My friend is going to ‘kill’ me if he reads this. At a chanced meeting at our coffeeshop, he told me he was disappointed with S2 of Kingdom because of the lack of zombie action. There is nothing wrong with that observation. As a matter of fact, he is right, but I am reminded of one of the tenets of great storytelling – it is not the what, it is the how. Kingdom is a Korean period zombie story set in the Joseon Dynasty, but it isn’t content with just populating the historical landscape with humans fighting zombies with antique weapons using archaic battle strategies. If Kingdom had catered to just the action junkies, it wouldn’t be transcending into cult status. Yes, I believe Kingdom is destined to be a cult classic.

S2 benefits from an uncanny release date that feels like a grim joke. The world is presently in the deathly grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and mankind is probably in the midst of undergoing a major system reboot. Seeing the protagonists of Kingdom watching wide-eyed with disbelief written on their faces as the zombies rampage towards them in broad daylight takes on a different meaning. Reel life becomes real life. The anxiety hits really close to home.

S2 starts immediately from the cliffhanger of S1 and it doesn’t let go of its grip. Replete with rich people sitting in ivory towers watching poor folks run and die, an undercurrent of classism runs through it. The central spine is still about a prince becoming a king and a female doctor coming into her own in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. S2 is relentlessly paced. Gone is the meticulous setup of place and characters, the shackles are gone. It’s get-busy-living-or-get-busy-dying time. It does a great job of painting a world drowning in hopelessness, populated by humans across the spectrum. Even when faced with a common enemy, people are still selfishly looking out for themselves. Court intrigue, power struggle, double crosses still run in tandem with the zombie apocalypse, but these side-plots never bogged down the main thrust of the story.

Sandwiching the story of a crown prince becoming a true king of his people, not through status but by action, the zombie action is spectacularly riveting. There is still a macabre sense of humour embedded in certain bloody scenes where characters are dispatched in ridiculous ways that made me guffaw. Scenes of zombies swarming the landscape is jaw-dropping and inventive. The science of how the zombies work and ultimately destroyed is well-explained. In short, if you love your zombie action, this one has it in spades and in bloody refreshing ways.

I particularly enjoyed how they closed out Crown Prince Lee Chang’s arc. In any narrative, what he has done through two seasons is more than enough to make him become the king twice over, but such is the way of a man who has learned benevolence and kindness that he understands the throne is an obstacle in showing love for his people. That would have been a fitting ending, but Kim Eun-hee, the writer of Kingdom, fast-forwards the story a few years later and sets up an enticing promise of S3 with some clever expositions ending with a mouth-watering cameo.

And thus begins the long wait for S3. I have mixed feelings with that not because I don’t want to see how the story will progress, but it means Kim Eun-hee will have her hands full and probably won’t have time for Signal S2, my favourite TV series of 2016. I will just have to be patient. Right now, I am rubbing my hands in child-like glee to see what will happen in S3.

Rating 4 of 5

4 / 5