From the moment I knew of Kingdom, I had already come to the conclusion I would love this show. Safe to say that was the easiest bit of foresight I’ve ever had. I ravenously feasted on the episodes of the epic zombie drama and at its conclusion all I wanted was more. Once the credits rolled as the finale drew to a close, I came to the realization that Kingdom was one of the best TV shows I have seen. Here’s why Netflix’s Kingdom is the best zombie series to date.
Kingdom is a Netflix Original zombie thriller based on the webcomic Kingdom of Gods by creator Kim Eun-hee. In an incredibly short amount of time, the series has already gone on to become one of the best titles on Netflix and a personal favorite. Suffice it to say I cannot wait for the release of the second season!
In the Joseon period of Korea, the Crown Prince Change is caught in a political conspiracy and is forced to flee the capital. Upon his investigation into the man who treated his father, the King, Chang’s mission soon turns sour as he learns the doctor’s work has led to the creation of a mysterious plague that raises the dead. As the flesh-eating epidemic threatens the country, the Crown Prince must unite the people and save Korea.
Kingdom: A Fresh Take on an Old Concept
Now before you spam the comments, I understand that fast zombies are not a new concept in the genre. The reason why I classify Kingdom’s zombies as ‘fresh’ is because of their behavior and what makes them tick. Fresh ideas for zombies come few and far between with the most common slotting into classic Romero slow-paced zombies or “Oh s**t they run! May as well just die!” zombies. While Kingdom‘s flesh eaters fall into the latter, it’s the little things that make them feel incredibly fresh.
Upon resurrection the way the zombies moved was amazing. The cracking of the bones, the hollow dead eyes, and the ravenous hunger they exhibited was terrifying and I bloody loved it. Now there was a discrepancy with how fast (or lack thereof) humans turned once bitten, but I just put this down to every person has their own constitution. Either way once bitten you were either going to turn or be eaten…
The idea to make the zombies appear to be nocturnal was nothing short of brilliant. Watching the zombies scurry away like ants when the sun rose looked fantastic and left me with so many questions. All I wanted was to see more. It also gave the audience reprieve and time to breathe while it allowed the story to continue. Not to mention the fact that our heroes could be surrounded by them and not even realize until it was too late added to the tension.
Winter is Coming
If you have already seen the finale you know that the zombies in Kingdom are not actually nocturnal. They are in fact very sensitive to the heat of the sun and only ‘resurrect’ if the temperature is cold enough. Not only was this a brilliant twist but it certainly added an incredible amount of tension to the final moments of season one.
Throughout the season it was noticeable that winter was fast approaching due to the condensation on the breath of the characters. Along with the plant only able to grow within the ‘Frozen Valley,’ it all clicked into place why the zombies hated the sun. There aren’t many titles that reveal the origin of the virus but it worked flawlessly within the story.
Kingdom: Amazing Visuals
Throughout the season there were some amazing shots of the Korean countryside which highlighted just how beautiful the country of South Korea is. Even when characters were just traveling, the way it was shot was incredible. The size and scope of how much money went into the series is evident throughout. Every Won spent going over budget was completely worth it for the spectacle we were treated to.
The Sets and Costumes
From the Slums of Dongnae to the Palace of Hanyang, each set was handled with incredible detail. It really highlighted throughout the story to see the difference between the peasants who lived in squalor to the noblemen who lived a life of luxury. For the sets that involved the zombies, the destruction wrought by the undead was nothing short of spectacular. Not to mention the scale of the threat the undead faced was matched by the defenses of the living.
I am definitely not an expert on Korean history so as far as historical accuracy goes, I’m unsure how well Kingdom has performed. What I do know is the costumes and the grandeur of the noblemen and ladies looked incredible. Once again, in contrast to the rags of the peasants it was conveyed just how separated they were by their society. Not that the zombies cared about a person’s social standing. In the end, the dead don’t discriminate.
There were some spectacular shots which involved the zombies tearing into their victims. My favorite was the female physician that was torn to pieces as the zombies crowded around her body to the point where she was lifted into the air as they tore at her flesh. Setting aside the feasting of flesh, just the design of the zombies themselves were amazing. The way they moved as a pack together during the chase scenes was brilliant, and during the many close-ups of said zombies they truly were a sight to behold.
Kingdom: Fantastic Storytelling
Game of Zombies
The subplot to Kingdom involved a political game being played between the Crown Prince Chang and the Cho Clan. It was a constant reminder of the threat Chang faced from the humans and not just zombies. The Prince’s subsequent actions lead to the head of the Cho clan seizing power for himself and using his daughter as a puppet queen. After the death of his son at the hands of the Chang, Cho’s last hope for his families legacy is the birth of a son by the queen.
Meanwhile, the queen was scheming behind her father’s back as she faked her pregnancy. Why is this important? Because the Crown Prince is the illegitimate heir to the King. Chang’s mother was not the first queen but is still the heir if no legitimate males are born. Therefore if the queen cannot produce a male heir then the throne by right belongs to Chang. To secure a male heir, the queen’s plan is to steal a baby boy from the group of pregnant women she has ‘generously’ helped.
Chang does have the support of the people and significant noblemen. This will be all for naught if they cannot defend themselves against the horde of zombies. Help will not arrive from the capital as Cho has surrounded the region with men from the Five Armies. To which the gates to the regions have been shut and will be well defended against the zombies.
There was one moment that made me realize how brutal Kingdom is and that was during the third episode. It came during the chaos of Dongnea as the zombies swarmed the city. During the attack, a mother was trying to hide her daughter from the zombies. Disobeying her mother who told her to hide, she was almost seen. Suddenly the daughter’s sister arrives and distracts the mother from finding the first little girl. The sister immediately becomes zombie food and her mum’s screams pierce the night. Thanks to the distraction, the daughter only just lived.
This certainly isn’t the first time when children have been used in a zombie title, but when used effectively it hits you deep and its a boundary not often pushed. Another incredible moment was when a young mother was attempting to climb to safety only to be caught by zombies. As her legs were mercilessly being torn to pieces she was able to get her baby to safety before she was dragged into the horde below and feasted on.
The Virus Origin
Usually, the origin of the virus isn’t explored in most zombie titles. For Kingdom, it makes complete sense to explore how the virus came to be.
What is most interesting is the fact that whomever the King feeds on does not turn into a zombie. The evidence for this was the shock from the physician that resurrected the King. The young man that was first torn apart by the king never turned into a zombie. Subsequent ladies of the court that were fed to the King also never turned. It wasn’t until the body of the young man was fed to the starving people of Jiyulheon that the virus was then passed on to those who ate infected meat.
So why do I think Kingdom is the best?
You know a series is incredible when you have to remind yourself you’re watching a show and not a movie. The only shows to make me feel that way were Game of Thrones and Band of Brothers and right now I am throwing Kingdom up there as one of the best shows I’ve seen in an incredibly long time. Season 1 is only the first half of this show and I am already raving how great this is. Imagine how I’m going to feel once the second season is released!
The elephant in the room is the fact that Kingdom went extremely over the budget for the production of Season 1. By time production wrapped up, each episode cost more than $1.78 Million. But considering that each episode of The Walking Dead costs over $3 Million to produce, you must ask yourself how can a show be so boring and yet spend so much money? Kingdom managed to tell a compelling story in more than half the time that The Walking Dead has. So while The Walking Dead gets four ‘good’ episodes a season, Kingdom has six.
All of which I have discussed above created a narrative far more entertaining than The Walking Dead or Z Nation. I felt the show went down a brand new avenue that other creators need to explore. Kingdom never once bored me. Too often in The Walking Dead (not so much Z Nation), the story just got tedious and plot threads had disappointing conclusions. The pacing of Kingdom was fantastic. It was slow and methodical when it needed to and was a masterclass in building tension.
What are your thoughts on Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below!