Thrilling, exciting and politically intriguing, Kingdom is quite simply a fantastic show that nails all of its elements to near-perfection. The first season did well to set the scene and establish some very simple conceptual rules for our undead to follow and this allowed for some key characterisation to shine through too. This time around Kingdom throws all of that out the window for a chaotic, well-written plunge into a nightmare-fueled journey to try and save the kingdom from the cruel Queen. With Lee Chang returning to lead the fight, Kingdom successfully achieves what very few Western properties have managed to do – making zombies a terrifying threat once more.
If you followed the first season, the last episode ended things on an almighty cliffhanger. Lee Chang and the other soldiers return exactly where we left off from before, as the undead charge at them out in the open as they stand shocked to see the undead out in the sunlight, given the rules that have previously been established. The first episode essentially sees a full-on 50 minute dose of action ensue as the group try to thwart the never-ending plight of the undead before settling into more familiar, politically charged territory for the rest of the season.
With both Hak-Joo and the Queen both scheming and preparing to strike at any moment, this storyline collides with that of the undead during the final few episodes as home truths are revealed and the final stand for the fate of humanity’s future is presented. Given the show has already been renewed for a third season, suffice to say things are left wide open here for the future with a big cliffhanger ending after resolving all of its main plot threads that have run through these past 12 episodes.
Although the undead don’t feature as prominently during the middle portion of these episodes as they are early and late on, it’s the way they’re presented as a credible threat that make this such an endearing concept. With the ravaged, sprinting hordes charging at the group at every turn and the accompanied gorgeous cinematography and lighting make the show that much more effective.
Slow motion shots rarely capture the right level of tension but seeing the group run in desperation as the zombie hordes collapse a large wooden barricade early on is a perfect example of when this can be used effectively. Another time an overhead shot juxtaposes the sheer number of undead compared to our lowly group and all of this makes the show that much more aesthetically pleasing.
With the recent news that The Walking Dead has dropped its ratings again this year and the tired, groaning cliched zombies in the West losing interest with horror fans, Kingdom is a reminder of how terrifying zombies can actually be. Much like watching 28 Days Later for the first time or seeing the White Walkers at Hardhorne in Game Of Thrones, there’s an underlying sense of dread and helplessness in the face of this impending threat and Kingdom absolutely understands this and never cheapens the experience.
Kingdom had a lot riding on it going into this second season. It’s always difficult to follow up a successful set of episodes with more and oftentimes shows under-perform where it really matters. Although the middle few episodes do lighten up on the action, and at times the show feels in danger of becoming too politically charged and melodramatic, the action and overwhelming sense of dread and despair are enough to make this one heck of a show and a very worthy follow-up to an already-great first season.