The best way to ring in spooky season: Political intrigue (and zombies)

Kingdom opens ominously, with two attendants strolling throughout a Joseon-era Korean palace’s courtyard to deliver the king his meal. As soon as inside, the older attendant warns his younger companion not to look into the king’s bedchambers whereas passing the meals beneath the curtain. The younger attendant can’t resist, and when he opens his eyes he’s dragged underneath the curtain by a snarling beast. It’s a dread-filled scene that grabs your consideration, however Kingdom additionally makes use of that second to set itself aside. Most zombie exhibits are centered round characters thrust into survival mode with out understanding what induced the outbreak in the primary place. In Kingdom, the unique zombie isn’t just a identified entity, he’s additionally being tended to by a royal employees.

The remainder of the intro reveals lots of info in a brief period of time. A gaggle of students has been posting flyers that the king is useless and it’s time for Crown Prince Lee Chang to ascend to the throne. However there’s a problem: Prince Chang’s mom was a concubine, and his present stepmother, Queen Consort Cho, may be very pregnant. Her household has seized energy with their new royal standing, and so they’ve rounded up and tortured these students to discover out who’s behind their help of the prince. In the meantime, Prince Chang has grown suspicious, and decides to discover out the reality about his father’s mysterious restoration from smallpox.

If that sounds extra like a Recreation of Thrones plot than a zombie present, nicely, you’re proper. Kingdom is basically, at its core, a political thriller set in medieval occasions. The zombie stuff, nicely, that’s simply a part of the politics — till, you already know, it isn’t.

Photograph: Juhan Noh/Netflix

The brilliance of Kingdom is that it doesn’t depend on twists and aggressive plot machinations to drive the present ahead. The core battle is laid out in quarter-hour flat: The king is a zombie, the queen is pregnant along with his child, and the queen’s household has seized energy that may be threatened if the crown prince have been anointed as the brand new king.

It doesn’t take a lot to understand who’s behind the zombification of the area’s ruler — however understanding the reality isn’t the identical as proving it. Kingdom follows Prince Chang as he tries to acquire proof that he’s the rightful inheritor whereas avoiding the Cho clan’s guards, who’re actively pursuing him. That alone would make for an thrilling present. After which, in fact, there are the zombies. As Prince Chang leaves the palace to discover the physician who handled his father, he discovers one thing much more terrifying: The king bit one of many physician’s younger assistants. Everyone knows how that goes.

With a good two-season story written and directed by Kim Eun-hee, Kingdom performs out its political video games in conjunction with a rising zombie menace. It’s gripping, good, and refined, pacing its story in snippets of dialogue for viewers to sew collectively. It’s additionally stuffed with unimaginable motion, painful suspense (characters in the daytime strolling over dormant nocturnal zombies underneath floorboards, and so on.), and actually terrifying horror: Sufferer by sufferer falls to brutal remoted zombie assaults, till a correct horde grows sufficiently big to assault your complete royal metropolis. Kingdom is really an equal mashup of two completely different genres, and the truth that it’s accomplished so nicely looks like a miracle. Simply be ready for issues to get gnarly — two guards are beheaded in the opening sequence for being traitors, and if that’s the type of violence that’s unleashed in a human-to-human battle, simply wait till the undead come into the image.

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