My older daughter, Sam, a fan or horror films in general and zombie movies in particular, urged me to watch Kingdom last year — almost as soon as it became available on Netflix. I tried. But as early as the first episode, I was already annoyed. The Crown Prince rode his horse for 350 miles from Hanyang to Jiyulheon without a change of clothes and he arrived at his destination in immaculate condition. What the heck. Still, I plodded on, got as far as the fourth episode, then stopped.
Well, given the reason why everyone is urged to stay home these days, and with my brother’s assurance that Kingdom‘s story is better than that of Game of Thrones (minus the final season), it seemed appropriate, albeit in a twisted sense, to revisit Kingdom and give it another try. In other words, we were running out of shows to watch on Netflix.
Because I couldn’t remember much from my first attempt at watching the series, we started with the first episode of the the first season. I made the same observation about the clothing of the Crown Prince but I held my annoyance at bay. So, okay, the production design is awesome. The scenery, especially overhead shots of autumn foliage, was magnificent. The costumes cannot be faulted. And I hadn’t seen better zombies before — scarier looks coupled with less awkward movements really set them several notches above the usual.
But for a TV series that has garnered so much praise and hype, both the storyline and characters were too one-dimensional. Like Game of Thrones, the tragic story of Kingdom began with a power grab. You have a dead king leaving his only child, a son with a concubine, as heir to the thrown. On the other hand, he also left behind a pregnant young wife from a politically powerful family who may or may not give birth to a son. It was, therefore, in the best interests of the wife’s family to keep the king alive, in a manner of speaking. And it was this attempt to keep him alive that started the zombie plague.
Unlike the complex web of intrigues that drove the story of Game of Thrones, with Kingdom, it felt like the story was just an excuse to put zombies on the screen. And this is borne out by the too-long zombie scenes which, though visually riveting, far outweighed the time and treatment given to develop a story and characters with more depth. And I just found that wasteful.
For entertainment value, sure, I’d give Kingdom a thumbs up. But something that will be discussed and debated for years to come? Oh, no. I doubt that it will have that effect.