The highly anticipated Korean Drama on Netflix aired on 25 January 2019. While up till now there is a glut of zombie shows both good and bad, there isn’t that many Korean zombie shows around, especially one set in the medieval Joseon period. The pacing of Kingdom has it’s slow moments but increasingly suspenseful and thrilling, keeping you at the edge of the seat.
Without further ado, let’s start.
Kingdom Season 1 Episode 1 Recap
The show begins with a rather mystical and curious mummified body
In the middle of the night, two figures are ushered quietly into the palace. A doctor and his apprentice are called in to attend to the King. As they approached the King’s chambers, the doctor warned the apprentice to never look inside the bedchamber. As the doctor prepares his tools, the young apprentice gets ready to serve the King.
As he approached cautiously and began to serve the medicine, a low growl emerged behind the curtains. Unable to resist his curiosity, the young apprentice pans his gaze up. In that instant a hand that presumably belongs to the King reaches out and pulls him under.
A notice around town is found to have declared the King as dead and a new King is destined to take the throne. As the Haewon Cho Clan proceeds to round up scholars in an apparent coup, some are tortured and killed in an attempt to find the mastermind behind the coup. Prime Minister Cho believes that the Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) is behind the coup, and schemes to find evidence to take down the Crown Prince and installs his own future grandson as heir to the throne.
As it seems, power in the Capital falls largely in the seemingly corrupted Haewon Cho Clan, Prime Minister Cho and the Queen, a daughter of the Prime Minister. The people lament the King’s powerlessness or for allowing the Haewon Cho Clan to control the country.
Curious about the King’s health who was taken ill from smallpox, the Prince begs the Queen to allow him to see his father, but was firmly denied by the Queen.
Sensing something is amiss, the Prince instructs his personal bodyguard Moo-Young (Kim Sang-ho) to steal his father’s medical journal, supposedly kept at the Royal Infirmary. Not wanting to risk his life or job, his personal bodyguard rejects the very idea. However, it seems the bodyguard owes the Prince personal favors and reluctantly agrees (with a food bribe). He tells Prince Lee that he could just sneak in when the guards change shift before dawn.
At night, Prince Lee is seen running and sneaking into his Father’s chambers. Once inside, he overhears the King’s attending eunuchs that the King has went missing.
He decides to explore the hallways and look for his father. Upon hearing (or sensing) something, Prince Lee quickly hides in at adjacent room.
A dreary shadow figure appears walking just behind the screen door. Growling, limping and from the way Prince Lee covers his nose, putrid smelling as well. As it moves up and down the hallway, Prince Lee decides to grab a stick as a weapon as the shadow appears to grow bigger, and nearer. As the Prince readied himself, suddenly, it became pitch black.
Cautiously, the Prince opens the door and peeks around. There was no sign of whatever the shadow might be.
Instead, the Queen’s brother Beom-il who made an appearance earlier, shows up asking what is the Prince doing in the King’s Chambers, of which he is forbidden to enter. The Prince mentioned that there was something monstrous in the hallway that sounded like a beast. He also said it smelled of blood and had a foul stench, like we guessed earlier. He thinks it has a shape of a monster, not a human. Obviously, the Prince was ridiculed and Beom-il blamed his poor constitution from kneeling for too long while begging the Queen earlier.
Insisting on seeing his Father, Prince Lee forced his way into his chambers but was instead greeted by Prime Minister Cho. Still shaken, the Prince asked Cho if he’s seen a monster in the hallways and asking the whereabouts of the King.
Claiming that the Prince is a traitor who sought the life of the King and the Throne, Cho turned the Prince away by saying he’s the monster, and that the King has recovered slightly and have gone to meet the Queen. Prince Lee had no choice but to be escorted back to his chambers.
Back in the Prince’s chambers, Moo-Young returned successfully with the King’s medical journal. They took no time in looking into the records.
Father collapsed 10 days ago.
Chills, fever, and a headache.
Administered the decoction for rashes numberous times, but it was ineffective.
The fever is too high to be varicella.
The symptoms are severe. There might not be a cure.
The entries end there. The Royal Infirmary is supposed to record an entry every single day. This further validates their suspicion that there might be a cover-up of sorts.
On further reading, his bodyguard Moo-Young found a mention of Physician Lee Seung-hui in the last entry regarding His Majesty. The Prince knew him as a royal physician that retired 3 years ago. Why would they have invited him back into the palace to attend to the King?
Prince Lee decides to leave the Palace to investigate Jiyulheon, the clinic that Physician Lee works in.
In DongNae, holed up in the Jiyulheon clinic are the sick and famished. With little food supply left, the villagers are suffering on top of the smallpox that they have contracted. Yeong-Shin (Kim Sung-kyu) is seen grumbling about the miserable grub that was available for the patients. Knowing that the patients need to eat what little food there is for any chance of recovery. Seo-Bi admonished him sternly.
The next scene shows Physician Lee returning from Hanyang in a carriage with a box in tow, looking rather distraught.
“Prepare a for funeral”, Physician Lee said.
As the curious villagers opened the box, the body of the Physician’s assistant Dani-i whom we’ve seen in the first scene was found. Everyone was shocked as they discovered the body had missing fingers, bites and clawed marks. By now we could surmise that the King was the culprit of this gruesome act.
Seo-Bi ran after the Master to find out more about what happened in Hanyang but she received nothing but a cryptic answer.
Back in the Capital, Prime Minister Cho gathers the ministers and informs them that the Prince is behind the treasonous writings against the King. An unknown informant was said to have supplied the evidence that the 89 scholars and the Prince are all guilty of treason. One of the ministers, a supporter of Prince Lee, said that it was suspicious to rely on the testimony of a single informant. That led to an outburst from Prime Minister Cho leading to roughly handling the minister.
Prime Minister Cho proceeds to call for the Crown Prince’s arrest and to be brought to the Royal Investigation Bureau.
The guards stormed Prince Lee’s residence but he was no where to be found. Led by Beom-il, he threatened the Prince’s servants asking about the Prince’s whereabouts. He declares the Crown Prince a traitor and no longer the heir to the throne. Enraged with not getting a straight answer, he eventually left but not before slicing the male servant’s throat.
Seeking Physician Lee Seung-hui, the Crown Prince and Moo-Young enquires from an orderly from the Royal Infirmary and learns that the physician has returned to his clinic in Dongnae. He also learns that the assistant that accompanied Lee Seung-hui died a mysterious death that seemed like he was bitten by some beasts. Upon hearing that, the Prince was reminded about the time he snuck into the King’s chambers and encountered a beast-like creature.
Lee Chang decided to journey to Dongnae in search of the physician to learn more about the truth of his Father’s medical condition. Moo-Young was strongly against the idea until Lee Chang revealed that he was indeed guilty of conspiring treason against the Emperor. Lee Chang said the reason for the coup, even though he was the Crown Prince, is the Queen’s coming baby. He would lose both his life, and also throne over to the villainous Cho Clan. That the scholars in the Capital are covering up and dying for the Crown Prince’s sake and the only way to save them, is to go to Dongnae and uncover the truth from Lee Seung-hui.
Prime Minister Cho learns that the Prince has went to Dongnae to look for the Physician Lee Seung-hui. Eager to remove Prince Lee from the picture, Cho sent Beom-il on Calvary and 50 men to chase and intercept the Prince before he reaches Dongnae.
Back in Dongnae, physician Seo-Bi and her colleague ponders over the lad’s strange injuries while out looking for medicinal herbs. On the way back, they discovered smoke from the clinic rising from the chimney. The sick were seen eating heartily, grateful for any meat from a prolonged duration of starvation.
Seo-Bi rushes over to the kitchen, puzzled as to where or how this food came from. Yeong-Shin said the people were starving and needed food, so he decided to hunt a deer for meat. She remains doubtful as to how the food came about, but as she looks around at the patients who were eating with famished looks, she understood that it was a necessary evil.
A village approached her and requested more food for his breast feeding wife. Seo-Bi returned to the kitchen to scoop more servings. The smell of fresh food was all too inviting for her and she was about to take a sip when the crying baby prompted her to quickly scoop the soup into the bowl.
At that moment, she saw something which horrified her and that shock caused her to drop the bowl. It was a finger. She quickly realized what that meat was.
She watched on with absolute horror, as the villagers unwittingly committed cannibalism with glee. They were after all, starving.
Enraged, Seo-Bi ran up to Yeong-Shin and dragged him into a hut.
He was a person, just like us. How can a person eat another person?! Seo-Bi said.
Yeong-Shin’s response was a pragmatic one, out of sheer need to eat and survive. He also implied that elsewhere south of Dongnae, people are surviving on their dead neighbors who have starved to death.
As the nurse was feeding Jong-gu, he collapsed as if choked. Suddenly, one by one around her started choking, cringing and falling to the ground in similar fashion. Panicked, she hurried to look for Physician Lee.
As she ran out, what she saw horrified her as she looked all around her, every one in the clinic had collapsed and presumably died, in a gruesome, twisted way.
She turned and saw a man foaming in the mouth. In a bid to save him, she quickly ran over and tried to remove vomit from the mouth and stuffed cloth she tore from her garment into the mouth – as if a patient in fits – to prevent the man from biting his own tongue.
Behind her, a figure was seen twisting and rising in a grotesque way. The sound of cracking bones went unnoticed.
Until it was too late.
Still in the hut, Seo-Bi and Yeong-Shin heard a scream that interrupted their argument. Silence fell between the two. As they approached the door to investigate what has happened outside, Yeong-Shin attempted to open the door but was suddenly pushed back by a force outside the door.
The scene pans to a bloodied door, flowing until the ground was full of blood.
Looking out, a frenzy of people are seen running around, when one comes running up to the door.