So, the first season of Netflix’s zombie epic “Kingdom” has dropped. The six episodes end of a ridiculous cliffhanger that leaves so many questions unanswered. So Super is going to provide crazy answers to five of the crazy burning questions. Take note that this article assumes that the reader has already seen all the six episodes, so SUPER SPOILER warning as we will be discussing questions that have to do with the plot of the show.
Please take note these answers are purely speculation. These are answers we’ve figured out from the show’s internal logic. Korean dramas have a long tradition of adhering to Chekhov’s Gun—the dramatic technique of introducing items in the first act because they will be used in the third act—and we believe the same to be true for “Kingdom.”
We are also answering these questions without reading the webcomic “The Kingdom of the Gods,” which was authored by Kim Eun-hee and drawn by Yang Kyung-il, the source material for the show. Kim Eun-hee is indeed writing the show, which is directed by Kim Seong-hun, but we are assuming that “Kingdom” the Netflix show is maintaining its self-contained continuity and plot.
With that, let us ask the crazy questions and try to answer them as best we can!
How did the virus change?
If you were to draw the timeline out in a linear way, this current outbreak begins when Physician Lee Seung-hi is summoned to Hanyang by Chief Councilor Cho Hak-ju. The king has died, and Cho is determined to keep the power in their family instead of going to Crown Prince Chang by somehow bringing the king back to life. Physician Lee does this by using the legendary resurrection plant. The king does come back to life, but as a zombie. When Dan-i, the Physician’s young assistant is working near the king, the king attacks him.
Next thing, we know, Physician Lee has returned to his home in the province of Jilyanheung. His assistant Seo-bi is eagerly awaiting his return, because famine has been plaguing the poor people of the province. But they are shocked when Lee turns out to be bringing a large wooden box. When they open the box, they see the body of Dan-i, with terrible wounds all over. The body is bound. Take note that Lee has returned during the day, so it’s bright.
This is what has happened here. After Dan-i dies from his wounds, Lee bound him and put him in the box. During the time Lee was traveling back to Jilyanheung, Dan-I turns, becoming a zombie. At this point, the turning takes a while, maybe a day or two, just as it happened to the king. Because he is bound and in the box, Dan-i is successfully transported by Lee during the day as Dan-i would be dormant, and then, at night, when Dan-i is reanimated, he is bound and kept in the box. Nobody sees him.
So to recap, at this point, the king is the first recipient of the zombie virus directly through the resurrection plant, and it takes days for the person to turn. When the virus was passed onto Dan-i, this remains true.
Now here comes the change: Yeong Shin takes Dan-i’s corpse and turns him into soup while Seo-bi is away in order to feed the starving peasants. He not only cuts up the body but cooks it. There is a change in temperature here, something we know affects the virus.
Then, instead of being bitten, the peasants directly ingest Dan-i’s infect corpse, this delivering the virus directly into their systems instead of through a bite, which would take time for the virus to get through their systems.
So the peasants, but only the ones who eat the soup (Seo-bi avoids this because she drops the soup bowl after seeing Dan-i’s finger, and for some reason Yeong Shin decides not to eat the crazy soup he’s made), all start choking and die in minutes. They lie dormant as corpses for a few more minutes. Here, the virus is working through them a little faster, but not as fast as it does later.
When the peasants reanimate as zombies they attack all the unturned people. One of the victims is Physician Lee. Now we know he was bitten by a zombie in the back (something Seo-bi realizes after they rescue Lee and he turns around), but he is still able to say that he thinks he can find a cure, but then starts to turn. He is visibly turning right before their eyes, no longer entering the dormant state, much faster than the original peasants who turned into zombies after eating Dan-i’s bodies. Seo-bi and Yeong Shin traps Lee is a wooden box, from which he is freed later, to disastrous results.
This is a sign that the virus is getting faster as it adapts to the bodies it enters. When Lee escapes and bites Beom-il later, Beom-il turns after approximately a minute.
The virus has, by then, turned into its most potent form, as when someone is bitten, they turn within a few seconds. They don’t even fall down. Take the case of the woman who puts her daughter in the trunk. She has just closed the lid, turns around, and literally becomes a zombie while still standing.
This is the reason the zombie plague now spreads out of control, because it has achieved its full speed. It stays fairly consistent, as we can see this same speed when the zombies from Jilyanheung awaken after being brought to the courtyard in Dongnae.
At this point, the zombies have taken on the full effect. Their skin is blackened as if dead, their hair turns gray or white and sticks out, their eyes go white and their teeth become bloody. The teeth are an important element, because the plague can only infect others through a bite (thus bodily fluids, explaining why Dan-i’s body was contagious), and you cant be turned by a scratch from a finger.
The twist of course is that Seo-bi and Yeong Shin mistakenly think the zombies become inert because of the sunlight, something that Chang and everyone accepts because that’s how it apparently works. It turns out this is not true. The zombies become inert because of the warm temperature due to the sunlight, and so the zombies hide under rocks and floors, because it is colder there as the sunlight does not hit them. But when the sun goes down and the temperature does back down, the zombies await.
There is a bit of storytelling convenience here, because surely the difference between the temperature during the daytime and the night cannot be all that much, but the creative’s needed a zombie twist and that’s it. It’s also an interesting take on the classic zombie trope that zombies sleep during the day and cannot cross fresh water.
Note that close to the end of the first season, there is only one zombie in Hanyang: the king. But then Cho Hak-ju decides to experiment on a prisoner. What does he do? He cooks some flesh in a soup, exactly what Yeong Shin did, but he does this consciously. Who’s flesh is in the soup, it is either the king’s (more likely as Cho has full access to the zombie king) or Dan-i’s (possible, but unlikely). Again, the cooking activates something in the flesh, as when the first prisoner ingests it, he dies from choking like the peasants. A minute later, he reanimates and then bites the other prisoner, who likewise dies and reanimates. The speed by which they turn is the same as those bitten by the original peasants, so note that the virus is performing very consistently, even though this happens completely separately from the Dongnae outbreak—but ultimately comes from the same strain.
“So, the disease has changed,” Cho Hak-ju says. Yes, it has.
What is Lord Ahn Hyeon’s secret?
Cho Hak-ju is not alarmed when he discovers the other councilors have sent a letter to Ahn Hyeon. He says, (Ahn Hyeon) “will never betray me.” He holds on to this sentiment even after Ahn Hyeon has met up with Chang and even executed the palace guard Cho has sent to arrest (really, assassinate Chang). Why?
The key lies in why Ahn Hyeon has become a hermit. The councilors all say that Ahn Hyeon left the capital “three years ago when his mother died.” Ahn Hyeon has since stayed secluded in his mountain fortress in Sangju, never returning to Hanyang. Ahn Hyeon is shown praying at what appears to be a large grave, we assume, that belongs to his mother.
The second clue can be found in Cho’s message to Physician Lee when he asks Lee to come to the capital and reanimate the king. He says: “Please do what you did three years ago.”
It is only logical to assume these events “three years ago” are no coincidence. Three years ago, Ahn Hyeon’s mother died, so Physician Lee is called upon to administer the resurrection plant to the mother, at Cho Hak-ju’s request. Thus Ahn Hyeon’s mother was reanimated as a zombie, but must stay within the mountain retreat where Ahn Hyeon watches over her constantly. This is also a favor he owes Cho Hak-ju, thus resulting in Cho Hak-ju’s confidence that Ahn Hyeon would never betray him.
This also explains the curiosity pointed out by Yeong Shin and Seo-bi. When they are surrounded by the zombies, Ahn Hyeon’s men (they’re the ones in white wearing what looked like chef’s hats) arrive and save them. As Moo-young also points out, why were Ahn Hyeon’s man not surprised by the zombies, and why did they know exactly how to destroy them? It’s because they know about the zombies from Ahn Hyeon’s mother. Is his mother still walking around? It’s possible because the isolation of the outpost would be able to cover the secret. It’s also possible that Ahn Hyeon has since put down his mother and buried her in that large tomb. This is something we can only find out when season 2 happens.
We know that someone has been communicating from Hanyang with Ahn Hyeon: Ahn Hyeon tells Chang this. But didn’t Cho Hak-ju intercept the letters? The person communication with Ahn Hyeon is Cho Hak-ju. They are preparing to trap Chang in Sangju. They have set this up by Ahn Hyeon whispering in Chang’s ear, saying Chang should not share their conversation with anyone. This is also why Ahn Hyeon kills the palace guard, to win Chang’s confidence. It’s a sacrifice that Cho Hak-ju is very willing to make.
Now that Ahn Hyeon has Chang’s full confidence, he can spring the trap that he and Cho Hak-ju have set.
Is Moo-young secretly working for Cho Hak-ju?
Throughout the first half of the season, we’ve seen how dedicated royal bodyguard Moo-young is to Chang. He essentially commits the crime of stealing the royal physician’s journal at Chang’s bidding. He initially balks at Chang’s plan to go to Dongnae, but goes along because it is his duty to do so. He repeatedly risks his life to protect Chang especially when they’re besieged by zombies.
But when they get to Sangju, Ahn Hyeon has a secret conversation with Chang where he tells Chang that he shouldn’t trust Moo-young because Moo-young is secretly working for Cho Hak-ju. Because of their childhood connection, Chang appears to believe Ahn Hyeon. This is why, when Moo-young warns him that all doesn’t seem right with Ahn Hyeon and Sangju, Chang appears to reject Moo-young. The decision to trust Ahn Hyeon instead of Moo-young seems ton pay off when Ahn Hyeon kills the palace guard.
But if you read the previous answer, you can see how Ahn Hyeon may be working for ho Hak-ju in secret. It is in his interest to convince Chang that Moo-young is working for the other side. The plan appears to be working.
So our answer to this is: No, Moo-young is loyal to Chang and has repeatedly proven so. He appears to have full devotion in Chang. Ahn Hyeon is clearly lying.
Does Cho-Hak Ju know his daughter’s secret?
This is the most fascinating questions about the first season. Cho Hak-ju and his daughter the Queen have obviously conspired to keep the power from going to Chang by perpetuating the lie that the king is alive to the crazy extreme of reanimating the king as a zombie.
It is interesting that, instead of outwardly lying to people about whether the king is dead or dead, Cho and his daughter elect to resurrect the king as a zombie, thereby creating the technicality that the king is technically still alive.
But that this the short-term plan. It would be unrealistic for the king to be “alive” for too long, so the long-term plan has to be for the Queen to produce a male heir. Chang, while the Crown Prince, is just the son of a concubine. He will be become king if the king dies, because the Queen—the young woman married to the much older king—has no male heir.
But if the Queen gives birth to a male heir, that heir becomes king immediately, obviously with the Queen and Cho guiding him until he comes of age.
Cho constantly reminds the Queen that she must produce a male heir for their plan to work. Otherwise they would have to take the extreme step of killing Chang (or the current plan of isolating him) because again you can only keep him away from the throne for so long.
The Queen is visibly pregnant, and, of course, you can only be pregnant for nine months.
But we find out that she is not pregnant at all. She wears padding around her belly to pretend to be pregnant, something that only those closest to the Queen know.
We know she’s not pregnant because, at one point, her clothes become bloodied and the Queen’s handmaiden burns the clothes in secret. The blood reveals she is still menstruating, and therefore is not pregnant.
The Queen has organized a secret house full of pregnant peasant women. The plan is to get a male child from one of the women. We know from the last episode what happens when one of the pregnant women gives birth to a female heir: the baby and the women are killed, the whole event kept secret from the other pregnant women. The complication is, of course, that one of the pregnant women is the wife of Moo-young. Chekhov’s gun tells us that she will mostly be the one who will give birth to a boy, leading to that boy being abducted and used by the Queen.
The answer to this question is unclear. It is entirely possible that Cho is in on this scam, that his constant reminders to “give birth to a male heir” is code for carrying out this plan with the captive pregnant women. It makes sense that their plan would take into consideration the fact that the Queen is not actually pregnant and they would have a contingency for that.
The more devious possibility is that Cho doesn’t know, and that the Queen, devious as her father, is carrying out her own scam. She is doing this so she can stay alive (she would serve no purpose to Cho’s plan if she can’t produce a male heir) but also so she can consolidate her own power.
Either way, the deception works the same way for the plot. The Queen is conspiring to produce a fake male heir so that the clan can keep the power of the throne. The next season will see this play out.
Who is in the box that Cho Hak-ju brings to Sangju?
This is the easiest burning question to answer. Cho Hak-ju has arrived with his retinue at the gates of Sangju. On the other side of the gates is the horde of zombies attacking Ahn-Hyeon and Chang.
The box Cho brings with his clearly contains a zombie. The box is tied down, and the box is shaking because the zombie inside is causing a ruckus. Even though it is still daytime, the temperature is low enough that the zombie has come to life, the opposite of what happened to Dan-i in the first episode.
We know almost for sure that the zombified king is in the box.
First. We have seen that up to this point there are only three zombies in Hanyang: the king and the two prisoners Cho experimented on.
It makes no sense for the one in the box to be either of the prisoners. There is more than enough zombies on the other side of the gate for any purpose Cho might have.
The box is tied down well and Cho has clearly taken a lot of effort to transport the zombie safely.
Cho is keeping the king’s zombified state secret, so he needs to keep the king with him at all times to make sure no one knows the truth outside those he trusts. If he went to Sangju but left behind the king, one of Chang’s allies in Hanyang could slip inside the palace and discover the monstrous truth. Cho must now keep the king with him wherever he goes, a necessary hassle.
Of course, every zombie in a box on “Kingdom” eventually breaks out of the box, and this is sure to happen to the king as well. It is just a matter of Cho releasing the zombie king on purpose, or, like the others, the zombie escapes the box on his own. Imagine the kind of scandal and damage the zombie king could cause if he were to escape somehow. Add to that the fact that everyone would know the king is really dead and, since the Queen hasn’t “given birth” yet, that would make the fugitive Crown Prince Chang the true king.
So there are our answers. What do you think? Do you agree with any of our predictions? Do you have predictions of your own? Let us know if the comments below.
Netflix has announced the second season of “Kingdom,” but they have yet to start shooting, so it would be safe to say we will not see any new episodes or find out the answers to these burning questions until next year. “Kingdom” can’t come back to life too soon!