The thrilling series returns as the plague afflicting Joseon spreads like wildfire, turning its people into monsters craving human flesh. The second instalment of the hit series continues right where it left off, packing in more thrill, zombies, and bloodshed.
Exiled Crown Prince, Lee Chang (Ju Ji Hoon) has to contend with the Second State Councillor, Cho Hak Jo (Ryu Seung Ryong) who wields power over the five armies needed to fight the zombie apocalypse which threatens the people of Joseon and the diaphanous stability of the nation. Discovering that the resurrection plant holds the secret to the epidemic, Seo Bi (Bae Doo Na) tries to uncover the truth and aid the Prince during a time where loyalties are tested and betrayal rife. However, no one could have expected a greater threat to be lying within the inner palace as the Queen Consort (Kim Hye Jun) devises her own plans to covet the throne, creating more chaos and committing atrocities to have the kingdom at her feet.
If you haven’t seen season 1 then you won’t have a clue as to the characters and plot progression within season 2, so basically what I’m saying is….why are you even reading this? I’m also going to try my hardest to not spoil things but you’ve been warned!
Hunger is quite literally the metaphor for this season and the series in general but it’s highlighted quite explicitly this time around as, “Food is God.” Starvation plagues Joseon before the zombie epidemic can, yet it creates a paradoxical relationship and aesthetic of eternal hunger, even at the cost of human life. Referring back to the first season, before the epidemic really takes hold, we’re confronted with a grotesque reality as the impoverished poor feast on humans who came in contact with the plague and turned into zombies themselves. And this sad reality is juxtaposed with an abuse of noble power since the Cho clan deliberately starves the public in order to exact a nefarious agenda.
Kim Eun Hee has done it again, intersecting a Sageuk with horror and the multiple genres in between yet this time around, we see tremendous character growth in Prince Lee Chang as an entire nation depends upon him. There’s far more emotional notes with the second season since loss, sacrifice, and hefty decisions are to be had but that’s nothing new for the Screenwriter. The emotional trajectory of the series in season 2 is more akin to a standard Sageuk out there, slowing the drama down to cover some ground and give us a sense of steadiness since this season is jammed pack with action and constant movement as the Crown Prince has to track down Cho Hak Jo and vice versa.
I’m not sure if I can bluntly state that we get answers but just as many questions as well. Never expect closure, instead, the show seems to hint once again, at an additional season with another suspenseful cliffhanger and a neat little appearance from an A-list actor to tie things together. Considering that the series is based on the webcomic, The Kingdom of the Gods which is authored by Kim Eun Hee herself, suggests that there’s the potential for more story development as the comic gets adapted onto screen but the future of the show rides on the success of the second season. The Screenwriter even expressed at the conference for Kingdom’s second season, that she’d love to make the drama into a multi-series type and thinking about the revelations in the second instalment and the foundation of the story centred on the resurrection plant, a few more seasons are definitely required.
Although short lived, the Queen Consort’s descent into madness is well executed and hinted upon in season 1. Lady Cho is a fragmented individual of her father’s making, a byproduct who devours the power she receives once she’s Queen. A lot of her instability has to do with the pressures of bearing an heir but after a miscarriage, she’s incapable of conceiving, the King now dead and zombified. We see segments of her arch of the story, each time more chilling as she stoops lower and lower into a maniacal state. She might not be central per se, but her part in the kingdom’s demise brings Lee Chang back to Hanyang, shaking his resolve as her monstrous actions are just as shocking as the zombies beyond the capital’s walls. There’s a lot of maternal imagery and motifs surrounding her scenes as Queen Consort Cho quite literally creates a birds nest (a mother’s nest to lay eggs or have a child in her case) for herself at one point, offering blood sacrifices to child deities and gods of fertility.
Gripping and fast-paced as the first season, Kingdom season 2 puts a ruler on the throne but the zombie apocalypse looms and threatens Joseon possibly forever, sending Lee Chang on the hunt to track and eradicate it by any means necessary and righting the wrongs of the Cho clan and the Royal family. I am thrilled beyond words, having marked down the premiere date on my calendar and despite there only being 6 episodes (was 10 too much to ask for?) every moment is absorbed and felt vividly!
Release Date: March 13, 2020 (Eng Sub available on Netflix)