At the end of Netflix’s “Kingdom” season 1, the fate of Joseon-era Korea was on the brink of chaos as Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) was trying to fend off a horde of infected at the fort at Sangju even as physician’s assistant Seo-bi (Bae Doona) risked her life to get the mysterious Resurrection Plant when infected had arrived at her mountain cave as well. Meanwhile, the treacherous Minister Cho Hak-ju (Ryu Seung-ryong) continues his dangerous plans to maintain control over the kingdom.
Now, “Kingdom’s” season 2 is about to be unleashed upon us, here are five really nerdy, really burning questions about the upcoming six episodes:
What has happened to the infected?
The disease that is making the dead rise again as ravenous revenants is clearly changing. It clearly has been seen before by some of the characters but when, where and how? All this will be explained very early in season 2, including the big twist at the end of the last episode. Throughout the first season, the uninfected were able to move around during the daytime and then take precious shelter at night, which was when the dead would be reanimated. But in that last episode, as the heroes were standing in the misty daylight in Sangju, the infected started emerging in a frenzy. Seo-bi and Beom-pal (Jeon Seok-ho) having found the rare Resurrection Plant in a hidden cliffside, were also ambushed during the day by the infected, when the infected were supposed to be “asleep.” By now, Seo-bi is the one who knows the most about the infected because of her personal experience and having read the royal physician’s journals, so the viewer will get their important questions answered through her. So, she answers: “It was not the sun. It was the temperature.” The infected love the cold, hate the heat and as it’s winter can pretty much run around unbound. But the biggest question—could Seo-bi possibly find a cure—remains the one that hangs most over the show. We already know the plague changed once. The infection that struck the king and passed on to the male physician’s assistant (who eventually perished) was different from the infection that affected the starving townspeople after they unknowingly ate the cooked remains of the dead assistant (uh, thanks, Kim Sung-kyu’s rogue Yeong-shin). It’s not unthinkable the disease can change again.
What is the Queen Consort planning?
When the show started, it seemed that Minister Cho was working closely with his daughter, the Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun) to keep their grip over the capital Hanyang by isolating Prince Chang. But as the season went on, it became clear Minister Cho needed his daughter needed to have a male son to become the next emperor for their plans to work. Now we know the Queen Consort was running a con of her own, keeping pregnant women, killing the female infants and waiting for a male infant to pass off as her own. This entire subplot is a pretty monstrous development that speaks to the ends to which the Chos will go to take away the power that resided with the emperor and Prince Chang. It also shows us that the Queen Consort Cho is very much her father’s daughter in that this is a ruthless scheme that involves death, deception and big plans. Does Minister Cho know of this plan, or is the Queen Consort tricking her own father? This is of paramount interest as this season progresses as it speaks to further possible twists particularly when Minister Cho returns to and the infected arrive at Hanyang.
What is the Crown Prince’s long game?
Ever since Prince Chang saw the shadow of a monster in Hanyang, he had been running around trying to get a feel of just how back the infection has gotten. Chang has thus fallen right into Minister Cho’s plans. But now he seems to be surrounded by people who believe in him and people who believe that the infection is real. But Minister Cho controls Hanyang as well as the army, so what exactly is Chang’s plan? The immediately plan is of course save as many people as possible in Sangju and get to Hanyang, but what then? Is it a military solution, or a personal one? The military one is tricky, because for every soldier they lose, another infected rises, a zombie trope. Prince Chang must also protect the honor of his familiar, particularly his father, who is being used by Minister Cho is a gruesome way. Finally, what about the people of Joseon? Here is where you see the experience and novel writing of Kim Eun-hee, who had written the webtoon the show is based on, as well as the crime-heavy K-dramas like “Signal.” Eun-hee understands layered storytelling, unraveling plot twists in a certain order. She also understands slow burns, and in many ways, Prince Chang’s journey is one slow burn, reflected by his geographical location. He left Hanyang to the frontier then, after encountering the infected out there, is trying his best to get back to Hanyang—the intensity of the show, tamped down at the beginning, is rising to a fever pitch towards the end of season 2. How does he plan to become the rightful emperor?
Who will live, who will die and who is the traitor?
The first season introduced the cast of characters and made viewers care for them. Season 2 is when it’s time to start making the viewers pay for that emotional connection as key characters are killed off. You can probably already sense which characters are relatively safe, but everyone else is fair game. With the stakes raised so high, it only makes sense to whittle down the cast. This also plays into the rumor there will actually be a final third season for the show. The other element here is the identity of the traitor in their midst. Since last season, Prince Chang has noticed that Minister Cho seems to always be a step ahead of them and has been suspicious, notably of two people he respects, Lord Ahn (Heo Joon-ho) and personal guard Moo-young (Kim Sang-ho). Is it one of them, or someone else, and how does this play directly into the larger problem? This is again an element of Eun-hoo’s work in action.
Who is Jun Ji-hyun playing?
We know now that K-drama icon Jun Ji-hyun (the original “My Sassy Girl” herself) will be appearing in the season 2 finale. But what part will she be playing? Clearly, it will not be a small role, as that would defeat the purpose of getting such a big name for the big series. The showrunners have done an excellent job of shutting down any leaks or spoilers regarding this so your guess is as good as ours. There are some juicy possibilities: a new love interest for Prince Chang (if you don’t ship Chang and Seo-bi) or perhaps Chang’s mother in a flashback? What about a completely new character right out of the blue who will makes a big entrance in the finale and then a big role in a possible season 3? This, along with the eventual fate of the Crown Prince, should be the most fascinating element of “Kingdom” season 2. Bring it on.
“Kingdom” season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.