Fade in: Korea, during the turbulent Joseon period. A backlit body of a man lays in state — riddled with acupuncture needles and plumes of swirling incense emanating from within. The pristine white burial hemp cocoon peels back to reveal the embroidery of a golden dragon. The King is dead.
Cut to: Two exotic purple blooms meet their end under the blade of a large pestle, before being decocted and fed to the King — whose lifeless body is now bound with gilded shackles. His eyes spring open, clouded by a white haze over what used to be pupils. His Majesty is reborn, long live the King?
The opening of Netflix's second Korean original series certainly does not play. As this article goes to press, production of the second season of this record making drama is almost complete. Kingdom has everything every modern period-loving viewer will appreciate: Part zombie apocalypse, part costume drama, this show is a breath of fresh air and a first of its kind.
Here are five reasons to watch it.
*Warning! Spoilers ahead!*
1. The Female Protagonist
South Korean actress and cult fashion darling Doona Bae, is the drama's stoic and long-suffering female protagonist. Bae who gained fame outside of Korea, by appearing in the films of the Wachowski sisters (read: 2012's Cloud Atlas and 2015's Jupiter Ascending), plays Seo-Bi, an Imperial Physician managing a community hospital for the impoverished in her village. Things take a dramatic turn when a strange and mysterious epidemic befalls on the villagers forcing her to flee for her life...
2. The Male Protagonist
South Korean heartthrob, Ju Ji-hoon plays Crown Prince Yi-Chang who went from errant royal progeny to beloved Crown Prince staging a coup that will save the Kingdom. No stranger to royal titles, you will definitely remember Ju as the Crown Prince that stole our hearts in the much less macabre Princess Hours (2006). OMG, can we also just say that the Ju today is a far cry from when we first saw him in Princess Hours?
3. The Undead
Along with the palace intrigue, fanatics of the horror genre will not be disappointed by all the gore this drama promises, because what is a zombie apocalypse without cannibalism and bloodshed right?
You have to really give it to the Koreans for reinventing the portrayal of zombies in pop culture — from their night blindness in Train to Busan, to their near nocturnality in Kingdom.
4. The Colour Palette
A total standout is also the colour grading of the series. Nuanced and muted, the visual palette is understated with a gentle air of silent luxury.
At once eerie and breath taking, its vivid autumnal hues of red, orange and yellow in the foliage, are often contrasted heavily by the sombre blues of still bodies of water and distant architecture.
5. The Soundtrack
Also effectively stirring up the audience's emotions, the sporadic scoring of the entire series oscillates between gripping at some points and sublime in quieter scenes — quickly evoking feelings of loss and desperation.