Sunday, 27 January 2019

See This Now: Kingdom

Sweet Jumping Zombie Jebus.

Here's my dilemma: I really can't tell you a damn thing about this series beyond the bare bones, because there are so many good moments in this six part Korean historical zombie apocalypse drama that, if I were to spoil even one, you'd hate me forever.

When the trailers for this first hit, a lot of the comments section thought it was Last Train to Busan but with swords and funny hats. It really isn't. Really. REALLY. But I can't spoil, can't spoil, mustn't spoil …

Hokay. Take a breath.

The King is dead.

That leaves the Kingdom caught between two factions. The Crown Prince, played by Ju Ji-hoon, is the presumptive heir, but he's also the son of a concubine, so if any legitimate progeny happens to swagger onto the scene, his standing is shaky. The current Queen, Kim Hye-Jun, is pregnant, with a month to go. If her child's a boy, as hoped, then she and her family are set for life. But if the King's death becomes common knowledge then the Crown Prince gets the throne, and then it won't matter if she has quintuplets.

If only there was some way to bring the King back to a semblance of life, even just for a month or so. Luckily for the Queen and her scheming father, the Chief Councilor, masterfully played by Ryoo Seung-Ryong, there's a renowned physician who's supposed to be able to fix anything. The doctor knows of a plant that resurrects the dead, and tries it out on the King's rapidly decomposing corpse.

Which poses a significant problem for all concerned, when the King comes back to life with a ravening desire for human flesh. Fortunately he falls unconscious during the day, but at night his  ceaseless quest for meat really puts a strain on the kayfabe. Bodies start piling up, most of which are disposed of quietly. People start to suspect. The Crown Prince begins an investigation, fearing the worst.

Then everything starts to go wrong.

The series is written by Kim Eun-hee, who's been working on Korean television dramas since 2010. This is the first time her work's featured outside Korea, as far as I can tell. The series is based on her webcomic Land of the Gods, published with YLAB back in 2014. I don't doubt someone is negotiating for the foreign language rights as I type this, and I'd be amazed if it wasn't in graphic novel form in a dozen different languages by Christmas 2019. Mind you, I'm so out of touch with that sort of thing, for all I know it already is.

Set in the Joseon period, when the country is on the brink of destruction due to internal strife, this series really shines with its thorough and detailed depiction of an advanced society about to boil over. Kings, princes, nobles - their squabbles are weakening the Kingdom to the point of destruction. At over $1.7 million per episode, you'd like to think it was as near perfect as human hands can make it - and it is. My only mild quibble is with the subtitles. People say gosh and goodness a lot. I do not think that is what they are actually saying.

My personal fave character is the Prince's sidekick,  played by Kim Sang-Ho, a cross between Porthos and Aramis - mostly Porthos. There's nobody you'd rather have at your back in a time of crisis, and this definitely qualifies. He plays off well against the Prince, a mix of d'Artagnan and Athos, mostly d'Artagnan. However there's plenty to choose from, and it's a fantastic ensemble cast with no weak players - though given the subject, I wouldn't get attached to any of them if I were you.

Yes, there are only six episodes in the first series. Take heart. There will be more. Especially if you tell Netflix how much you love the first season!

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