Most fans would have devoured Season 2 of Netflix's "Kingdom" by now.
The Korean action thriller first premiered on Jan. 25, 2019 to critical acclaim.
Set in Korea's Joseon period, the series revolves around Prince Lee Chang and his quest to reclaim the throne as the rightful heir from the conspiring Lord Cho Hak Ju and his daughter, the young Queen.
Meanwhile, the Prince has to contend with a mysterious plague that has been spreading across the country, turning people — including his father, the Emperor — into the undead.
"Kingdom" has since drawn comparisons to popular shows and movies. If I were to describe it, it would be like a Korean version of "Yanxi Palace" with a dollop of zombies, or even a Korean "Game of Thrones".
Now, any zombie film or series is likely to pique my interest, and the first season of "Kingdom" utterly blew my mind with its blend of action, gore, and political intrigue.
Which was why I waited in heavy anticipation for Season 2, which dropped on Mar. 13, 2020.
But after two nights of watching all six episodes and marinating in the post-binge high, I realised, rather belatedly, that I wasn't exactly satisfied.
The second season, very frankly, left me a tad disappointed. It just couldn't live up to the extremely high bar it had set for itself in Season 1.
Now before you start snarling in defence of the show like one its zombies, hear me out.
*Warning: Spoilers galore from here onwards (and also some potentially distressing images)
Things are too easy??
One thing that really got me this season was how fast events were progressing.
While the first season took its time building up its world and getting viewers acquainted with its characters, the whole of season two felt like a mad rush.
In the span of two episodes, the Prince had already confronted the evil lord Cho and staged a mutiny within the city, and two characters in the main squad have died torturous deaths.
It would have been great if more time was spent on showing how they strategised against the zombies, who now pose a greater threat to the humans than in season one.
Some portions seemed too convenient as well — like how fast Lord Cho's soldiers turned on him and expressed their support for the Prince.
How do some characters take so long to die
In episode two, the merciful Lord Ahn Hyeon gets a hail of bullets in the back (basically he got Rambo-ed) while trying to rescue the Prince from the zombified Emperor.
He probably got shot over a dozen times, but still survived to open the door, crawl to the Prince, and concoct an elaborate plan on the fly to take down Lord Cho — a plan which was relayed to the Prince through haggard breaths.
I don't know about you, but I would probably have succumbed to the second bullet, if not first.
In episode three, the Prince's bodyguard, Mu Yeong also dies a tragic death after unwillingly betraying the Prince, having been stabbed and shot multiple times by Lord Cho's men.
He survives for a bit longer, even managing to crawl to a beautiful birch forest before slumping against a tree.
Just as he catches his last few breaths, the Prince somehow manages to find him.
While the visuals are outstanding and served to amp up the emotions surrounding Mu Yeong's death, the unlikeliness of the events did take some away from the scene.
I was still bawling on my bed though.
Episodes are way too short
Now, we're only given six episodes after a long wait of over a year for the second season.
So why are the episodes so short? Some of the episodes are barely over 30 minutes long, minus the time it takes for the credits to roll.
What is this, a sitcom? (Would still watch if it's a sitcom though.)
Why deprive us of glorious zombie bashing scenes and sword fights? Or even better, if more time can be spent on developing the interactions between characters, such as that between the Prince and Mu Yeong, or even between Lord Cho and the Queen.
The Queen ultimately betrays Lord Cho by poisoning him, saying that he had never been satisfied or proud of her since the day she was born (#AsianParents).
This tidbit of information could have been extrapolated so much more, and could have made for especially interesting scenes between father and daughter, instead of a rushed speech before his death.
Why weren't the zombies weaknesses exploited more?
One thing this season really fleshed out (ha ha) were the zombies and how the outbreak started.
But it seemed the deeper the show delved into zombie lore, the more unclear the rules actually became.
There have been various types of zombies depicted in pop culture. Those in "The Walking Dead" are unintelligent, slow movers while the zombies in "Train To Busan" are fast but unable to see in the dark.
The zombies in "Kingdom" are speedy and until the end of the first season, only active at night when temperatures are lower.
As the Netflix show extends the fictional boundaries these zombies can operate in — they are now active day and night — the rules get murkier.
For instance, the undead's attraction to the scent of blood was frequently exploited by the protagonists.
While it's an interesting strategic plan, the distance from which the zombies could smell blood from was slightly inconceivable.
In the scene where the Prince is trying to escape from the hidden tunnel, the zombies were lured away from the tunnel to the city's main gates, between which is a long stretch of forest.
Additionally, the zombies' weaknesses to fire and water were exposed early on — why not use these elements instead?
The show did make an effort to clearly delineate the three different types of zombies — the ones turned from the resurrection flower, the ones bitten by zombies turned from the resurrection flower, and those bitten by the second variant — a rather unique concept.
But the constant use of blood seemed a tad too convenient and sloppy.
The Prince should have been emperor
One of my main gripes though, was the ending of the season.
Instead of taking up the throne, the one thing the Prince had so single-mindedly sought after the entire show, he passes it to the child of Mu Yeong, the baby the evil Queen originally tried to pretend was her own.
What? What is this about-turn??
Not only is this a stark change from the character's original motivation, it doesn't make much sense.
Child rulers might not be the ideal choice when you're thinking in the best interests of the country.
And especially in war-torn and zombie-ravaged Hanyang in the show, a stable ruler like Prince Chang who has proved himself to be a level-headed man of the people, would be best for the kingdom.
Additionally, a child ruler could run the risk of being manipulated by nefarious ministers or other such people.
Letting the throne go to a baby and tasking his friends with its care and upbringing is an illogical decision.
It's clear the producers wanted to extend the plot for a third run of Kingdom, but at the very least, the Prince could have stayed on as some sort of adviser to the new emperor, instead of gallivanting around trying to find a cure to the outbreak.
Now that I've ranted enough, don't get me wrong, "Kingdom" is still a great show, 8/10 would recommend it to everyone and anyone.
The plot twists are unexpected, the fights are crisp, the acting is fantastic, the cinematography is stunning and there aren't any superfluous romantic subplots.
There are also some really satisfying slow-mo scenes begging to be replayed.
It's just that the first season was so good — too good in fact — that season two simply couldn't live up to its hype with its rushed pace, blurry rules and illogical inconsistencies.
Top photo from Netflix