Korean zombie films and shows are starting to become my new favorite thing. I recently started watching the TV show “Kingdom” and instantly fell in love, not just with the story but the visuals and nearly everything involved with the show. Historical dramas and fiction are also my fave thing, so mixing the horror of the zombie plague and a historical drama set in medieval Korea could be a terrible show but I was wonderfully surprised with Kingdom. Kingdom takes place in the Joseon period of Korea. The main characters are vast but the primary character is the Crown Prince Yi-Chang who is thrown into both a political coup, orchestrated by Queen Consort Cho and her clan, and a mysterious virus that may have also infected the current Emperor. Prince Yi-Chang travels with his bodyguard Moo-Young far south towards Dongnae, the ancient name for Busan, to talk to a physician that served his father and try to stop the spread of this mysterious and deadly infection. Meanwhile back in Hanyang, present day Seoul, The Queen Consort and her family try to seize the throne and the power from the Crown Prince by declaring him a traitor.
This show blends the zombie action with the political intrigue flawlessly and the show does a good job of keeping you hooked because these aren’t normal zombies. When the sun comes up the zombies would hide from the sun like vampires, but it appears that the sun doesn’t hurt them. Another interesting thing I noticed was that whenever anyone is by the zombies, or monsters as they’re called by the innocent populace of Dongnae, everyone can see their breaths. While this is never brought up it should be mentioned that this show takes place some time in spring or summer.
While the Prince struggles with the effects of the mysterious virus and trying to both stay alive and help the people around him, he has to also fend off attacks from the Haewon Cho clan that are constantly sending soldiers to either bring him to ‘justice’ or just dispose of him to make way for the Queen’s child. He also struggles with the sight of how much the higher class is willing to just abandon and sacrifice the lower classes to a terrible fate to preserve themselves, something we see firsthand in Dongnae quite
clearly and terrifyingly.
Kingdom is a wonderful show that is filmed on location in many historical locations in South Korea and shows the vast expanse of the different social classes from back then. I find it humorous that the plague starts in Dongnae which is the old word for Busan which is the opposite of what happened in Train To Busan. Kingdom is visually beautiful and enriched with wonderful storytelling. My one issue is that they never tell you why you can see everyone’s breath. I had to have someone explain it to me. It was told to me that the hell the monsters come from isn’t hot, it’s freezing or frozen so thus they freeze those around them.
Kingdom is action-packed and the scenes that aren’t action-packed, you’re left with the horror of what the poorer class and others struggling to survive must go through before the next wave of zombies come back. Or you’re left seeing the cruelty of the Queen’s father, the Minister Cho Hak-ju, from his treatment of those around him, to even his own daughter. It becomes very clear later on in the season that Minister Cho Hak-ju is slowly losing his mind. You feel the same terror as everyone else as the zombies start to wake up and wonder if this will be the end of them or if the soldiers coming to take the prince will either be his death or will they eventually join the massive herd of zombies.
Kingdom is a great show for those that enjoyed Train To Busan and enjoy a good historical drama/science fiction show. The characters have vast depth, the action is perfect and gripping and the drama and political intrigue draws you in.
I honestly give it a rare 5 out of 5 screaming zombies.