Warning: This Article Contains Spoilers & Gore/Fear Triggers
안녕 (Annyeong)! It’s me again, your friendly fellow drama lover/enthusiast and I’m here with another article. This time on Netflix's Kingdom. You may be wondering why someone, as anxious and scared of dark dramas as I am, is writing a fan review for something that includes gore and zombies… I am actually wondering that myself, but after binge-watching Kingdom so quickly, I just had to give writing an article on it a try and so onto the warnings.
Article Warnings: SPOILERS possibly and also there are ANIMATED GIFS and SCREEN CAPTURES in here, please only continue if you do not mind the sight of zombies and not exactly heavy but not exactly light amounts of blood. Also, just really creepy settings. I am warning just in case.
This is more of a note, not a warning, but I am made up of 1% water and 99% fangirl - so this article is just me fangirling and being so happy about this drama. Although I could say some negative things about what it did to my stomach (which would probably sound more like praise than a complaint because the graphics are so well done), I cannot breathe one bad word for the drama in quality or entertainment (which is just my perspective and I am 100% for supporting differing opinions).
Not exactly spoilery, BUT, for those who prefer one season dramas - this one is not one you will want to start since Netflix has renewed it for a season two.
BINGE ALERT: All 6 (yes! only six!) episodes of Kingdom season one are available on Netflix to stream.
Before we get into discussing this drama, I feel we should cover a few bases in regards to warnings and possible heavy content in this drama. In lieu of not wanting to give away too much information, I will jot down a few things that might strike as a need for a warning or possible triggers. These are either mentioned, hinted at, or actually in the drama itself. Blood, Decayed Bodies, Dead bodies, sword fighting, decapitation, flesh-eating, guns, open sewage system scene, murder, large scale fight scenes, and more.
Kingdom, Netflix's second original Korean drama, follows the story of Lee Chang, who is the crowned prince of Joseon. Since the prince had been birthed by a concubine, The Queen and her father are set on taking the throne from him. Now that his father has fallen ill, the prince worries that something grave might have happened to him and that the Queen is not allowing any news to get out due to wanting to wait until she gives birth. Instead of doing nothing, Lee Chang sets out to find answers, but what happens when it's not nearly as simple as he thought? With the palace being run by those who seek to hurt him and the country falling ill to some mysterious disease where the dead doesn't stay dead, will the prince step up to help or falter under the pressure and become a person he doesn't like?
Joo Ji Hoon (seen in the upcoming drama Item) stars as our prince, Lee Chang. The prince shows determination and courage throughout the drama because of his love for the people and because he knows what happens when a Queen gives birth to a legitimate heir to the throne. It is this fear that pushes the character to take action and lands him in not only a very difficult situation but a dangerous one that could cost him his life. Ji Hoon does a phenomenal job at portraying it in each scene, giving us more than enough reasons to cheer on the prince and hope for the best.
Ryu Seung Ryong (previously seen in film Seven Years of Night) stars as the detestable Cho Hak Joo (Chief State Councilor). With his eyes set on obtaining as much power as a king, he does something very questionable to further his family's seat in or near the throne. He has more than enough skeletons in his closet, but this doesn't seem to deter him from gathering more than enough to make the entirety of Joseon despise him -- if they were to find out. Seung Ryong is so good at bringing this character to life that it truly evokes so many strong emotions in the watcher, a well-done villain.
Bae Doo Na (previously seen in the drama Matrimonial Chaos) stars as the very admirable Seo Bi (Assistant Physician) who has more courage in her pinky than Dongnae's magistrate could probably muster up in his entire body. Not only does she manage to capture the heart of a certain somebody, but she also captures the hearts of all of the viewers. From the first courageous act to the next, I found myself cheering her on anytime she came on screen. She doesn't falter during a crisis and seems to know exactly where her loyalties lie. Doo Na is captivating in the role, though it would be great to know even more about her character come season two.
Our supporting cast consists of many familiar faces as well as memorable ones! I especially enjoy the performances of Kim Sang Ho (previously seen in The Guardians) as Moo Young (The Prince's Guard) who will stop at nothing to protect the Prince all the while giving us hints of his home life throughout the drama and it is very easy to feel for the character and hope for a great outcome. Kim Sung Gyu (seen in upcoming film The Gangster, The Cop and The Devil) as Young Shin, who continues to be a mystery and intrigues with his performance. And Jun Suk Ho (previously seen in Passing Summer) as Beom Pal, who I found to be so hilarious through his cowardly acts.
And I feel we should take a moment to appreciate our zombies. Not only are their movements captivating (and creepy!) as they come to life, but their performances are truly unforgettable and they really know how to give a great chase scene and a huge scare to all of us watchers.
I thought I would give a small list of reasons to watch including gifs. Please be aware of the spoiler warning at the top of this article and also the article warning for the following content.
1. The Scenery/Cinematography/Creepy Settings (yes, I mixed these.)
Although I am a fan of zombies in multimedia (films, tv), this drama truly does take the cake for the settings and scenery. I found myself often just enjoying how beautiful the sets are and how well everything had been focused on or the like. They truly know how to make a lot of moments get your heart pounding and fear/anxiety rising to the surface.
2. Joseon Era setting.
One of my favourites in dramas. The setting in this is a raw one, one that can induce nausea (in those with a weak stomach, like myself) as it is realistic in many ways. And although the dark sided politics might be a downside for some, it never fails to bring forth some emotion - whether it's frustration or anger or more.
3. Characters that make you feel for them.
Although there are still some we need to know more about (which is why I am VERY grateful for a second season), the ones we do get insight into really evoke emotions that are either good or bad. I found myself cheering for a few of them, while also caring as much for the Joseon people as the prince does, wanting them all to be safe when specific scenes would happen. And although some characters may have little screen time, there are many that leave a lasting mark regardless of how much we see or know them.
4. Zombie chase scenes.
It's exactly just that. The chase scenes and any scene really where we see the zombies headed towards what they have coined as the best thing since sliced bread (humans). These scenes not only set your heartbeat rising, but also keep you on the edge of your seat, wanting and waiting for the coast to be clear.
5. Some humour to light the darkness.
For such a dark drama, I found myself laughing a good amount in some episodes. Whether it be from cowardly acts from a certain someone or a zombie tripping over another one or the likes. They do not leave you in just darkness and fear, they make sure you laugh a couple of times at the very least. Or perhaps it is the dark environment that makes these small little moments cause the laughter.
And I'll quote an article from Netflix that I think really helps sum up three amazing reasons to watch. One being the combined genre's, the second is the director and the third is the writer.
Kingdom breaks new ground by combining two popular genres in one series: historical period drama and zombie action-thriller. The show is a collaboration between two of Korea’s strongest storytellers - director Kim Seong-Hun, whose latest success Tunnel was a top five movie in the Korean box office last year; and writer Kim Eun-hee whose series Signal was one of the top K-dramas in 2016. [source]
I tried to choose a few moments and with as little spoilers as possible. Which means key points I thought were important to find out while watching, I have not included in my top 5 moments. (wahhh, it was so hard not to!)
5. When our prince enters the King's palace, going against the Queen's wishes. Not only was this one truly intense scene, but the lighting and such made it even more creepy while watching.
4. The moment our prince and his guard are travelling together is another of my favourites because the two are hilarious, that is until the moment holds a truth that speaks volumes as to what they are walking into on their journey.
3. The moment when we see the bodies moving for the first nightfall, the ones who didn't believe it at first in complete shock at how true the story was that Young Shin and Seo Bi tried to warn them with.
2. The moment when the prince reveals his identity. Not only was he able to call those who deliberately hurt the people of Joseon for their own gain, but he also shocked a few as well.
1. The moment when our Prince refuses to leave his people behind. After being told to quickly get to safety, he refuses and states that he doesn't want to be like those in the palace, the ones who put their lives above others. Not only is it a heart-warming moment, but also leads to one of the best zombie chase scenes.
Sound off in the comments! Give your heart a voice and rant, rave, discuss! Some ideas to get the discussion flowing:
If you have watched this drama: Did you enjoy it? If not or if so; Why? What were your top 5 scenes? Who is your favourite character? If you could name 5 reasons someone should watch, what would they be?
If you have not watched this drama: Will you watch it? If not or if so, Why? Have you started it but not completed it due to any reason in particular? If you could give someone reasons not to watch this drama, what would they be and why?
Let’s talk about this drama, whether we like, love or hate it or if you’re neutral.
And to end this, for those like me who need something light when watching a dark drama, you can check out my article here for 5 choices of feel-good dramas and also scroll down into the comments where our fellow drama lovers have given their amazing recommendations (I have added so many of the ones recommended in the comments to my list and am giving loads of them a try and they are really amazing after watching something dark like this)!
That's all from me for now... until we give our heart a voice again, thank you for reading my fellow drama lovers and enthusiasts! 화이팅 (hwaiting)!
[author notes] The images used are from the official site or google. And the gifs were made by me. Some images have been edited to remove text. All graphics have been created under the fair use copyright law 106 and 106A. Articles used/referenced/quoted were cited when used. 4th reason to watch gif in middle has been lightened due to being dark and also a golden hue added to go better with the set. #1 favourite scene screen captures have been lightened due to dark setting.