Rating: ★★★

Two seasons (so far) of glossy historical Korean intrigue, an amusingly re-interpretable story about a typical Oriental succession struggle, but with zombies. Notable for its high production values and acceptably sane character-driven writing. Probably one of the least annoying zombie shows I've seen (contra the likes of Z Nation), but on the strength of the somewhat stilted end to Season 2, I worry that I might have to qualify that with 'so far'.

My main source of meta-entertainment here has been reading between the lines of the story to examine what might 'really' have happened (assuming that anything at all historical is preserved, which I accept is risky). The illegitimate son spooked by his adoptive mother's pregnancy, he declares his sick father dead prematurely in a bid to seize the reigns. The coup attempt failing due to prompt action from the Queen's family, he flees to the war-ravaged south, where rebellious sentiment will be easy to stir up. He then slays the male heir to the Queen's line when he arrives to arrest him, ravages their stronghold in the south, and recruits his old mentor, a war hero. The uprising is stopped at the province border fortifications, and the sick king comes to treat with his son -- but the son takes his life, and wounds the Queen's father, breaking through and making a bid for the capital. The rebel prince gathers the support of most local forces, with only the palace guard and court retainers remaining in opposition. He tricks his way inside, and in a bloody night purges the palace and slays the Queen. Then, either in a show of mercy or more likely because of other political considerations, he retreats into exile, and his newborn half-brother takes the throne under the control of the remaining elements of the Queen's line. Probably at best a confused mashup of true events and nonsense, of course, but it amused me, and the show generally rewards you if you're interested in political thrills.

There is, of course, some amusement to be had in just watching people fight zombies, and the show's style handles the drama, the action and the comedy of this well. The zombie-juice itself is probably the weakest element of the show -- they play up the mystery side of this, and do deliver explanations, but the explanations feel hastily patched together. First of all it's a flower, and if this were a disease then I could almost swallow that. But they later establish that the zombification is caused by worms whose eggs are to be found on the flower (a mechanism inspired by some real-life zombie-like biology), which raises the question of why people who are briefly bitten by a zombie always seem to rapidly turn into one -- something they hand-wave over in the show, despite it being a fairly core element of the zombie epidemic.

The series now seems to be taking an outward arc, with our zombie-fighting prince and his core allies turning their attention to China, which is heavily hinted to somehow be responsible. The whole transition feels a bit overplayed, wrapping up what seems like the whole story before starting a new one, and my worry is that the show will not know when to fold -- though it's based on a book series, so hopefully the author had better sense.