Kingdom Episode 2 ft. dramatic sword fight dance breaks and reinterpreting chart toppers

Ep. 2 has aired. We got the final rankings of the intro performances, the selection of performance order for Round 1, the first three performances and – surprisingly, some satisfactory interaction between the groups. But first, the rankings!

Sadhana: Stray Kids versus The Boyz – I thought it was well deserved competition for first two places. iKON – well, I was not surprised. They kinda phoned it in last week where the lip sync was very obvious too.

Rimi: Yeah, I’m with you on the rankings. I think iKON got a little overconfident and under-estimated Kingdom. My personal favorite was The Boyz’ performance, but these rankings were determined solely by fan vote, so I’m happy they made it to #2. Stray Kids have a large and passionate fandom, and they had a great performance – no shocker they’re at a well deserved #1. 

But this week? I have to say that of the three performances given, I love, love, loved BtoB’s! The live vocals, the concept, the sageuk styling, the props, and the dramatic sword fight – it all conveyed such a moving tale of a man who misses the woman he loves, and is ready to take on the world, for her. (Well, I’m assuming heteronormativity, and a romantic relationship, but of course, the interpretation need not be confined to these limited spheres). 

I do also have to confess that I might be developing a slight Kingdom crush on Lee Min-hyuk. 

He’s 1) incredibly good looking *insert surprised pikachu face* – why have I never seen him before in all my years of following K-pop? I must have been living under a rock, and 2) 30 years young, and age appropriate to swoon over. After this meeting at Eunkwang’s home, I’ve realised they’re funny on variety too. Don’t mind me. I’ll be here in a corner watching all of BtoB’s interviews with Min-hyuk until next week. 

Which performance was your favourite?

Sadhana: I loved it too! We have another unanimous favourite from this week because, for me personally, Missing You was the song that was stuck in my head all day after watching the episode. And like you mentioned, the performance and emotions they managed to convey while performing were a standout. I got goosebumps listening to them harmonizing after the dance break. 

As for Kingdom crushes,

30 years young, and age appropriate to swoon over.

LOL – this is very important indeed! It’s something I’ve been cautious about since some of the contestants are almost actual babies (compared to me i.e.) with the youngest being born in what 2001?? 

Rimi: I thought that iKON showed tremendous improvement, but the The Boyz’ didn’t do quite as well this time. With iKON’s stage, I loved the behind the scenes phone calls with Chani of SF9, and the two WINNER members. Hilarious that Chani contributed to their doing better on stage in Round 1. I do like the story they tried to tell with the mash up of Love Scenario and Killing You. It flowed seamlessly and was easy to follow, conceptually. I still think however, that they have to do more to catch up to the quality shown by BtoB and The Boyz. Most groups are taking a VERY (in caps) artistic approach to Kingdom — not only on stage but also in the arrangements. Sadly iKON’s concepts so far have been easier to follow and arrangements less experimental — which isn’t per se a bad thing. BtoB’s concept was also easy to follow, but the arrangement was certainly more creative.  

Sadhana: I actually really liked iKON’s performance this week. In fact I liked it almost as much as I liked BtoB’s. The rearrangement of both the songs (Love Scenario is a personal favourite from iKON) was high-energy and their performance had the right level of oomph for me. I feel like they were able to give a good overall performance without getting too caught up in the more uh, theatrical aspects of performances that some of the groups seem to be favouring. Very solid IMO, and definitely looking forward to how they’ll push this. 

Which brings me to The Boyz, whose behind the scenes work putting together the performance was very very impressive. I mean the dudes went underwater trying to sum up feelings of desperation and express it well! 

So 15/10 for dedication, but the actual performance itself failed to be memorable for me, mainly because of their song choice.

Rimi: I loved their styling in white, and the opening with the water – as well as all the behind the scenes shooting in the water, with Sunwoo being so frightened! 

I think this week with The Boyz, they didn’t do a bad job — the stage wasn’t even an ‘average’ stage, it was a very good stage. But they’ve been delivering such exceptional performances so far (including Road To Kingdom), that this particular stage fell short. I think the fault lies in part with the arrangement. “No Air” is arguably their most well known song, and it’s a bit of a divider, some consider it generic and boring, others absolutely love it – I’m in the latter camp, and have it on my list of all-time faves. This arrangement definitely failed to emphasize the song’s strengths: it’s deceptively cheerful tone, fast pace and atmospheric pre-chorus. There’s nothing particularly distinctive or outstanding about the original song itself, and yet it’s an inexplicably lovely sound. Sadly, the arrangement on Kingdom definitely made it sound generic.   

Sadhana: Yeah, having not heard it before, it definitely felt generic hearing it for the first time in the episode. 

Rimi: For next week, I’m super excited about Ateez. I haven’t followed them at all so far, but somehow I just really like their personalities here. There’s something oddly sincere about them in their position as the maknae group, and I’m excited to see more of their performances; and learn more about them. 

Sadhana: Same here! They’re performing aggressive choreo but their personalities are just so adorkable? Okay, yeah. Reminder to self: this is where being careful about Kingdom crushes has to come in.

Rimi: Hahaha, good luck with that. I’m also mildly weirded out by the upside down ‘Live’ on Felix’s lips and chin – it looks somewhat creepy. I expect we’re going to see him upside down in SKZ’s choreo. Love Changbin’s. It reminds me of the imoogi in the drama, Tale of the Nine-Taled, an evil, supernatural creature.

Sadhana: They continue to intrigue me with their styling and I’m looking forward to their performance the most in the next episode! 

On a closing note, I have to talk about just how much I’m enjoying watching a K-pop reality show without having to worry about who will get eliminated and whose life might get ruined because of the show (okay, exaggerating here like the survival shows tend to). Seeing all the deliberations that go into a performance and the reactions of each group – it’s just very wholesome. I’m on board all the way for this one. 

Author: Sadhana C

I'm interested in technology, culture, and the business of Hallyu. I currently work full time as a product manager and have previously reported on start-ups. In my free time I like to read fiction and learn languages.

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