Netflix has finally brought us back into the zombie-infested Joseon dynasty which serves as the backdrop for the series Kingdom. Fans have been waiting in anticipation for the continuation of the series but instead of a full-blown season, Netflix has given us Kingdom: Ashin of the North. This is a special 1-hour episode that dives into the origins of the plague and the mysterious flower which is the root cause of all the chaos that we have witnessed in seasons 1 and 2. The question of everyone’s mind is if one episode could live up to the hype of what Kingdom has given us so far. We have gone ahead to see what the hype is all about for this single episode and we have collated our thoughts after seeing the special in its entirety. Here’s our review of the Netflix Kingdom special on Ashin of the North:

For more: Check out our article on the Korean Zombie Movie Hype

What you Need to Know Before Watching Kingdom: Ashin of the North

Before we dive into the actual review of the special, there are a couple of things that both fans and those who are new to the show must know. First of all, this episode for the most part stands on its own, so for those who haven’t seen the first two seasons of Kingdom, watching Ashin of the North first won’t be a problem. As mentioned, this special is an origin story of Jun Ji-Hyun’s character, Ashin, who is briefly shown at the end of the second season of the main series. The story centers on the childhood of Ashin and the traumatic events that occur which she eventually brings with her until she grows up. This special therefore officially introduces us to Ashin and more interestingly her role in the eventual zombie outbreak that practically destroys the Joseon dynasty.

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‘Kingdom: Ashin of the North’ Review: Spoiler warnings

Take note that this review may include some spoilers, but for the most part, we will leave out any major plot points that may tamper with your viewing experience.

The Kingdom Signature Visuals

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One of the elements that have made the Kingdom series a huge success is the visual spectacle that it provides, which Ashin of the North continues so brilliantly. The show has proven itself to be a cinematic experience that is made specifically for the small screen. The shots are clean, well-executed, and are done to create an immersive atmosphere for its viewers. From the tiger chase scenes which are showcased through the point of view of the zombified creature down to the emotional close-up scenes, the camera work seen in Ashin of the North shows another level of craftsmanship. There is a keen attention to detail in terms of the cinematography which immediately elevates the show into a whole new level of its own.

A Slow Paced Story with A Climactic Shift

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The story as a whole is written in a way that keeps its audience engaged for the most part. It is however a slow burn to get to the actual meatiness and action-packed parts of the narrative but the climax of the story eventually makes up for this slow pace. Kingdom: Ashin of the North has an emotional story as its backdrop which is given ample time to develop and simmer before the climax of the story arrives. This allows a rich plot to take over which is one of the biggest highlights for Ashin of the North.

At the center of the story is a heart-gripping and emotional backstory for the character that is resemblant to the eerie and devastating origins of The Joker played by Joaquin Phoenix released back in 2019. Surprisingly, the special also dives into mental health issues which eventually have caused Ashin’s big transformation as a villain/anti-hero (more on this later).

An Appropriate and Well-Executed Twist

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The final moments of Kingdom: Ashin of the North provides the most heartbreaking twists in the entire series to date. The Kingdom series has been known for dishing out twist after twist throughout its 2 season run which provides jaw-dropping moments for its viewers. The twist found in the last few minutes however of this special is unlike any that we have seen so far. The emotional intensity paired with the unadulterated insanity from Ashin is worth seeing again and again despite the tragic nature behind it. This is proof of the strategic manner with which the story of Ashin is told — providing subtle hints without giving away too much in order to deliver its tragic twist and ending.

Emotional Performances

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Kingdom: Ashin of the North’s success also lies in the phenomenal acting styles of the chosen cast members. With the titular character, Ashin, taking centerstage, both Jun Ji-Hyun and her younger counterpart played by 13-year old Kim Si-a. deliver standout performances. Both actresses are able to add depth to the character and are able to draw out Ashin’s background story and her personality traits. In classic Kingdom-fashion the cast that plays the horde of zombies also delivers amazing and almost life-like performances. The body movements are eerie and give another level to the already creepy and gloomy atmosphere that Kingdom gives us.

Thought-Provoking Character Development

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As mentioned, the story dives deep into mental health issues as well and the show is able to capitalize on this due to the well-planned out character development that is done for Ashin. The one-hour timeframe is enough to give us the heartbreaking story of this younger girl turned into a radical idealist who is hell-bent to overthrow the government no matter what the cost may be. The most interesting part of this show is the character of Ashin herself whose role in the story is up for interpretation, left for us, the viewers, to decide. On one end she is the heroic rebel who is tasked to set things right against a corrupt government while at the same time her methods are of course questionable bordering on being a psychopath selfishly seeking out revenge. Again it is up to us to decide which of the two Ashin really is.

Kingdom Ashin of the North Review verdict

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Netflix’s Kingdom has continued to show what can be achieved in the world of Television shows when a great story paired with amazing visuals takes center stage. To answer the question posed at the start of this article — does one single episode of Kingdom live up to the hype? The answer is a simple and definitive, yes. As seen in this extensive review, the show boasts a gripping story unlike any that we have seen as of late and the addition of the cinematography and overall tones of the film puts Kingdom: Ashin of the North in a separate league of its own. Despite the abundance of zombie films available today there is nothing like Kingdom which is proven further by this special episode.

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As of writing, there is no official confirmation of a future season for The Kingdom. Nonetheless, we are still excited and are left in a state of hopeful anticipation that the stories that the Kingdom series has taken us would still continue. In the meantime however we suggest a Kingdom binge-watch session whether it’s your first time to watch it or not, there is no perfect time than ever to witness the spectacle of Kingdom Seasons 1 and 2.

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