Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
Welcome to my last Road to Kingdom recap!
Honestly, I’m kind of glad to be done with the show, but I’m also pleased at a couple of the songs it’s given us. You can read my ranking/review of the finale songs here, though much of that will be reiterated in my final ranking below.
First off, I was so happy to see that this finale wouldn’t be the 4+ hour slog that the Produce series always insisted on. Those finales were clogged with so much filler. RTK had some too, but not nearly as much.
The opening announcement was pretty cool and suitably dramatic, though the groups had to stand awkwardly in a line for SO long while their song was being played. The lit-up catwalk reminded me of the rainbow bridge from Thor, and as nerdy as this sounds, I love the font that they used. Of course, all this badassery only reminded me of how lame most of these groups’ names actually are.
Next, we were treated to a lot of vote recapping. ONF were in first place until other votes (and views, and comeback sales) were factored in. Then, they fell to second behind The Boyz. That’s what a comparatively small fan base will do! Poor VERIVERY slipped all the way to the bottom. Again… fan base. Golden Child probably wouldn’t been higher had they still been in the competition. Just saying.
Then came a seemingly endless explanation of voting. I was only half-listening, but I did notice that Korean votes would be worth 70% while international votes were only 30%. The shade! But let’s be real here… that’s probably how it should be.
Before I get to my personal ranking and the final winner. I’ll briefly mention that vocalists from each team came together to perform BTOB’s great power ballad It’s Okay towards this episode’s climax. It was fine. I’m a big fan of the original, so anything else just comes off as a lesser copycat to me.
MY FINAL PERFORMANCE RANKINGS
If you’ve already ready my finale song reviews, not much about this is going to be a surprise.
5. PENTAGON – BASQUIAT
Cue Hui, alone in his little songwriting room. I feel like this has been a constant image with Pentagon, and it makes me feel sorry for the guy. Unfortunately, the ideas that have come from that room have been pretty uninspired throughout this series, even though Hui has created some bonafide hits in the past. But, the dark, shouty template he seems to be mired in at the moment isn’t for me.
I feel like throughout this series, Pentagon’s performances have either been angry or sad, neither of which is all that enticing from a viewer’s point of view. Basquiat has its high points (that guitar!), but too much of it feels like a slightly more bombastic rewrite of Dr. BeBe (which I didn’t care for, either).
The performance did little to improve upon this raw material. I get what they were going for, and the concept has great potential. But, I don’t think they used the stage as creatively as other groups, and the storytelling wasn’t as clear and iconic as it could have been.
4. ONEUS – COME BACK HOME
They looked a bit beaten down in the pre-performance video, didn’t they? I was happy to see that the location shooting seemed to catch them in better spirits. I’m actually surprised that RBW spent the money for such an extensive video filming – especially when it didn’t amount to much within the context of the actual performance.
Someone needs to get RTK an exorcist, because I’m sick of all these groups doing haunted Halloween concepts. There’s just nothing new to bring to them. I still think this song is mediocre, with an awful chorus. It has some great moments, too, and the same could be said about the performance. It was well-executed. I’m just exhausted with the concept. At this point, it lacks any sense of surprise. Their use of the video screen at the end was really cool, though!
3. THE BOYZ – CHECKMATE
Reading the fan comments in the pre-performance video was a fun idea, though I felt it went on a little too long. I understand that they didn’t want to spoil any of their upcoming performance tricks, though.
Speaking of tricks, whoever is in charge of staging The Boyz’ RTK performances should be overseeing every K-pop stage. They know how to draw your attention through a series of stunts and inventive transitions, and The Boyz are a great conduit for that approach.
I just wish they put as much effort into the actual song. Checkmate is passable, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a winning song to me. And, there’s only so much you can do with an “okay” track. With that said, the chorus has grown on me throughout the week. It would have been stronger without all that unnecessary trap influence, and could have built to a real satisfying climax. What we get instead is something that feels underwhelming when compared to The Boyz’ performance capability. No amount of tricks can fully compensate for that.
2. VERIVERY – BEAUTIFUL-X
I’m happy to hear that they consider this kind of funk pop to be their true colors, because I agree. When it comes to sheer personality, VERIVERY are my favorite group left in the competition. I think their bright energy is an asset, and I’m glad they decided to showcase that during the pre-performance interview and in the performance itself.
Honestly, the beginning of this stage was pretty lame, and repeated the one-take gimmick of their last performance. But, once the dancers joined in and it became choreography-focused, I just loved it. I’ll always be a sucker for an army of dancers all performing in unison, and it really did showcase one of VERIVERY’s greatest strengths.
However, I would have ditched the whole school concept. It’s been done to death, and kind of cheapened the (otherwise very good) song. It would have worked much better in the context of a music video.
1. ONF – NEW WORLD
I like how MK simply stated “we make the best songs.” In the context of this finale, that is certainly true. Over the course of the week, New World has become my undisputed favorite from this final round. In fact, if they were to release it as a title track (and I hope they do!), it would probably be my second favorite in their discography, right behind the unbeatable Complete. It’s ambitious in a way that a winning song should be, but doesn’t sacrifice melody. The arrangement is complex and interesting without ever succumbing to the kind of overused EDM and trap elements we’ve been bludgeoned with over the past few years.
I like how their pre-performance video painted them as the endearing underdogs they are. It’s in my DNA to root for the underdogs, especially when they release music this great.
The performance itself was very cool. It didn’t have the flashy props of other teams, but the matching costumes and backing dancers still made it feel grand and well-synchronized. The choreography was just so satisfying, especially when the dancers seemed to form one entity together. But when it comes down to it, this stage’s success was all about the song – just as it should be.
So, who’s clawed their way down this road? Who’s going to Kingdom? And honestly, didn’t we all already know even before this finale aired? Didn’t we know from the very first episode?
My god, was this drawn out! First, they announced the top two teams (The Boyz and ONF), and then hemmed and hawed for ten minutes before announcing The Boyz as the final winner. Even so, it all felt weirdly canned and anticlimactic. I think it was the lack of a live audience. Instead, Jang Sungkyu just shouted as much as he could to fill the void.
And no, Sungkyu… this wasn’t a “festival for all the groups.” A festival wouldn’t have had eliminations. A festival wouldn’t have unnecessary tears and made-for-TV drama.
Still, I’m happy for The Boyz (and even happier for ONF). I hope that Kingdom dials back on the drama and opts for more of the bonding atmosphere that made Queendom so fun.
For now, I guess it’s on to I-Land…
Damn you, MNET.