Kingdom: Ashin Of The North review – A mind-numbingly dull watch

·Contributor
·3 min read
Ashin (Jun Ji Hyun) is a vengeful slave turned archer in the special episode of Kingdom: Ashin of the North
Ashin (Jun Ji Hyun) is a vengeful slave turned archer in the special episode of Kingdom, Ashin Of The North.

SINGAPORE — Unlike its zombies, who are driven by a ravening hunger and astonishingly agile, Kingdom's special episode of Ashin Of The North absolutely drags its feet when it comes to its plot, making it more akin to the shambling saunters of the ghouls of The Walking Dead.

Supposedly a lead-up to the third season of the Korean series, whose first two seasons have been met with ringing acclaim from international audiences, writer Kim Eun Hee's explanation of why Ashin's backstory was written as a special episode is just lame and nonsensical.

"When you look at the story behind Ashin, it is very long and complex because it is such an overarching story with such a long timeline. Looking at the chronological aspect of it, I felt that rather than incorporate her story into the third season, it would be more audience-friendly and more conducive for higher quality content if I included it into a special episode," said Kim Eun Hee in an interview earlier this week.

Which doesn't make sense because if Ashin, played by the vivacious Gianna Jun or Jun Ji Hyun, had such a complex story, wouldn't it be better to develop her story over 12 or 16 episodes in a third season instead?

The result turns the special episode – a prequel to the events which happen in seasons 1 and 2 – which has comfortably nestled among the Top 10 shows on Netflix, with no small thanks to its rabid fan following, into a mind-numbingly dull watch.

If you're watching the movie-length episode for the appearance of the famous Jun Ji Hyun, be prepared to be disappointed as she doesn't appear for more than the first half of the episode, choosing instead to pop up only towards the last 30 minutes of the 90-minute episode.

Instead, we are treated to some boring backstory about how the purple flowers, which are responsible for zombification, are contained in some forbidden area where people aren't allowed to enter. 

Along comes Ashin as a young girl (Kim Shin A), who thinks she knows what the flowers do and tries to steal some to revive her ailing mother. Ashin also comes from a clan who are like untouchables and at the bottom of the caste system in Joseon.

There is some promise when a deer happens to eat one of the purple flowers and becomes a zombie, only to have a tiger devour the deer and also become a zombie who starts to actively hunt people. 

Unfortunately, nothing comes out from this red herring as the people who are killed by the zombified tiger do not turn into zombies. 

Some random elements are also thrown into the hot mess of a plot. The marauding Pajeowi Jurchens are introduced, who have little to do with the plot except to provide some vague sense of threat as a supposed invasion of Joseon from the North looms.

Basically, the whole premise of the special episode is about betrayal, tragedy and vengeance, but the dish is never actually served. Instead, it is poorly executed without very much character development; there is no real pity to be felt for the victims or satisfaction at the revenge being executed, because we are never really immersed into it to begin with.

Also, like Jun Ji Hyun, the zombies which are supposed to be the centre of everything only appear towards the last half an hour. Like seriously, why?

The whole episode just left me with a bland and somewhat bitter aftertaste. Hopefully, the legions of fans who love the series aren't also frothing at the mouth and baying for blood.

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