Netflix Original Kingdom pushed zombie television series forward in a big way. Marrying political intrigue , the Joseon period, and the living dead, the series was an instant horror hit. With a cliffhanger second season and the introduction of a new character, a female archer with an obvious large story to tell, fans were clamoring for more. Now in Kingdom: Ashin of the North, viewers get a look into the mysterious warrior from Season 2 and the origins of the undead.
A special episode of the series, Kingdom: Ashin of the North is directed by Kim Seong-hun (who also directed the series) and is written by Kim Eun-hee. The film stars a new cast of characters, expanding the lore of the series with new characters that are sure to be instant favorites. The cast includes Jun Ji-Hyun, Park Byeong-eun, Kim Roi-ha, and Kim Si-ah. In this Netflix Original Special, Ashin and her father are part of a foreign tribe that has settled within the Kingdom of Joseon. Over the course of around 90-minutes, the story explores their encounter with a mysterious disease and how it sets Ashin down a path of betrayal, prejudice, and revenge—all leading up to where we see her in Season 2.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North blends drama. It’s a period piece about war, a revenge thriller, a creature feature, and a zombie film. But with so much going on, the special manages to keep a narrative focus that prioritizes setting up a foundation for Ashin to stand on and then watching her grow into a terrifying woman driven by grief and revenge. Both actresses who portray Ashin, young and old are breathtaking. Particularly, Kim Si-Ah’s monologue where she asks a Joseon nobleman to make those who harmed her cry blood.
As for Ashin, Jun carries the series and showcases every element you can expect from an action lead. In fact, her performance is even better than the main characters in the main series. Ashin is brutal and cold but she’s also vulnerable and processing trauma. Additionally, her physicality is perfect. She is an archer with the ability to also utilize throwing knives. She does it swiftly and the character’s ferocity and anger are palpable from Jun’s portrayal, not only in the action sequences, but also in her moments of silence.
It’s thrilling to see a female character allowed to embrace her rage and to execute a plan that not only grants her revenge but also causes the most amount of casualties. Ashin is a testament to allowing a woman to be in an action setting without much hand-to-hand and still make her both intimidating and well-handled. Her acts of violence are emotional, and it’s her plan as it unfolds that drives her brutality. In fact, there is something scarier watching a person with an emotionless face picking off people one by one with a bow than it is to watch someone going to one-to-one. It’s enough to give you chills.
It must also be said that the pacing of Kingdom: Ashin of the North is perfect. It starts hard in almost a folkloric way, it wanes into politics only to pick up again with creature mayhem, and after settling once more with exposition and trauma, it picks up it’s pace into a balls to the wall zombie feature that echoes the best elements of the main series. Additionally, despite having large scenes take place at night, there isn’t ever a moment where the film feels too dark. The greens and blues of the moonlight illuminate the right amount of action, leaving some in darkness to make you question who is human and who isn’t in an effective way. The special’s only fault is its CGI effects work in the end of the first act that breaks immersion.
Kingdom has been the most expensive Korean series production which has caused some fans to question the longevity of the series. That said, Kingdom; Ashin of the North builds a stunning foundation for what is to come next. It creates a bond between viewer and a new character, that will let Season 3 (if it’s greenlit) get right to the main story without having to add in exposition to tell the audience who Ashin is, and believe me, she’s terrifying.
Overall, Kingdom: Ashin of the North is a breathtaking special episode of Kingdom that showcases the ferocity of a new character and situates the creation of the undead within a larger history. This special combines genre and does so in a way that captivates and moves towards one goal: Ashin. If you’re looking for revenge, zombies, war, and a female lead who is ready to burn it all down, make sure you check this special episode out. Yes, even if you haven’t seen the two seasons of the series that its tied to just yet.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North is available now exclusively on Netflix.
Kingdom: Ashin of the North
- Rating - 9/109/10
Kingdom: Ashin of the North is a breathtaking special episode of Kingdom that showcases the ferocity of a new character, and situates the creation of the undead within a larger history and story. If you’re looking for revenge, zombies, war, and a female lead who is ready to burn it all down, make sure you check this special episode out. Yes, even if you haven’t seen the two seasons of the series that its tied to just yet.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.