The Hallyu (Korean Wave) still keeps on emerging especially with more accessible shows on digital platforms. Yet there’s just the over substance from choice of soundtracks and overdramatization that pull you out of the experience (although South Korea remains one of the best industry producing TV series). This doesn’t apply to ‘Kingdom’ where its top-notch production, tense narrative will glued your eyes to the screen until the end of its run. To put it simply, ‘Kingdom’ are mostly superiors from most K-dramas ever produced debatably. And the wait was finally over with the special release of the series continuation (side sequel to be precise) ‘Kingdom: Ashin of The North’ (2021).
So who is this Ashin exactly? Nobody knows before this special release, with only a brief appearance by Jun Ji-hyun to make fans excited for the sequel. The only thing we know is the Northern Provinces of Joseon became a murderous zone swarmed with zombies. And it seems that Ashin provides the answer for everything, considering she’s standing beside the undead but never gives the answer if she’s a friend or foe. The curiosity ends on this special, exploring the background of Ashin until her fateful meeting with the main cast.
What makes ‘Kingdom’ intriguing from the first watch is its heavy political, social critique despite being marketed as an action zombie film. ‘Kingdom: Ashin of The North’ doesn’t fall flat on that even when considering the runtime or just watching it as a standalone film. The political context is all thick with internal and external conflict between two nations and all of these affected the life and decision that Ashin made to progress the narrative.
Still, for audience who tries for a full zombie flick will find disappointment on their own face. But as I said before, the undead in ‘Kingdom’ is more like a cherry on top as a showcase of visuals and thrilling action choreography. Instead, it is the human conflict that made ‘Kingdom’ so thrilling, encapsulating and especially epic with its rich and deep character.
The tragedy of Ashin itself is what makes ‘Kingdom: Ashin of The North’ so engaging. Looking at her from an innocent girl with a deep rage of revenge after the tragedy strikes into a strong warrior with her own personal belief is a development worth to look for. With great scriptwriting and phenomenal performance both from Kim Si-ah and Jun Ji-hyun, Ashin is a character that made us to invest no matter where the line of morale draws in.
Yet for the intention, there’s just something lacking aside from fulfilling audience curiosity. It’s not a bad film by any means, but there’s something off-beat even after the explosive third-act that should have been worth remembering. I won’t actually revisit the film for a second time, but the visuals and character investment are something to look for the first time.