Kingdom is the 17th century period Korean zombie apocalypse drama you never knew you needed. Written by Kim Eun-hee , based on her web comic (Signal – tv series, Ghost – tv series) and directed by Seong-hun Kim (Tunnel, A Hard Day) it is a riveting ride through it’s far too short opening season. I had heard nothing about this series beforehand, and just thought it looked interesting so I gave it a shot. don’t be like me and be prepared for only six episodes in the first season. It was over before I knew it and I cannot tell you how sad that makes me!
I was instantly drawn in by the straight up approach the creators took with a genre that tbh is getting long in the tooth (no pun). The Walking Dead has done a lot for zombie drama, but I am also among those who think it has passed it’s prime awhile ago and might just be done with. There is an underlying theme of royal intrigue running throughout the show and I feel that storyline does not suffer just to make the zombies work. Ji-Hoon Ju (Asura: City of Madness) plays the crown prince masterfully. He is forced into the impossible position of being at odds with his father the king when he suspects all is not right in the royal palace. His step mother Kim Hye-jun (Oldboy) who may actually be more scary than any of the zombies is plotting with her father Chief State Councillor Cho Hak-ju, played by veteran Korean actor Ryu Seong-ryung to take power from king who has fallen victim to the “zombie infection”. It is a race for the queen to birth a son before the secret of the king’s true state becomes known. It all sounds very confusing, but it laid out in such a way that the story is easy to follow.
The costuming is absolutely impeccable, it is easy to get lost in the elaborate gowns and robes worn by the royal court. There is a lot of attention to small detail in both the sets and what is worn by the characters. All this serves to pull you into the period and make what is an otherwise outlandish concept into a believable premise. It’s interesting to note that writer Kim Eun-hee was inspired by an actual historical event she found reference to in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (19th Century).
“In the fall, a mysterious disease began to spread from the west, and in 10 days, tens of thousands of people died in Hanyang.”
I could go on and on, but it is safe to say Kingdom is a “must see” series. I cannot wait for the already greenlit second season which begins shooting in June. I do want to mention the amazing performance by Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas, Sense8) as Seobi, the physician who was at ground zero for the plague and maybe the very best chance the characters have at beating this outbreak.