If, like me, you’re still wondering how on earth a plant could turn a human into a flesh-eating monster, then you’re in luck! The smash-hit Netflix series “Kingdom” is back with another gory and brilliant 90-minute special episode “Kingdom: Ashin of the North” to explain that and more.
The prequel story explores the events that led to the chaos and rise of the zombie apocalypse from the original story. “Legend of the Blue Sea” actress Jun Ji-Hyun plays Ashin, the mysterious figure we meet at the end of the season 2 and the main protagonist of the special.
The first ten minutes already give off an eerie and ominous vibe as it opens to a forest that houses the resurrection plant. Writer Kim Eun-hee said in an interview with Netflix that they wanted to show the plant’s ability to grow in freezing temperatures, which would explain why they cover the wide and barren northern area.
We meet a young and curious Ashin exploring a forbidden area when she stumbles upon a warning about a mysterious plant that promises to bring the dead back to life, but with a price to pay. The encounter with the resurrection plant sets Ashin on a journey of revenge and resentment.
The narrative does an excellent job of establishing the world for us. It provides information about the tribes, particularly their territories and borders. The special explores the caste system and its hierarchies, and gives the audience insight into the minds of those in power, as well as a clear picture on who’s considered an outcast.
One example of these outcasts is the Jurchens, a foreign tribe who has lived in Joseon for over a century. Regardless of how society treated them, they remained loyal to Joseon—especially Ashin’s father and tribal head, Ta-Hap. He explains that this stemmed from their gratitude to Joseon for welcoming and allowing them to live in their land.
Of course, it would not be a “Kingdom” movie without some gruesome imagery and chase scenes. The cinematography together with the musical score created a symphony of riveting and anxiety-inducing scenes that takes us back to why this series is one of the best franchises out there.
Jun Ji-Hyun brilliantly portrayed Ashin: Her intense gazes and the steely resolve in her movements make you feel wary because you’ll never know what she’s thinking or planning. She’s like a predator that’s waiting for prey to catch and in a flash is ready to pounce and kill.
I wish the episode were longer since 90 minutes isn’t long enough to immerse yourself in the lives of the characters and understand their motivations. It felt like we were only given a sneak peek of who they are and what importance they bring to the story.
Nevertheless, “Kingdom: Ashin of the North” is a great addition to the Kingdom-verse. It speaks to us on how humans can be despicable and manipulative just to achieve their interests. It also shows how a person’s resolve is powerful enough to bring down even the strongest of foes.
I’m stoked for the next season, and hopefully, we can get more details about Ashin and how she will influence the main arc. Whether she is a friend or foe, all I know is that she’s a character I’m looking forward to the most for the next season, “Kingdom: The Crown Prince.”