The second season of Kingdom opens exactly where the last season left us, at the precipice of an onslaught by zombies. It is every bit as surprising and thrilling as the last one was. But this time our experience in watching the series was made more memorable as its release came at a time when we are all at home practicing social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and can really relate to a deadly outbreak.
In the first season, Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) and his group believed that daylight put the zombies to sleep. The final scene of season 1 shows everyone relaxing as dawn breaks. They think they won’t have to deal with zombies again for hours until they hear hoards descending upon their hiding place and realize that their hypothesis is incorrect.
Nurse Seo-bi (Bae Doo-na), who is trapped in a cave, discovers that it is the warm temperature, not the sun, that makes the zombies inactive during the day. Meanwhile, Chang’s group is thrown into chaos as they scramble to rethink their strategy with zombies tearing down their doors. The very first scene of the new season is an intense face-off with the zombies that get the viewer all hyped-up for the future of the protagonists.
Once the initial showdown is out of the way, the show turns its focus towards resolving the political conspiracy Prince Chang is caught up in. Chief Minister Jo Hak-joo (Ryu Seung-ryong) and the Queen (Kim Hye-jun) leave no stone unturned in their quest to seize the royal throne, while Seo-bi dives into solving the mystery of the herb that turns people into zombies and finding a possible cure for the infection. Expect shocking betrayals, the formation of new alliances, and some new beginnings amidst the destruction.
Lee Chang – In the last season, Prince Chang was unconfident of his place in the world and unsure of what he was fighting for. This time, he has seen and experienced enough destruction to know what matters to him—the safety of his people. In the process, he transforms into a true leader.
Seo-bi – Let’s call her the brains of the show. I was expecting her and Chang to team up, but Seo-bi gets thurst into one unpredictable situation after another. She manages to single-handedly connect the dots and figure out the Queen’s secret, just in time to reveal it to Chang. She is also relentless in her pursuit to find a cure for the plague, and by the end of the season, becomes somewhat of a pioneer researcher of the zombie herb.
Chief Minister Jo – This man stays as ruthless and terrifying as the previous season for the first few episodes. Without giving any spoilers, I say that he got what was coming for him. And it was very satisfying to watch.
Young-shin – Young-shin’s arc was kept deliberately mysterious in the first season, so I was hoping for some big revelations about him—which didn’t happen. However, it was an absolute joy to watch him throw his tiny frame at the zombies and eliminate them. I’m pretty sure he alone annihilated a whole island of zombies. Despite the finger soup debacle of the first season, he remains one of the most morally upright characters of the show.
The Queen – Season 1 already established that the Queen is terrifyingly cunning, but this season brought out the unhinged side of her. Those who had guessed her secret in the previous season should not have been surprised by how truly evil she is, but it was still shocking. However, her story remained compelling enough for us to still sympathize with her. We stan a well-written villain.
What’s New in Season 2?
The Most Evil Villain – While Minister Jo is still every bit as ruthless, he passes the baton when it comes to being the evilest character in the show to his daughter, the Queen. The magnitude of evil unleashed by these two was terrifying.
Fresh Faces – This season, some interesting new faces join us in the characters of Park Byung-eun, Jo Han-chul, Ahn Jae-hong, and Kim Kang-hoon. Park has a meatier role and helps the Crown Prince uncover a mystery. The rest are introduced only in the last episode and have the potential to join the main cast if the show gets another season. Finally, (and I don’t think this is a spoiler because everyone has been talking about it) Jun Ji-hyun‘s cameo at the end was so impressive that it was one of the high moments of the show.
The Zombies’ Origin Story – After witnessing just how terrifying zombies can be, we get to trace the roots of this infection with genius Seo-bi. From figuring out where the herb that transforms people into zombies came from, to discovering a possible cure for the infection, I was glad the show delved into this mystery.
Reasons To Watch
Cinematography – Just like the first season, Kingdom Season 2 is cinematic and boasts of some stunning shots. The high budget and the scale of the show is evident. The lighting during fight sequences of the night is stunning, especially during the climax scene. Locations are scenic and beautiful, and the drone shots of crowds of zombies put into perspective the sheer number of enemies the characters are fighting against.
Blood and gore – Fans of the zombie genre initially flocked to watch this show because of the unabashed blood and gore in it. Well, I’m pleased to report that Season 2 does not disappoint in that regard. Picture blood vomits, beheadings, and cheeks and tongues being ripped off.
Intelligent Writing – Kingdom’s writing manages to stand out as intelligent and nuanced despite dealing with so many themes at once. There is an exploration of class struggle, political power struggles, corruption in the bureaucracy and royalty, the zombie origin story, compelling villains, and complex heroes. The script rises above being yet another mindless zombie apocalypse story and crafts a tale of underdogs whose fight is much bigger.
Plot twists – I thought this show wouldn’t surprise me as much as it did the first time. But I was wrong and shocked anew each time. The twists in this show are cleverly written—they don’t jump out at you, they’re lurking beneath the surface waiting to be discovered. And when they finally reveal themselves, it’s so satisfying.
The climax scene – Without spoiling too much, I want to talk about the epic zombie fight of the climax that features some truly amazing action sequences. I will leave you with two words—body slam.
Kingdom Season 2 does justice to the pace set by the first season. The plot resolutions are satisfying, the pace is unmatched, the good characters make you want to root for them, the action is stunning, the acting lives up to the tension in the plot, and the plot twists are clever. It gets a 10/10 from me. Just dive right in on the weekend and emerge having watched a satisfying mystery thriller.
Is Season 3 Coming?
While there are no confirmations yet, writer Kim Eun-hee revealed in an interview that she wanted to take the story ahead in a different location. She expressed hopes of Jun Ji-hyun starring as the lead in another sequel, along with Ju Ji-hoon and Bae Doo-na. Fingers crossed that Netflix agrees to have Kingdom Season 3!