Six episodes in, Kingdom continues to be a contradictory viewing experience.
With each passing week I get more wrapped up in the story of Kingdom, and more irritated by the distracting CGI. I’d thought we were past the point where this would be an issue as it was mostly limited to the action sequences (where it belongs) over the last few weeks, bit it’s creeping back into the rest of the show as well – with a big uptick this week. I feel like an asshat to still be talking about it after all these weeks – if it was bad enough to keep me from watching, I would have stopped by now, so why keep talking about it? Yet, there’s no denying it’s an important factor in my enjoyment of the series.
And yes, I’m still enjoying Kingdom, because it’s telling a complicated and interesting story in a well-structured and coherent manner, and I love grand epics. It also features a great cast, and we had a new addition to it this week – one of my favorites, Ishizuka Unshou, joining the ranks as Minister Lu Buwei. The scope of the struggle taking place in this series is being exposed slowly as the story progresses, with layers of political and military intrigue added all the time, and Lu is an important piece of the puzzle that’s only been mentioned in passing. He’s a powerful figure away leading an invading army against one of Qin’s foes, and up to now many of Zheng’s loyalists were looking to his return to the capital as the event that would turn the tide in the King’s favor. But Lu is using the situation to his own favor, waiting for the revolution to succeed so that he can sweep into the capital, wipe out the royal family in the ensuing chaos, and claim the throne for himself.
What this all means is that although the King is alive and reunited with Changwenjun, his situation is virtually hopeless from a political and military standpoint. This is tied nearly into the personal side of the story this week, as Changwenjun’s Lieutenant Bi recounts the story of how Piao heroically led the struggle against Wang Qi’s forces after Changwenjun was defeated. Hearing this only bolsters Xin’s determination to become a General to honor his fallen friend, but Zheng tells him that under the current complicated caste system he can’t even enlist, much less become a General – the only hope being a grant of land and wealth from the King. And given that the King is unable even to reclaim his throne, that seems unlikely to happen.
There’s one more wrinkle here, though. Diao, seeking to become “formidable” and tired of being weak, moves to steal the poison darts from Muta’s corpse – except that the assassin is still alive. But in return for not revealing that fact to the King’s men, Muta gives Diao some free advice – the truth about Lu. And there’s no question that Diao’s motives are sure to be tested soon, as Zheng reveals the plan he’s been mulling – calling on his old allies of 400 years earlier, the Mountain Tribes, to help him reclaim his throne. And they look like an odd bunch, too – my guess is Diao decides to try his hand with Zheng and Xin rather than return to his own people.