The news that Kingdom’s second season is ending after 39 episodes became official this week. That was wholly expected, but there’d been some hope that we might see an S3 announcement at the same time. The fact that we didn’t by no means precludes the possibility that we will in the future, but for now Kingdom fans will just have to wait, follow manga sales (and read the manga if so inclined) and hope.
If the adaptation is making any overtures towards a definitive conclusion in the next two weeks they sure didn’t tip their hand with this episode. I have no idea how many chapters it covered, but it was a dizzying avalanche of plot, character introductions and re-introductions, politics and military strategy. It was all a bit too much, truth be told, though remarkably compelling in spite of that. No less than six different kingdoms were directly confronting each other at times during the ep, and back in Xiangyang the power struggles from both seasons made an appearance. And Qin has officially annexed Shangyang and made it a protectorate, pronouncing their future intentions to the rest of China.
On the chessboard, the most important development is probably Zhao finally being forced into action by Qin’s successes on the battlefield. Li Mu’s presence makes that the most dangerous rival for Qin and Zheng’s ambitions, and he’s paired with an effectively superhuman great general in Pang Nuan. These two are a kind of dream (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) team, with each complementing the other perfectly. As I expected Li Mu isn’t going to throw over a good-faith agreement he signed with Xin, which means he has to up the ante in other ways.
So how does he do that? He gathers a 1000,000 man army and attacks Yan, a Kingdom with a 100,000 man army of its own and its own great general, Fu Xin – a hero of a 40-years earlier war and a Zhao native himself. We barely get the know his legend before Pang Nuan offs him in single combat, effectively ending the war in a day (just a bit faster than the White Elder subjugated Wei). This has strategists and ministers in Qin understandably on-edge, for it’s a dead-certainty that Li Mu isn’t going to stop in his tracks now that he’s scored a major victory.
For Xin’s part, he’s been stuck at a border post with Chu for the last three months. Chu is a crucial factor that’s hardly been addressed in Kingdom, by far the largest of the warring states and only kept in-check by the fact that they share borders with five other kingdoms, and might be attacked themselves whenever they attack elsewhere. As soon as the Feixin force finally receives orders to go and attack a castle far to the East, the border patrol from Chu leaves at the same time – strongly suggesting that some kind of pre-arrangements have been made between Qin and Chu (though Diao has revealed to Xin that Qin intends to attack Chu in the not-too distant future).
On the way, we get yet another wildcard when two more kingdoms are entered into the mix. The Feixin unit runs across a wounded boy named Xiu, from the Kingdom of Xu – which no one including Diao has heard of. But she concludes that it’s likely real (it was), and one of the many small kingdoms struggling to survive in a mountain fastness, a holdover from the days when China was split into a hundred kingdoms. The boy tells Xin that Xu is being attacked by… Han! Remember them? A small but strategically crucial kingdom smack in the center of all the big boys. Here Xin pulls a highly questionable but Xin-like move – he disregards his orders to go and help Xu fight off the invasion. I thought Diao might protest this, but she seems fully on-board. Sounds like a dodgy career move to me, but Xin is definitely not the type to do things by the books.
Meanwhile, back in Xiangyang, Lu Buwei has righted the ship and is steadily regaining the power he lost after Zheng outed his relationship with the Queen Dowager. Lu’s strategy chief Li Shi seems highly uneasy about being so dependent on that treacherous woman, but the short-term results are undeniable – Lu (who frankly seems to be getting pretty cocky) has gathered so much influence that he’s able to have himself declared Prime Minister. This has Zheng once again backed into a corner, and it’s a measure of his desperation that he turns for help to a seemingly unlikely source – Chengjiao, the traitorous half-brother whose rebellion was the first major arc of the first season (who seems to have been under house arrest). What a complicated and messy family situation this is – and when you consider the real possibility that Lu Buwei might actually be Zheng’s father, it’s even more of a tangle. What an exhausting episode that was – but there are certainly no shortage of interesting places for Kingdom to go in these final two episodes of the season.