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Kingdom: Legendary War – Episode One Recap and Ranking

Kingdom - Legendary WarWarning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!


Other Recaps: Episode Two // Episode Three


Well… I’m back!

Last year’s Road to Kingdom was a bumpy road for sure, with one particular pothole that still has me feeling PTSD. But, this time will surely be less dramatic. Unlike RTK, Kingdom will not have eliminations! I’m celebrating on behalf of the “warring” groups, while also fuming at MNET for not making this decision last year.

(On a related note, my dorky friends from RTK ended up having the last laugh, so that PTSD pales in comparison to my pride as a fan.)

To calm things even more, I don’t feel like I have a horse in this race. I’ve liked and disliked music from each of these six groups, and though I’m bigger fan of some than others, I feel like each is already successful enough that they’re going to be okay no matter what happens over the course of the series.


THE ARRIVAL

The episode starts with the arrival of The Boyz, and it’s like déjà vu all over again. You’d think these guys would be the underdogs of the show, based on the fact that they qualified for Road to Kingdom, but in the time between the two series, their sales have skyrocketed. They certainly don’t have a rookie air to them anymore.

Stray Kids are next, and all I can think about is that cruel debut show they suffered through with JYP. The guys say they haven’t been on a “competition show” before, but I’d argue that that series was as cutthroat as it gets, even though it was probably fixed from the beginning.

ATEEZ enters, dressed in black. I feel like everybody’s going to be dressed in black. Come to think of it, wasn’t it the same in Road to Kingdom? The Boyz’ Sunwoo picks up on the edgy schtick as well, pointing out some funny tropes in a very self-aware moment.

And right as I prepare myself for an all-dark affair, BTOB arrives wearing white suits. They’re such an odd fit for the show, but I’m curious to see how they will do against these younger, edgier groups.

SF9 are probably the group I know the least about as personalities. I know their music, of course, and like quite a lot of it. But, I’m looking forward to getting to know their individual appeals more through the show.

iKON also seem like an odd fit for this show, but they definitely have experience with survival series. I’m eager to see how they do. I feel like I haven’t really watched a lot of their live performances over the past few years. I’m a Music Bank guy, so I never really get to watch YG groups week to week.

Finally, TVXQ enter as hosts. I was wondering if they would edit Yunho completely out of this episode, and I’m glad they didn’t. It’s still super awkward knowing that he won’t be a part of the show going forward.

The duo lays out the rules, including three rounds and a final. I’m glad to see that the voting is a little more diverse this year. I hated how the voting was traded strictly between the groups for a few of the rounds last year.

Then again, I think it’s dangerous to have too much of the vote be determined by global fans, making the series nothing more than a popularity contest. Either way, I’m going to try to stay as neutral as I can during these recaps and rankings.


INTRODUCTION STAGE

The groups are each performing a song that won them first place in a music show, and these are some freaking epic songs. I’m happy to hear them in any venue, survival show or not.

Disclaimer: I’m watching the full show, and not just clips on YouTube. So, the editing of each performances may inadvertently factor into my rankings. But, I’ll be embedding the full YouTube performances in these posts.


MY RANKINGS

6. SF9 – Good Guy


I feel like this is going to be a season where none of the groups are able to perform as a complete unit. Poor Rowoon was sidelined with an injury, making this SF8. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to hear much of the song here, and the editing did the group no favors. For too long, it just felt like they were jumping around without any real storytelling. However, I’m still eager to learn more about these guys, and I hope they’re able to push themselves and explore new sides to their music.

5. iKON – Rhythm Ta


iKON got to go last because they were the group that most other groups thought would be the winners. I’m not so sure about that, but I’m definitely rooting for them. They could use a boost after a tumultuous few years. This performance had a surprising amount of leapfrogging! It was fun, and I like the switch-up in energy from the other groups. But, it didn’t leave as much impact as some of the earlier performances. Still, the guys looked like they were having fun, which was a rarity tonight!

4. ATEEZ – Wave


Performing without Mingi is always going to be hard. He’s such a big part of the group. And, Wave relies on his deep tone for much of its impact. With that said, this was barely Wave at all. I’m not sure the heavy remix was the best choice for this song, and I thought the whole bleeding effect was a little cheesy. But, they did a decent job reaffirming their theatricality as a group. I wish they hadn’t kept apologizing afterwards, though. Being humble is good, but so is confidence.

3. BTOB – Beautiful Pain


In the context of this show, performing a ballad is actually pretty gutsy, especially first thing out. But, the nice thing about being a seasoned group is that you know your strengths. I don’t imagine we’re going to see much posturing for BTOB on the show. That might not be to their benefit in the context of a “legendary war,” but it’s a nice contrast to some of the younger groups who are still finding their way. However, I wish this performance leaned more heavily into its choir-like introduction. After that brief flourish, the rest of the song felt a bit underwhelming. The performance stood out because of its focus on vocals, but the group is missing some of those key vocalists.

2. The Boyz – The Stealer


The Boyz have already proven themselves masters of these Kingdom stages, so they arguably have more to live up to that anybody else. I thought this performance was really cool. The choreography was on point as usual, even if the mix didn’t really do the song any favors. I loved the ballet section during the climax. The guys know how to bring a sense of dynamics to a performance, telling a story rather than just bringing the same energy throughout. Despite their relative youth, I think they’re clear contenders for the crown.

1. Stray Kids – Miroh


I said I was going to try to remain neutral, but I can’t pretend that Miroh wasn’t my favorite song performed on this episode. Stray kids get extra points just for that. It’s also a track that naturally lends itself to remixes, and I thought the percussive mix here was really cool. I also think the choreography was a bit more nuanced than many of the groups, and the special effects were used really well. They’re going to be a hard group to beat. With that said, the ending was abrupt as hell.


GLOBAL VOTING RESULTS (SORT OF…)

The episode ended with a peak at half of the fan vote that will determine winning benefits for this introductory round. We only got to see numbers 5, 4 and 3. Who do you think will take the rest of the slots? I want to say Stray Kids will be first and The Boyz second, but I find it hard to believe that iKON would come last. I feel like they have more global popularity than that. I guess it also hinges on which acts have fan bases that are dedicated to this kind of voting.

6. ??
5. ATEEZ
4. SF9
3. BTOB
2. ??
1. ??


FINAL THOUGHTS

Comparing this episode to the debut of Road to Kingdom a year ago, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. Of course, circumstances are different, and the strengths of the groups are different, but some of those introductory Road to Kingdom stages still stick in my mind. I’m not sure many of the performances tonight will have the same longevity. I think the producers missed an opportunity to switch up the staging. It could’ve been so much grander, especially since this is supposed to be a “legendary” war.

Judging from this first episode, I think Stray Kids and The Boyz are the most competitive groups. But, it’s very early and so much can change as the other rounds unfold.


NEXT: EPISODE TWO RECAP

40 thoughts on “Kingdom: Legendary War – Episode One Recap and Ranking

    • Probably not. I listened to it a few days ago and it sounded fine, but a lot like all the others.

      To be honest, I’m pretty much over the Produce format (though it did give us JO1’s excellent new song, so I can’t be too mad at it!)

      Like

  1. iKON took the top spot for me. They were the only one that was so smooth and they definitely had fun in that performance. Everyone else felt so clunky and awkward with all those forced stunts and felt a little try hard.. Looking at the other’s contorted faces because of the stunts was a little off putting to say the least.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Also, I don’t get why boy groups these days thinks theatrical=halloween all the time. It’s so overused and it’s so far away from November.

      Like

    • I don’t know what you mean? If I had made a ranking based on the song only it would have looked a lot different:

      Song ranking:
      1. Stray Kids
      2. ATEEZ
      3. The Boyz
      4. SF9
      5. iKON
      6. BTOB

      Liked by 7 people

  2. Funny, in the next episode you’ll see your fav group doing stunts and using props.

    Don’t be disrespectful. Kingdom is not a music show like mcountdown or music bank. You have to create a unique and special performance. That’s why it’s called legendary.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Stomps, stomps, deep gazes and dramatic facial expressions. I was bored after watching just a few performances.
    So I’ll thank BTOB for being the only ones trying something different. I also give a good point to ATEEZ for singing live (even though I also need to immediately cancel my decision : why would you say Hakuna Matata so seriously ?). There was also a little live singing in the SKZ performance so good job !

    Now overall it just seems like nowdays kpop groups doing performances with more money. I hope they’ll show more diverse stages than the RTK groups especially considering how good the cast is

    Liked by 1 person

    • stomp stomps and vigorous arm movements
      angularity
      add a flip or aerial
      glare at the camera

      good!

      (srsly what are all these choreographers angry about all the time)

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think live singing is by definition superior. One of the rap parts in Miroh ended up being slightly off-tempo. Because the backing track with the right tempo could still be heard it ended up sounding messy – but maybe I’m being picky. I do think it’s impressive!

      Liked by 1 person

      • i thought that i was gaslighting myself because no one was discussing Changbin’s rap, thank you for confirming!

        The teasers for episode 2 seem as though the first performances will be cut from the same cloth of: angst, explosions, edge, so I’m not hopeful about diversity in performances haha (i’ll be happy to be proven wrong though!)

        but anyway, stray kids’ seem like they’re intent on self-producing through this competition, so please let it result in something as weird as 3rd eye / side effects 🙏🏼

        Liked by 5 people

  4. I’m sorry but wouldn’t the other 4 groups with choreo feel embarasssed after seeing ateez perform live with that level of choreo only to lip synch for their lives? I know I would.

    On another note, I feel so bad for the seven members of the boyz who aren’t Juyeon, Sunwoo, Hyunjae, or Q as they were basically backup dancers for this stage. At least it was cool in the end.

    Next weeks stages look like they’ll be cool which is fun. Unlike RTK, I hope they just air all the performances for the round in one episode but considering they didn’t reveal all the ranks this week I doubt that will be the case.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Its dejavu all over again. Every day is blursday. Darkness, trying to out edgy everyone else’s edge. …. Are we sure this is actually season two, and not season one? How can we tell? Really, if you didn’t know the groups and the songs, how could you tell them apart?

    The damn stage is so dark, the songs all start with loud foghorn noises, then more noise, some kind of intense fire motif appears on the floor video screen, and stomp stomp stomp pose glare anger anger anger, the haircuts are the same, the clothes are all variations on black biker school boy with slashes and random chains, and hold for the end poses.

    Its like what Nick said about the latest Produce 101 season – same thing, all over again.

    BTOB on top for me, if only because they did something different. I don’t like the song, and the performance was just OK compared to other venues, but it was different.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I am not a RTK/Kingdom watcher, so I’m going to use these recaps to kindof see what’s going on.

    Overall I really dislike noisy remixes that drag a song’s energy down. It is entirely possible to remix a song without making it sound like slow, homogenous noise. Especially the first part of The Stealer remix was very disappointing. Interestingly, I think the ATEEZ remix was great – but I have the advantage of not knowing the original song.

    In terms of performance ATEEZ and Stray Kids impressed me the most. Shoutout to BTOB for doing something different – I think a more creative spin on the ballad style or more knockout vocals would have made it work even better.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for this review! It seems like the groups’ dynamic is going to be a lot more friendly compared to Road to Kingdom (that is, that btob will gleefully ignore whatever machinations the producers throws at them), so I’m excited for other episodes.

    It’s been complained about at length, but I found the competition-focus in the previous season really draining, (and the show was oddly patronising towards the groups), so i’m glad that Btob and Ikon were there to bring much needed chill! The stray kids x the boyz x ateez inter-group friendship was also very funny to watch, here’s to more of such interactions in the future!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve always considered Ateez as being high level performers but man, The Boyz and Stray Kids look undeniably threatening in their performances. I really hope my faves Stray Kids can deliver more exciting performances like this. I also really loved the miroh remix (kinda needed that after like 3000 listens of the original) and they are looking as solid as ever.

    Like

  9. Am I the only one that just really really really misses Queendom? The guys are always way too damn serious. I’m scared that this round and next round is just gonna all be so dramatic and filled with shock-factor.

    I think one huge thing that sets RTK/Kingdom is the lack of a live audience. During Mamamoo’s performance, they were just ooozing with stage presence and really knew how to work with an audience. They came to life and their energy was just so unreal. Like in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hJMSFIH7Cs (Decalmonie by Mamamoo) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5iFHJECQWU (Good Luck by AOA covered by Mamamoo). And now because their is no audience, we rely on stuns, horrible lip-syncing, and visuals to get through it. The performance just don’t seem to come alive and they don’t feel authentic to who the performers are. Especially in Road to Kingdom, their performances just didn’t feel special and became so predictable. The remixes were eh for the most part. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Some performances were fantastic and transcending (It’s Raining and a few others) in a way that was very authentic to them, but I feel too bored at the end because of all the other performances. At some points falling backwards isn’t that interesting anymore and neither is this “I’m so cool grrr” *stomp* *stomp*. I genuinely believe that Pentagon would have had a much higher chance if their was a live audience and they didn’t try so hard to be “cool” all the time and just had fun.

    I hope Kingdom doesn’t fall into this trap, but the “meet-greet” performances were disappointing. They were good, but they just were energizing and memorable. iKon’s greatest strength is their stage presence with live singing and rapping, but they didn’t utilize that here. The dance was good, but they really should have sang and rapped live. If there was an audience, they could have hyped up the crowd and really did their things, but they chose to just dance… which happens to be their weakest area. I feel like SF9 wants to prove that they are more than visuals and then winds up… walking… for like 45 seconds. They are actually really really talented and have great songs only just to waste it on walking… (Also they get barely any screen-time to begin with). BTOB was nice since their’s was different and they actually seemed to sing live (thank god). I’m quite impressed by Minhyuk for pulling off those new parts and I just love their energy off-stage. I didn’t come for them, but I’m definitely turning into a fan. Ateez was amazing, but I think they were way too serious. Wave is supposed to be fun, bright, and energetic. The remix isn’t bad, but I didn’t like the blood part (cuz ew wtf) and the “Hakuna Matata” part. I think it’s the cultural differences and perhaps if Lion King didn’t exist, I wouldn’t cringe as much. But I really liked how they were so passionate, told a clear story, and sang live. Some people were like “oh, their vocals were off”, but I like to hear them struggle tbh. It’s great that they went first. Again, they would have done a lot better with a live audience. Stray Kids was great. The remix, energy, and props were great. Keep up the good work, boys. TBZ was good and are good contenders to the crown, but I for future episodes, I don’t want to hear the Stealer or Reveal. They got to try new things and can’t rely too much on stunts. I would love to hear their voices more

    Damn, I typed a lot. In a nutshell, I wish people didn’t take themselves so seriously and sang live more. I understand that it’s not easy with hard dances and lip-syncing is NOT a sin. They are all amazing performers in their own right and I wish they go with their strengths and have fun instead of trying hard to be something they are not.

    I really want mnet to at least have a limited audience outdoor or something follow COVID restrictions. I think it would be good to change things up for at least one episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Not taking themselves too seriously” is basically a wish I have for every boy group, Kingdom or not! Take the craft seriously, and please please take the songs seriously, but not everything has to have fifteen layers of meaning and be performed like a battle cry. Sometimes a great pop song is enough 🙂

      Like

    • You are not alone. I feel like the majority of the purpose of the show is just lost on boy groups. Show me a boy group that hasn’t done an ‘I’m so edgy, smoldering, and serious’ concept at some point in their careers. Personally, I feel like girl groups wind up being a bit more pigeonholed to their sounds and concept, so Queendom was a fantastic way of seeing them tackle something new, adapt another song to their own style, or showing off the talents of individual members that rarely get that opportunity in their own comebacks. Most of the RTK/Kingdom performances feel like I could be watching any mediocre year end awards ceremony, but there was something more special and charming about Queendom.

      Like

  10. I feel bad that half of the votes will be controlled by fans. It’s gonna be a popularity contest. I’m rooting for several groups, but I feel bad for btob cause they are only doing vocals, but their vocals are kinda average for a boy group maybe a little above but I feel they need more

    Like

  11. My ranking for the intro stages:

    6. SF9
    5. ATEEZ
    4. BTOB
    3. Stray Kids
    2. The Boyz
    1. iKON

    I really loved iKON’s performance. It flowed well and was the most fun. I love watching groups actually enjoy their stages. The contemporary section of The Stealer really made it stand out. The Boyz understand this stage setup well and know how to use their numbers so they definitely have the potential to be the group to beat again. Parts of Stray Kids performance I liked, but overall I thought it was kind of gimmicky. ATEEZ is my favorite group out of the competitors, and because of that I know they have more to offer than they showed in this stage. I hope they’re able to live up to their 2019 MAMA performance during the show. BTOB was good, but I also wanted them to lean into the choir arrangement more. I’m excited for live vocals, and even more excited for their harmonies. I don’t know much about SF9, and I felt like all their performance really told me about them was that they’re tall and handsome (not a bad thing, but compared to the other stages it felt underwhelming).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 🎵They see me rollin they hatin~

    why some people seems to hate props, stunts, theatrical performance? 🤔 I think that’s what makes stage more interesting to watch.

    You can have good song, best vocal but if the performance not interesting, it doesn’t leave impression to audiences.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Just saw the episode and Stray Kids were my fav as well. Probably because I like Miroh so much as a song. I thought Hyunjin was on hiatus though? Maybe this was filmed earlier but I hope he continues to appear!

    Also, Is anyone else missing B.I. here? I know I am.

    Like

  14. Perhaps I am biased, but I must say BTOB’s performance really stands out from the rest. Tbh it wasn’t the best arrangement, or even their best performance but nevertheless – memorable. They play the game to their strengths. Don’t ever change BTOB. I agree with the rest of the comments – the other groups being the same old, same old. However, this is not their fault. For years now, there has been a lack of diversity in genres/styles in male groups that need to be addressed. Not just in Kingdom btw. I believe there needs to be better vocalists in the industry. I understand that many can sing beautifully to an extent but can they REALLY sing? Powerfully. Explosively. Expressively. Only then, we can have a plethora of songs with large vocal ranges. Until then, we are stuck with (what I believe to be are) mediocre, edm, rap, dance-heavy songs. This is NOT to condescend these genres, simply to state that clearly as everyone agrees in the comment section, there is room for improvement. For example, many groups explore the rock ‘concept’ – but no one can make the sounds that is characteristic to the genre. Rock is an entire genre itself but they simply skimp over this, and rather just rap and dance over a basic, generic guitar riff. They explore jazz – but can’t scat and likewise label it is as a ‘concept’. The industry needs better singers, musicians and composers not just dancers.

    Like

    • I believe Kpop singers can sing (if they are trained to sing properly). However, due to their young age, how many singers out there actually have enough life experiences to even sing ‘explosively’ or ‘expressively’. To be fair, it’s not their fault. Unless they happen to be singer-songwriters themselves.

      Kpop industry is largely about visuals, personalities and performances.

      Like

    • ^What she said^

      The order these days is visuals > dance > vocals , and that is unfortunate. My humble opinion, it should be the exact opposite.

      Like

  15. BTOB and iKon are already LEGENDS and they don’t need fancy performances to prove themselves as others would say that their performances were lacking lmao. Still, kudos to all the groups, they all did GREAT!^^

    Like

  16. For me I believe that IKON and BTOB showed something different whereas the other 4 performances were almost similar. SF9 were different too.. According to me iKON is definitely up for 1st place without a doubt. Next (2nd) should have been be BTOB, you could feel the emotions from there performance and aura. SKZ were amazing too but i feel like the rest of the groups like TBZ, ATEEZ and SKZ, just focused on choreo rather than overall stage presence but we got to see that in iKON’s and BTOB’s performance. Whereas SF9 were like in between, they had a good balance of choreo and stage presence. I personally liked iKON’s and BTOB’s performance the best!!! I really hope for iKON to get the 1st place. *fingers crossed*

    Like

  17. The last three performances by SKZ, TBZ and iKon are my top 3 performances. iKon’s performance is what I liked best because they showed their color as a group where they don’t need to change their typical performance style to show something different especially that this is a ‘group introduction’ stage. Incorporating hip hop gentlemen was also dope which reminded fans that YGe swag ain’t dead yet.

    TBZ comes next because their performance didn’t disappoint as winners in RTK. They made use of their numbers and experience well for their stage but seriousness was all over them and I hope they will enjoy more their next performances for Kingdom as the group is an all-rounder in terms of vocal, rap and performance.

    SKZ is really known for their dark concept which was also a good introduction stage for their group. Props? Props are used to make a performance more interesting, obviously, and that metal incorporation is also not new to JYPe groups so their overall performance was well-thought of though they should be more careful with their stunts.

    BTOB is ranked 4 personally because BTOB songs are really full of emotions especially ballad ones but I think they can do better and I believe so. Main rapper Minhyuk filled the other vocalist’s part which is a big twist even though Melodys are already aware of his beautiful voice.

    SF9 comes next. All their title songs are amazing though it’s a shame that they got their first win just recently since 2016, but it’s a great news to all Fantasys. They known as a performance group and I believe they can actually showcase their cool choreographies for their next stages and also hoping for Rowoon’s complete recovery.

    Ateez comes last unfortunately because their choice of remixing heavy sounds did not showcase what their song Wave actually portrays. I think their performance would be better if they sticked on the fun side of the song and enjoyed their performance as what Ateez usually does and I believe in their potential to reach the top.

    All of the groups were amazing that I excitedly watched their performances all throughout. Melodys, iKonics, Fantasys, Deobis, Stays and Atinys fighting!! Can’t wait to watch their next stages^^

    Like

    • Sadly iKON came last, just because of some knetz and their hate for YGE for no apparant reason. Imagine being blinded by so called hate for YG that they don’t even consider the artist’s hardwork and amazing performance. Also as much as I love ATEEZ and specifically WAVE, I don’t think that their version of WAVE was executed well, they changed the whole vibe of wave in a weird way. But they still ranked above iKON? How is that even explainable? Like there wasn’t even a single flaw in their performance, moreover they had the whole vibe and stage presence yet they got such low rank.
      IDRC if mindless knetz don’t have the taste to like iKON, that’s their loss not ours..
      iKON FTW, always!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s sadly true but I believe in international iKONics giving their full support to the boys. Let’s not lose hope and enjoy their performances more even if the ranking keeps on being that way (typical Msnake). Let’s also root for all the groups to give fans their best performance!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I am baffled that so many people don’t consider the top performance belonging to Stray Kids. Also, is it me, or does this show seem low key disrespectful? Like, why have iKon and BTOB? Not because they can’t compete, but because they are no where near rookies. Why have Ateez sitting on foldable chairs while everyone else gets a couch? Why film for 30+ consecutive hours?? Everyone is performing while exhausted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, only MNET can answer your questions. You know how MNET works so it isn’t new nor surprising for them to treat all the groups equally. Keeping in mind that everyone is awfully exhausted and trying their very best for the show, the only thing we could do is to give support to every participating groups and hope that nothing worse will happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m a fan of Ateez, & while i didn’t enjoy their intro stage a lot (I didn’t have high expectations heading in either, just bc they’d been so busy with a cb I didn’t see how they’d be able to prepare enough) it was still a little crushing to see them rank 5th with fan votes. I have no idea how Ikon ranked so low either because like you said, I thought they were very big globally. Anyways, hopefully they’ll both be able to flip things around with the next round of performances, although quite honestly, no one deserves to be last.

    Liked by 1 person

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