through the second season, saying:
“There are no guarantees that my character is going to live to the end. In Season one of Game Of Thrones, the main character dies."