Netflix's Kingdom Season 1 Review
Kingdom of the Dead
Even for those tired of zombie TV shows, Netflix's excellent cross-genre blend of exquisite Medieval Korean political machinations and zombie apocalypse spectacle may pull you back in.Netflix's first original Korean series is superb, landing with little fanfare but building in popularity since its debut, seeing those worn out by endless seasons of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Z-Nation, or indeed Netflix's recent Z-nation prequel series, Black Summer, enticed to venture back into the tired genre by putting a completely different spin on proceedings.
Indeed Kingdom could be regarded, first and foremost, as a Korean period drama, set in the medieval Joseon period, where political machinations send the heir to the throne on the run, wanted for treason, whilst the Emperor's young Queen plots to replace the heir with her own child.
At times beautiful, and at times thoroughly bloody, it's a curious combination which somehow works
The twist here is that the Emperor is sick - really sick - like, undead sick, and the Empire needs to cover up the illness so that a new heir can be found whilst they hunt down and dispose of the legitimate one. Unfortunately, like any good plague, the virus spreads, and despite the desire to keep it under wraps, soon half the Kingdom is under siege. It falls upon the Crown Prince, and a misfit group of loyal followers, to not only stand up to the zombie horde, but also defeat the nefarious conspirators hiding behind the throne.
Lavishly tailored to perfectly suit the period setting - and looking the part in Netflix's 4K garb - Kingdom's short but sweet 6-episode debut season has unsurprisingly been swiftly re-upped for a sophomore year. There's plenty of meat left to pick off these bones, with the complex political machinations providing a strong backbone to the piece, whilst a series of well-staged hack-and-slash and run-for-your-lives setpieces keep you gripped.
At times beautiful, and at times thoroughly bloody, it's a curious combination which somehow works, ironically injecting new life into the undead genre that - after two decades of oversaturation - had appeared to have finally run its course. Indeed, after films like Netflix's disappointing Crouching Tiger sequel, perhaps the period martial arts genre similarly needed this kind of change-up, and certainly the blend affords an unlikely opportunity to tell the same story, only in a very different way.
Netflix may dump dozens of 'Netflix Original' products onto the streaming platform every month, but this is one you should sit up and take notice of
Ju Ji-hoon plays the Crown Prince, and he takes a little getting used to, but he's ably supported by the likes of Kim Sang-ho as his personal guard, and Bae Doo-na (a Wachowski favourite from Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending and Sense8) as a doctor who discovers the plague. Indeed, the main leads are all memorable, whilst a staggering number of extras were clearly called upon to comprise what often looks like hundreds of zombies (or, in a couple of scenes, just innocents trying to escape the plague).
Although it's easily missed, now is the time to rectify that and, with a second season on its way, dig deep into the rich and expansive zombie period drama, Kingdom. Netflix may dump dozens of 'Netflix Original' products onto the streaming platform every month, but this is one you should sit up and take notice of.
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