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Series / Kingdom 2019

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Kingdom is a South Korean television series depicting a zombie outbreak in feudal Korea, written by Kim Eun-hee (Signal) and directed by Kim Seong-hun (A Hard Day). It is loosely based on the Korean web-comic series The Kingdom of the Gods. The show was released worldwide by Netflix in 2019.

In the Joseon Era, when the country was recovering from the Imjin War, word on the street is that the King is dead. The powerful Haewon Cho clan is in almost complete control of the government, and its head, Chief State Councilor Cho Hak-jo (Ryu Seung-ryong of Seoul Station), suspects that the Crown Prince Yi Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) is behind said rumors. The Prince determines that something is seriously wrong with the King and goes to the countryside to investigate matters, while being pursued on charges of treason by Cho's force. Meanwhile in the countryside, physician Seo-bi (Bae Doona of The Host and Sense8) notices that villagers are dropping dead rapidly, but that will soon be the least of her worries...


The show was renewed for a second season in advance, set to be released in 2019 or 2020.

Tropes included in the series include:

  • All for Nothing: At great risk to himself, the Crown Prince ensures no survivors are left behind as they flee from the ruins of Daegu to Jihulyeon just as night falls. However, forces loyal to Cho soon track him down and demand his surrender in daytime. When he refuses, they unleash a hail of arrows that kills many of those survivors.
  • Artistic License – History: The Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul (then Hanyang) was burned down during the Japanese invasion, which happened shortly before the show's timeframe. Here it's shown in its modern-day form, which started reconstruction in 1989 after being left in ruins for over three centuries.
  • Black Comedy:
    • On the night everyone discovers the zombie outbreak, the Prince and his retainers get into a confrontation with a zombie. After failing to kill it, one of the Prince's retainers crawls into a box and closes it when he stumbles on the ground and the zombie is about to go after him.
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    • Seo-bi diagnoses the Beom-pal’s illness and tells him that he might he might some pain in his... penis, because he has gonorrhea.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lord Beom-pal. From repeatedly getting caught in zombie attacks to his diagnosis of gonorrhea the only bit of luck this guy has is that he keeps managing to survive through luck.
  • Cliffhanger: Season 1 ends as the defenders of Sangju prepare to pack up after sunrise, until the ground starts vibrating as a horde of zombies appears on the horizon, seemingly unaffected by daylight…
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The general politics during the series' time isn't stable, which the bottom of the palace's pond is filled with the corpses of those who were caught in the court intrigue. Yi Chang became a target of this with the birth of his half brother that entailed the possibility of his succession rights relinquished due to his birth from a concubine rather than a consort. Even in the zombie outbreak, the aristocracy and ruling clan still attempt to vie for power and sometimes take advantage of the chaos.
  • Death of a Child:
    • In Episode 1, a boy's corpse is made into stew. At the end of the episode, a young girl is the first to die from the stew.
    • Averted at the beginning of Episode 3. The rooftop survivors save a kid and save a baby even when its mother is a lost cause. Played straight soon enough, with a kid getting bitten by a zombified kid in game of chase gone wrong and another kid getting attacked by her zombified mother while their sibling watches hidden sight from sight.
  • Didn't Think This Through: At the beginning of Episode 3, a lord and his retainers attempt to escape from zombies by crawling under the crawlspace between the ground and a part of a building. Since these zombies are smart enough to crawl (and can move fast), it gets a bunch of them killed.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The resurrection medicinal herb that leads to the Zombie Outbreak was found in an icy cave. This is also reflected in the Zombies' ability to rise- they can stay active in cold climate, such as night time.
  • Facial Horror: In a flashback, we see the people in Yeong-shin's home village having their faces covered in bloody bandages. This is likely a result of Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordering the invading Japanese soldiers to bring back severed Korean noses for their remuneration claim.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The resurrection herbal spell performed at the beginning of the show was intended to bring the emperor back to life. It backfires by raising him as a zombie, and ends up causing a zombie outbreak.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The starving villagers are tricked into drinking stew made out of a diseased corpse, while thinking it is actually venison. This is also the origin of the outbreak.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Yeong-shin is a crack shot with a musket he salvaged during the retreat from Daegu to Jihulyeon, achieving headshots on fast moving zombies moving dangerously close to the Crown Prince.
    • He later participates in an ambush against Cho's forces and takes out multiple soldiers with clean headshots from relativelynote  long range.
  • It's Personal: Cho Hak-jo swears revenge on the Crown Prince after receiving his son's head, which was recovered from Jihulyeon. It's unclear whether he knows (or cares) that the Crown Prince was forced to behead his son after he was infected and turned into a zombie.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: One of the first signs that something's amiss is the forests around Jihulyeon being unnaturally quiet, as they are devoid of wildlife.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: During a famine, Yeong-shin is able to find a source of meat for the village to eat. Seo-bi discovers that it's made from the corpse of a boy they had taken in. Cue Nausea Fuel.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The guy that fed everyone human meat reasons that either they could continue to survive no matter the cost or die off because they couldn't settle on a trivial matter such as morality.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The guy that fed everyone at Jihulyeon human meat is right about people putting their lives at peril over moral quarrels. In Episode 3, he explains that they should bury or burn the zombies as soon as possible before nightfall, but then the remaining villagers object to burning the bodies because it's culturally disrespectful and the nobles want to separate the peasant corpses from the noble corpses, a difficult task since they would have to destroy the heads, making identification hard.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Yeong-shin after feeding the village human meat, since it ended up turning almost everyone in the village into zombies.
  • Nice Hat: The various historically accurate Joseon-era hats were so fancy to foreign viewers that they became touted as a key reason to watch the show.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: The jerkass nobles and police lock away one of the main characters in jail, but it becomes helpful when the zombies come. Almost all of the nobles and police involved in this end up getting killed when they try to use the jail cells while trying to escape the zombies.
  • No-Sell: When the zombie outbreak happens, numerous characters have trouble trying to kill the zombies because they strike them anywhere else besides the head. A decapitation or other head injury works just fine, per usual.
  • Not Me This Time: Averted. The Crown Prince admits he knowingly conspired with others to overthrow the Queen in order to bypass the line of succession early on in Episode 1.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: The authorities discover the corpses at Jihulyeon and bring them back to the village to investigate the matter. Too bad they're zombified.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: These zombies are created as the result of an Healing Herb believed to have the ability to raise the dead. Like most traditional zombie, they look like decayed walking corpses, cannot talk, eat human flesh, can only die through decapitation, and turn anyone they successfully bite into more zombies. However, they can run and move fast, and they're only active at night, hiding under the shade and dark places the moment daylight hits and seemingly reverting back to regular corpses until nightfall strikes again. Further differentiating, they aren't afraid of fire or sunlight per se, but heat. If it gets warm or hot enough, they try to hide in cool places and go dormant, but are perfectly able to operate during the day if it's cold enough.
  • Pet the Dog: Yeong-shin attempts to save a woman and her baby at the beginning of Episode 3, and though it's sadly too late to save the mother, he manages to grab the baby before the zombies can get it too.
  • Police are Useless: The nobles and guards ditch Yeong-shin who they had jailed and toss the keys to him almost out of reach. To be fair, the guy was largely responsible for the outbreak...
  • Quarantine with Extreme Prejudice: In response to the rapidly spreading outbreak, Cho Hak-ju orders the closing of all gates into Sangju, effectively sealing the entirety of the southern Korean peninsula from the capital Hanyangnote  and trapping the Crown Prince with a growing zombie horde.
  • Running Gag: Yeong-shin body-slamming into things (and people).
  • Spoiled Sweet: The Crown Prince, while generally a noble and righteous character, has clearly never ventured much outside of the Palace. While he is initially replused by the countryside's poverty, it soon dawns upon him how vulnerable the commoners are, and becoming a protector of the peasantry (as opposed to the nobility's generally hostile and classist attitudes) is part of his Character Development over the series.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Despite having witnessed first-hand the destruction caused by the zombies, an elderly noblewoman insists on smuggling her infected son out in a locked crate to spare his body from being burned. This is despite Seo-bi specifically warning survivors that the zombies seek shelter during daytime and will reanimate in the evening. Naturally when night falls, the zombie reanimates and wipes out everyone aboard the boat.
    • Considering they deliberately abandoned other survivors just before nightfall, it was well-deserved.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot:
    • On the night of the outbreak, the jail gets infested with zombies when the nobles try to hide there. One retainer gets his hand bitten while reaching outside of the cell to to lock the door and he ends up turning (although they manage to kill him after he turns). An inmate who has his neck cuffed on a wooden block with another inmate gets trapped when his partner turns into a zombie and their cell is surrounded by zombies. He ends up getting bitten.
  • Viral Transformation: Initially averted: the first victim of a zombie is mauled to death, but did not transform into one himself. However, his body remained infectious, so people who unknowingly ate his flesh later died and reanimated.
    • Played straight from this point - anyone bitten afterwards would very swiftly transform in a matter of minutes. The doctor who used the herb notices this, and interprets it as a sign that the infection is mutating to become more effective.
  • Wham Episode: The season 1 finale reveals that the zombies rest not because of daylight, but because of the heat. This is realised just as winter is approaching in Korea... Oh, and the Queen is not actually pregnant, but has a whole room-full of surrogate mothers whom she's counting on to deliver at least one son.
  • Wham Shot: One of the Queen's new maids gasps when she undresses her Majesty and discovers that she isn't pregnant.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Yeong-shin for secretly feeding everyone human meat.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: While understandable due to the trauma they had just gone through and the fact you really couldn't explain "these bodies actually are dormant flesh-eating zombies" in a way that'd make you look sane, Yeong-shin's approach of throwing himself screaming in the middle of a the court and trying to burn the corpses with little to no explanation certainly didn't help his case.


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