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Review: Kingdom is better (and more relevant) than ever in S2

  • A dwindling army of survivors must battle zombies and human fallibility in the second season of Kingdom.
  • Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) and his tattered army of survivors will fight to the end. Netflix
  • Nurse Seo-bi (Bae Doo-na) seeks to understand what is causing the people to turn. Netflix
  • Yeong-shin (Kim Sung-kyu) is making amends for his unwitting contribution to the outbreak. Netflix
  • The Crown Prince's trusty aide, Mu-Yeong (Kim Sang-ho). Netflix
  • Preparing defenses against a zombie horde. Netflix
  • Skilled archers aim for the heads. Netflix
  • A smaller unit tries to take out as many zombies as it can with cannons before they reach the fort walls. Netflix
  • Run away! Run away! Netflix
  • The unit is overrun. Netflix
  • Preparing for a long siege. Netflix
  • Meanwhile Queen Cho (Kim Hye-jun) awaits the birth of her baby. Netflix
  • Her father, Cho Hak-ju (Ryu Seung-ryong), plans to usurp the throne for his bloodline. Netflix
  • Lee Chang does a bit of advance scouting. Netflix

Part historical political drama, part supernatural zombie horror, the South Korean series Kingdom proved to be a smart, heady, addictive delight when it debuted last year, easily earning a spot on our year's best list for 2019. It boasted stunning visuals, memorable characters, and a juggernaut of a plot, with the occasional moments of comic relief. If anything, S2 is even better. Honestly, between this outstanding series and the Oscar-winning Parasite alone, South Korea has firmly established itself at the forefront of global film and television.

(Spoilers for S1; some spoilers for S2 below the gallery.)

The series is based on a popular South Korean webcomic Kingdom of the Gods by Kim Eun-hee, who also adapted it for television. Set in Korea's Joseon period, ), Kingdom begins as the current king has succumbed to smallpox. His conniving young wife, Queen Cho (Kim Hye-jun), and her family have kept him artificially alive—via a "resurrection plant" that turns the king into a flesh-eating zombie—until her son is born. Her son would inherit the throne over the current Crown Prince, Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who was born to a concubine.

The king's "affliction" soon spreads to the outer provinces. The zombie king kills the physician's young assistant, and the body is brought back to his clinic in the remote village of Dongnae, where the people are starving. One of the patients, a former soldier named Yeong-Shin (Kim Sung-kyu), makes a meaty stew with the dead man's body and serves it to the unsuspecting patients, turning them into flesh-eating monsters. The exiled crown prince teams up with a nurse, Seo-bi (Bae Doo-na), and other survivors to beat back the encroaching zombie horde.

This is an expensive series, with superb production values—so much so, that budget overruns resulted in just six S1 episodes. Perhaps that's why the six episodes of S2 feel more like a natural continuation than a whole new storyline. Per the official S2 premise: "As winter approaches, the battle between the living and the undead in Joseon is just beginning. The royal court is teeming with snakes, the zombies are coming, and the crown prince has a nation to save. The worst is yet to come, and everyone will need to choose a side without knowing who they can really trust."

  • Food stores catch fire, leaving those under siege in danger of starvation. Netflix
  • Seo-bi and regional magistrate Beom-pal (Jeon Seok-ho). Netflix
  • Seo-bi travels in search of the resurrection plant. Netflix
  • A zombie horde cannot follow because the creatures seem averse to water. Netflix
  • Cho Hak-ju mans the royal enclave. Netflix
  • Beom-pal and Seo-bi arrive at the royal city with news of the encroaching horde. Netflix
  • Seo-bi makes an interesting discovery about what might be causing people to turn into zombies. Netflix
  • Meanwhile, Beom-pal is being pressured to put several falsely accused "traitors" to death. Netflix
  • Has the queen actually given birth? Netflix
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