A couple of weeks ago, while browsing Twitter, a contact asked whether I’d seen the series Kingdom. I had no idea what he was on about, so I got onto Google. The first search result I clicked on told me it was a sort of Game of Thrones as if made by AliExprés. I was about to tell my Twitter contact to go to hell with all the subtlety you would expect from the Bastard I am, when in the text I noticed the word “zombie”. I read more carefully and saw there was a season of six episodes available, although nothing much happened until the end. ”Just as I thought, an Asian copy of Game of Thrones,” I thought to myself. Yet, I decided I should at least give it a try, mainly on the back of the growing quality of South Korean fantasy films in the past few years. When the weekend rolled around, I overcame my lack of enthusiasm and decided to give it a watch. Luckily, what I saw was nothing like the cheap Asian imitation of the most over-hyped series of the decade I’d expected.
What I found was dynastic intrigue, political and military ruthlessness, betrayal, action and sword fighting, and even social criticism – albeit in the context of a well-plotted zombie pandemic. Kingdom turned out to be the one of the most daring zombie productions to come out of the Far East. The comparison with Game of Thrones is understandable, but doesn’t hold up when you see where things are going. I remember when I heard the first Thronie marvelling at the zombies coming from the cold to destroy everything amid a bloody clash between medieval kingdoms. “Winter is coming!“ they warned me. 300 seasons later, we still haven’t seen much of these eskimo zombies, while the rest of the plot has been stretched out longer than a battle between Goku and Freezer in the Dragon Ball series.
In addition to an inherent exoticism that lives up to expectations, Kingdom offers a notable script and a narrative tempo that rises to a crescendo, as well as a solid historical basis – it seems 19th-century Korea was afflicted by a strange epidemic that caused millions of death and left the surviving population with poverty, famine and unending political intrigues. This is where the series’ creators have placed the emphasis, on moral and social dilemmas that are universal. As for the Z factor, zombie fans will not be disappointed, as there is plenty of gore, blood, and violence, all at high speed, in scenes that provoke tension and anxiety, even including twists that make us doubt their true nature until the very end.
The series, directed by Kim Seong-hoon and written by scriptwriter Kim Eun Hee, who adapted his own comic, tells the story of crown prince Lee Chang, who embarks on a suicide mission, with his personal escort and other unexpected allies, to find a cure for the strange zombie epidemic that has plunged the population into chaos and apocalyptic terror.
Yet, the prince will not have an easy time of it, as he soon discovers that this apparent infection hides a dynastic plot for control of the empire. Despite the absurdity of some of the costumes (especially certain hats) and an overdone neutrality in some of the performances of some of the main characters, it does not take long to become gripped by what is going on the screen, some of which chimes with issues affecting us today, such as migration, political corruption, and the recovery of almost mythical human values as the only way to avoid the extinction of humanity. Highly recommended.