After Kingdom Season 1 aired in January 2019, I was one of the fans who was immediately got hooked to the series given its unique premise in combining the zombie and saeguk genres. Typically, I don’t watch saeguk or period pieces but this one had me from the get go. To prepare for Kingdom S2, I of course, made sure to rewatch the entire first season to refresh my memory. Kingdom 2 delivered in spades.
Synopsis: Jo Hak Jo (Ryoo Seong Ryeong) is on a rampage after the death of his only son Beom Il (Jung Suk Won) and wants Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji Hoon) to be reviled as a traitor so his “grandson” can lay claim to the throne. However, war hero Lord Ahn Hyeon (Hyeo Joon Ho) and Young Shin (Young Shin) allies with the Crown Prince and helps him in his quest to regain his place in the Palace to save the people. The Queen hatches a plan of her own to retain power, while nurse Seo Bi (Bae Doona) tries to discover the secrets of the Resurrection Plant.
I was very impressed by Kingdom Season 2‘s consistency with the first season. It picked up right where it left off and upped the ante with high stakes action. Don’t depend on what you deduce from the trailer because nothing is what you would expect.
The turnover for the characters is very high and I applaud the series for giving each character the respect they deserve by crafting small but emotional moments of closure as their parts in the story ended and more heroes were introduced.
The season puts a lot of premium on loyalty both on the parts of Prince Lee Chang and the Haewon Cho Clan. I loved how Lee Chang’s character evolved from the beginning as a sheltered prince struggling to survive to become a battle weary survivor who put the welfare of his people above his own. It broke my heart how each loss affected him and how his humanity always took precedence over his ambition. He was as loyal to his people as they were to him – amazing qualities of a worthy leader.
Seo Bi was the silent MVP in this whole thing because she held all the secrets. Talk about girl power and this woman had it all. Dedication, skills, compassion and a lot of patience especially involving Beom Pal (Jun Suk Ho), whose redemption arc really took a while to arrive. Of course, as with last season, Young Shin was the star player with his fighting skills and loyalty to the Crown Prince.
The villains were the best. The Haewon Cho Clan was truly deplorable from the patriarch to his two offspring. However, evil Jo Hak Ju may have been out-villained by his daughter, the Queen Regent. Kim Hye Jun really made the character stand out as she oozed pure evil. Even her henchmen were as nefarious as their queen.
I loved that the intense battle scenes. The fact that Lee Chang’s forces were always outnumbered yet managed to find a way out was truly amazing. All I can say is that very few survived by its end and it was harrowing to watch. I loved the execution and cinematography. The slow motion sequences became effective contrasts to the speed and rabidness of the infected. All the while, it showed how Lee Chang evolved as a warrior, not only in his fighting abilities but also with his quick thinking and strategy. The way he stormed into Hanyang with his crew was totally badass. It was one of my favorite scenes.
Kingdom Season 2 confirmed some suspicions that audiences had during the first season. But because politics was at play, there were many attempts of opposing parties to outmaneuver each other, one plan more brilliant than the other.
Rest assured that there were plenty of close calls to get audiences’ hearts pumping especially at the beginning of Kingdom Season 2 and the entire fifth and sixth episodes. Actually, Season 2 gelt felt like a composite of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Spartacus. It was really good.
As with many saeguk dramas, the Haewon Cho arc was closed by the end of the season but new threats loomed as some characteristics of the resurrection plan remained a mystery. Ju Ji Hoon showed up briefly as a new character for Kingdom Season 3 and Ahn Jae Hyeon also showed up as a character who looked like he would have a lot to do in the future of the series.
For me, the ending of Kingdom Season 1 was much more compelling but for now, I am happy to wait for Season 3 with very little knowledge of what’s to come. At six episodes, it was just the right length to continue the arc and enough to keep fans wanting more. I’m glad I binged it. I wouldn’t have survived waiting six weeks for it. Kudos to writer Kim Eun Hee and and director Kim Sung Hoon for the consistency and the depth of this epic series.
Pro Tip: Rewatch Season 1 and follow it up with Season 2 to better appreciate the magnificence of this series.