Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
For once, I’m actually thankful for internet rumors. Knowing two weeks ago about how tonight’s elimination would play out allowed me to watch this episode without going absolutely catatonic. Instead, I’ve been fuming for weeks. I came into tonight’s episode angry, just hoping that it wouldn’t be too cruel.
As it turns out, it was pretty damn cruel. And pointless. And frustrating.
Elimination might be easier to stomach if viewers felt like they had any say in the matter. Golden Child’s performances were consistently in the top half of Youtube and Naver views. I believe they came in second place on the pre-show voting, too. Yet, none of that seemed to matter, even if we were told it would. Instead, eliminations came down to votes from the other acts (which may or may not have been strategic) and small groups of fans who apparently watched the performances online.
If I’m understanding it correctly, this “online vote” consisted of 120 people, accounting for 70% of the total points.
That’s one hell of a small sample size. I mean, to put that in perspective, 120 is a tiny, tiny fraction of the fans that read my recaps each week, and I’m hardly a big name internet presence! I’m certainly no MNET (thank god). You’re telling me that a company of their standing can’t find a way to let everyone participate in this “public vote?” I mean, what was the Youtube and Naver streaming supposed to be for?
Plus, (correct me if I’m wrong) these mystery fans were only allowed to pick their top three acts, which meant if an act was everyone’s fourth pick but never made the top three, they’d get no points. This seems needlessly complicated and potentially unrepresentative of actual opinion. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have had a simple weighted vote. I mean, it’s not difficult, especially when the pride of existing groups is on the line.
I can’t help but feel like the rug was pulled underneath Golden Child, along with viewers. Neither the ranking nor the elimination seemed to match public opinion. It feels very arbitrary, but I guess I’m a fool for expecting anything else when it comes to the dubious pairing of “MNET” and “voting.”
I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve realized that the reason Road to Kingdom is turning me off (beyond its purposeless and poorly managed elimination system) is that it’s forcing these groups to compete within a narrow framework, when their strength lies in their diversity. Not every group thrives on stunt-based, high-concept stages, and that’s okay. For example, VERIVERY are great because their songs are dynamite and they have an earnest and goofy group personality. They’re never going to be like The Boyz, nor should they be. But, each act seems to be evaluated on who can give the most MNET-esque performance.
Rather than the celebration and showcase I was hoping it would be, RTK has turned into another tiresome exercise in ranking – not unlike Produce 101. Even though Queendom’s shtick of having its artists publicly list “one act that performed better than you, and one act who performed worse” was all kinds of awkward, at least it led to some fun interactions between the groups. RTK feels so damn serious.
With this in mind, the aspect of RTK I was looking most forward to was fun group interaction. So far, we’ve seen precious little of that. Even as we enter the collaboration round, it’s been a continual cycle of preparation, performance, preparation, performance. There was a bit more behind the scenes bonding tonight, even though most of it felt pretty stilted. Where’s Jangjun when you need him?
That’s the thing that makes me most upset. Now that my bias group has been unceremoniously kicked out, there’s no hope of seeing them enjoy any of the upcoming collaboration stages. I’m just sad that the general public didn’t get much of a chance to know their personalities, which I’ve always considered one of their biggest strengths.
On the plus side, I think Golcha came across extremely well within the narrow confines of this series and (hopefully) gained some new fans just in time for their upcoming June comeback.
Allow me to indulge myself by leaving this video here. It’s still my favorite performance of the series so far, by a wide margin:
2. The Boyz
1. Golden Child
Of course, the way things actually broke down was:
7. Golden Child
1. The Boyz
And… I died a little inside.
After padding time by endlessly pulling balls out of a box (in true survival series fashion), the teams for the collaboration round were revealed. The order would be:
1. VERIVERY & TOO
2. ONF & Pentagon
3. The Boyz & ONEUS
In line with RTK’s fractured structure, we only got to see one of these performances tonight, so it’s hard to make any comparisons. I feel like a whole third of the episode was spent discussing points and rankings and convoluted voting systems, anyway.
VERIVERY & TOO – On (original by BTS)
I think VERIVERY are coming across well whenever they get some airtime, but it was a waste to spend almost the entire behind-the-scenes clip focusing on the two groups trying to execute that overdone gun-shooting choreography that opens this performance. Beyond its clichéd nature, I just don’t need to see these young, fresh groups brandishing guns and acting all tough.
Honestly, I found this to be one of the most forgettable performances of the series so far. I mean, I’m no big fan of On in its original form, and this arrangement didn’t do much to reinterpret it. The rap was actually less jarring than in the original version, and the two teams worked well together, but the military/flag theme felt too obvious. It just seems like VERIVERY and TOO were trying to do what they thought the voters wanted, rather than playing to their own strengths. I can hardly blame them, but it makes for a pretty uninspired performance.
Jeez, I’m spent. Thanks for sticking through this entire, extra-long rant. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments!