Monday, 23 March 2020

Kingdom (Netflix) Season 2

Last year I was delightfully introduced to a historical drama from Korea. Set against the backdrop of the Joseon Period, Kingdom was an amazing story of a young prince on the run from a conniving minister who sought to supplant him on the throne. In the midst of it all though, a dangerous disease is reanimating the dead into flesh eating monsters who have now overrun the entirety of one province. Can young Prince Yi Chang overcome the odds against him to overthrow the scheming plots of Cho Hak-jo and Queen Yeong-shin jein, or will the tide of the undead sweep over all the realm?

From here out there are SPOILERS so be warned! I will be assuming you have read the first blog post or have at least watched Season 1. If you haven't, drop what you're doing and go watch it now!

As a minor preamble, there was a big change from Season 1 where the series was in the original Korean with English subtitles. I assume that the popularity of the show led to the decision for Netflix to make an English dub for a foreign audience. It makes me curious whether they have put the first season on an English dub option, so more incentive to re-watch! I don't mind subtitles or dubs, but this is just to let any potential viewers who might find them distracting be aware!

Picking up right after the events of the last episode of Season 1 we see Chang and his new ally Lord Ahn waiting for the zombies who have failed to come at night. Instead, they are now rampaging around during the day for reasons unknown. This means the zombies can now move day or night with no time for survivors to regroup. With this sudden and horrific realization Chang and his allies must now regroup in the Citadel of Sangju, the last refuge of the living in the province.

Meanwhile, Cho has assembled men of the Five Armies to close off the overrun lands, and is there to personally supervise the closing. He intends to ensure that both the undead, and the rival prince, are never able to go north.

I had to admit, I was very unsure how the second season was going to top the first. From the slow building terror of the zombie reveals, to the great action, I legitimately wondered if the drama and the intrigue could be sustained. It was a great to have my suspicions allayed by the amazing acting and action scenes put forward. Though there was less of the out and out court intrigue in this season compared to the first, it still managed to deliver some surprising twists and turns between the work of Prince Cho and Queen Yeong I was thrown for a loop more than once! It was great to see the writers could still surprise me.

This season ramped up the action as well. From epic fight scenes to amazingly bloody battles, and one spectacular sequence involving a kite and cannons, it was a blood soaked gore fest from start to finish with all the zombie killing action you could want! With swords, spears, guns and bows you had a variety of ways to dispatch the undead menace!

The stakes were raised again and again as players on both sides refused to back down. There were some emotional scenes, and I found myself tearing up more that once as I got halfway through the season. It played well on your emotions.

The supporting cast is once again well fleshed out. With some drama still taking place in the capital as not all love the ruling clan, and the interpersonal relations of the characters really driving the plot. I was thankfully able to remember all the pertinent details of the plot from the first season with each character, and it was fascinating to see how things ended up tying together or what the revelations from the past revealed. The dynamics between Chang and the queen, his personal guard Moo-Young, and his newfound allies, all add to the great story which propels the plot forward.

Seo-bi is again integral to the plot. Her drive to try and find a cure for the disease is an intricate sub plot which really kept my interest going. You might call it a failing to be looking for a cure when the dead are knocking at your door, but Seo-bi manages to make it count! The secrets of the 'resurrection flower' have yet to be fully unraveled. That she also manages to give us the most 'lower class' look at things is also fun. She brings a sense of science and urgency to the plot, and her drive to understand what is going on infects the prince as well. If the resurrection flower can be found in one place, can it be found in others? Could they stop one outbreak only for it to pop up again elsewhere?

That is part of a massive cliffhanger we are left on at the end of the season. I personally thought that Season 2 was going to wrap up with a usual tale of the throne being restored, the plague put to rest, and everyone lives happily ever after. Not quite as it turns out! It sets up a great new plot for Season 3 with even more mysteries!

People really should get on watching this one! It is an exciting foreign show with a great cast, superb acting, action and horror.

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