Sunday, April 12, 2020

My Mostly Spoiler Free Review Of The First Two Seasons Of Kingdom

My love for Asian historical dramas is well known. I also enjoy a good zombie picture like Train to Busain, a most excellent Korean film about zombies on a train. Combine the two and you have a terrifying  epic that combines courage and evil and twisted conspiracies at the highest levels of Korean royalty. I got hooked on Season One last year and was surprised when Episode 6 came along and with fifteen minutes left in the season there was absolutely NO resolution to the crisis. I hated that but loved it at the same time because I knew there would be a Season 2. Tonight I finished that season and I was very entertained and satisfied by this whole experience. If you are looking for something riveting to enjoy under quarantine, this is the zombie show for you.

It's a fascinating adventure that is in one moment is visually stunning to look at and the next as bloody and gruesome as anything the Walking Dead ever did. Every single set piece and action scene is so well thought out that you are hooked. You just have to know how medieval Koreans with swords and spears and muskets could stop an ever growing horde of the fast zombies who do not stop and will not stop until they have consumed every living human they can find.

That premise alone would have been enough for one season. But that's not how they do things in Korea. Every character has such a strong role to play and each learns and grows and changes and finds their courage when all hope seems lost. It's impossible not to become invested in their individual stories.

There are two versions on Netflix. The subtitled version and the English with subtitles version. I have watched both versions and it's compelling either way.

If you are familiar with Korean entertainment you know that the production levels are often extraordinary. This one is no exception. From the costumes to the fight choreography (which often comes at you at break-neck speed since these, again, are the fast zombies) this is an amazing show just to watch the cardio fitness of all the actors. I swear I never seen people run so fast for so long so often. I would have gone half a block and let the zombies get me. FUCK IT. I don't like to run at my age.. But damn, you got to have some wheels to survive in this insane situation.

The final battle is as thrilling a moment as I have rarely seen in series television. I also enjoyed the ending which can serve as an ending or go off into another season of zombie goodness and I am okay with that.

The whole show is energized by the search for hope in a hopeless situation. It's about sacrifice and conspiracy and courage and loyalty. And the zombie science is SOLID. It's very logical and thus the zombies CAN be defeated. The viewer solidly believes that the final, last chance plan to defeat the zombies might just work and stop this contagion forever.

It's a hard journey that our cast of characters take but in the end I was very satisfied how everything played out. Life and death played out before me over the 12 hours that you should be binge watching this epic. I rationed myself because I wanted to extend the viewing experience for a great story.

Set in the Joseon period. The king falls ill to smallpox and rumors start to spread that he has actually died. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Lee Chang is labeled a traitor by the Haewon Cho Clan, the clan of the current pregnant Queen and her father, Cheif State Councilor Cho Hak Joo. While trying to uncover the mystery of what happened to his father, the Crown Prince goes with his guard, Moo Young, to Dongnae to look for Physician Lee Seung Hui who treated his father, only to be stuck with Assistant Physician Seo Bi and the mysterious man, Young Shin, in a village plagued with a mysterious disease. The second season centers on the advancement of the plague across several provinces. In the lead-up to halting the outbreak, a devastating revelation ensues at Sangju. Upon the arrival of the winter season, the undead hordes now roam freely due to a change in ambient temperature. Fearing the ramifications of an imminent invasion, Prince Lee Chang attempts to garner support from his allies to stop the undead and reclaim his right to the throne. Unbeknownst to the Prince, another conspiracy for political gain is brewing within the corrupt Haewon Cho Clan. As Queen Consort Cho schemes to steal a male newborn to cement as heir to the royal throne, she further orchestrates a last ditch strategy to use the plague against the citizens of Hanyang, if her former plan fails to succeed. As calamity looms among the living, only one question remains. Can the Prince save his people in time and end the political turmoil at the capital or will the plague mark the end of the Joseon dynasty?

I like how invested I was in every character, both good and bad. There is nobility here too. I enjoyed how the Prince was able to surround himself with brave and selfless warriors totally dedicated to his cause and his leadership. I enjoyed watching this young Prince grow to be a man and a leader. The decisions he makes he makes for the good of his people and his nation and most all of his decisions cost him personally in ways that would break an ordinary man.

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