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Kingdom: Legendary War – Episode Two Recap and Ranking

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


Other Recaps: Episode One // Episode Three


THE RANKING

We kick off immediately with the rest of the global fan vote from last week and learn that sixth place goes to iKON. I can’t say I’m too surprised, and I don’t think it means that they’ve suddenly lost their fans. I just don’t think there’s as much crossover between their fanbase and the type of person who would power-vote on these types of shows. Or, maybe their fans are just sick of survival shows in general. These guys have already been through so many! To iKON’s credit, they take their last place finish in good stride.

First place goes to Stray Kids, and The Boyz take runner-up. I’m not surprised. In fact, it matched my own ranking last week! Both groups have relatively newer fan bases that are currently surging. Those two elements are a major boon for this style of a show. I expect these groups to battle it out pretty closely throughout the series.

Introductory Round: Final Ranking
6. iKON
5. ATEEZ
4. SF9
3. BTOB
2. The Boyz
1. Stray Kids

Next, the upgraded stage for this season is revealed, and I like that it’s bigger and feels less claustrophobic than Road to Kingdom. As TVXQ stride out to get things started, all the groups go crazy. Rightfully so!


ROUND ONE: TO THE WORLD

The groups are tasked to send “a message to the world.” That’s pretty damn vague, but whatever. Like the introductory round, the guys will be performing one of their own songs. This is fine, I guess. But, I’m eagerly awaiting the covers (and hopefully collaborations) that will arrive later in the series.

The judging for this round comes from a hodgepodge of different groups, which I think is a smart idea. I’m especially interested in who the “K-pop experts” are, whose ranking will determine twenty-five percent of the final vote. Kingdom promises to reveal this “later.”

As expected, MNET spend all sorts of time focusing on Stray Kids choosing the order of performances this week. It’s fluff, but at least we get to see some personality amidst all the “warring.”

It’s decided that for this episode, The Boyz will go first, followed by iKON and BTOB. The rest of the groups will perform on next week’s show.

Disclaimer: I’m watching the full episode, not the unedited clips on YouTube. I’ll be embedding the full YouTube performances in these posts, but my ranking is determined by what was shown in the episode itself.


MY RANKINGS

3. The Boyz – No Air


The group is pleased with their second-place finish, which they didn’t expect. It’s a good spot to be during the first round, actually. They’re near the top, but there’s still room to grow.

As the guys are discussing the song they want to perform, I’m realizing again what a strong singles run they’ve had. They end up picking No Air, which I didn’t care for when it was first released but has grown on me so, so much over the years.

Understandably, they feel pressure to live up to all the impressive stunts they showcased during Road to Kingdom. In a way, they have a harder path ahead of them during this series, as they’ve set expectations so high and have already used up some of their tricks last year.

Perhaps because of this, they decide to literally go underwater for a special video shoot that will be part of their performance. It gives me anxiety just to watch them do this, and reinforces the fact that idols have to do a lot of uncomfortable things just to stand out. Seriously, I don’t even know how they’re opening their eyes and mouth while under the water! I’m totally with Sunwoo here, who really doesn’t wanna be doing this. In fact, I feel like I’m always with Sunwoo. His deadpan observations certainly resonate.

This was a very theatrical performance, as I would expect from the boys. The POV concept was pretty cool, and the staging impactful. I’m not as sold on the song’s remix. It started off really strong, but slowed too much in the middle and lost a bit of momentum. And, all that underwater shooting that they suffered through was barely used in the actual performance!

As usual, there were a lot of clever ideas here and their storytelling was strong. But as a piece of musical performance, I don’t think it ranked among their best. The climax was pretty cool, though — particularly the backflip!

2. BTOB – Missing You


BTOB are by far the “oldest” in the competition, having debuted in 2012. They’re quite different from all the other groups, which can be a challenge or an asset depending on how you look at it. Their behind the scenes package is edited as a parody of popular variety show I Live Alone, which highlights one of their strengths: their fun, easy-going personalities.

Their song decision process comes across as more lighthearted than the other groups, probably because they don’t feel like they have as much to prove. But though they’re largely seen as ballad singers nowadays, there was a time when they were doing high concept dance music like Kingdom’s younger acts. Well, maybe not quite like them, but you get the idea!

They have a hard time deciding whether to go for a ballad again, do something fun and upbeat, or challenge a dark and conceptual stage. Ultimately, they decide to go with a tried-and-true ballad that showcases their strength as vocalists. The sentimental Missing You will be upgraded with traditional Korean elements.

The set design, costumes and lighting for this stage were all gorgeous. Creating a forest was such a smart idea. It’s low tech, but high impact. And of course, as vocalists, they are on a different level than the two groups that went before them. From a pure performance standard, this was highly polished throughout. But, I must admit that I found the staging a bit boring during the middle before the epic sword fight changed the mood.

Minhyuk was definitely an MVP here, and transitioned to the song’s climax with flair. The arrangement was great too. It wasn’t over the top, but changed the original enough to make it stand out.

1. iKON – Love Scenario + Killing Me


iKON have never been a group that felt suited to this type of show. They’re not particularly high concept, which isn’t a bad thing. They’re more focused on the music itself, and the attitude and swagger that powers it. That pays off on the charts, but might be a struggle in the context of a performance-based show like Kingdom.

The group spends some time discussing this very concern before deciding which song to perform. Ultimately, they opt to call celebrity friends to help them decide which song (or songs) should make the cut. Awkwardly, this includes Chani of competing group SF9. Throughout it all, Bobby looks a little distracted, picking at his clothing and awkwardly smiling. I forgot how much fun he is on variety shows. Winner’s Mino and Seungyoon also make appearances, with Mino sporting the most awkwardly disheveled hair.

They end up deciding to mash up Love Scenario and Killing Me — two very good, very popular songs. It gives them a chance to highlight the strength of their discography, while offering a contrast in tones.

I just loved this performance. I’m a sucker for movie musical concepts, and that style of storytelling works very well for Kingdom. The staging was clean and simple, and shone great spotlight on the group’s dancing (which they never get enough credit for).

I adored the funk mix of Love Scenario. It didn’t lose the charm of the original song, but changed it up in such a fresh way. The transition to the darker, more emotional Killing Me could’ve been an absolute mess, but it was perfectly executed in keeping with the theme of the stage. Taken together, both songs showed wonderful range, and should easily help the group rebound from sixth place.


Next week, we’ll see the three remaining performances and I’ll mix them in with these three for a final ranking!

21 thoughts on “Kingdom: Legendary War – Episode Two Recap and Ranking

  1. I’m also team iKON for this one! In terms of audio, people say that BTOB’s song flows more perfectly…and I can’t say I disagree with that statement, but iKON’s mashup is just another level of storytelling.
    Also re: Sunwoo – has he always been spotlighted like this (in interviews and reactions) during RTK? I never watched RTK; his observations here are definitely relatable to some viewers (including me).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I watched RTK and while my memory is pretty fuzzy, he does have some good comments there as well I think! As someone who didn’t really know the individual members of The Boyz going into the show, Sunwoo, Eric, and Juyeon were the ones that stuck out the most to me throughout RTK (Eric for his reaction shots and energy, and Juyeon for having centre-esque roles, and Sunwoo both for the stunts but also for some of his general deadpan attitude that translated well when I later watched some of their variety content).

      Man, RTK had some fun guys who made it quite lively – Golden Child’s Jangjun, Pentagon’s Hui, everyone in ONF but particularly Wyatt. Kingdom’s shaping up to have some fun interactions too, I’m more invested in that than in the competition aspect of it so I’m hoping we get more of those!

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  2. Each team showed an amazing performance, but for me, IKON is by far the most outstanding. I am really impressed with their enchanting part during Love Scenario and strong image during Killing me. Besides, I am very happy that all members of IKON can show their skills (in this performance mainly Donghyuk and Chan-woo)

    Did you also catch female whisper from Bigbang “Let’s not fall in love” (around 2:42) Maybe Bigbang is coming. Who knows ?!

    Like

  3. I totally agree. I love the Boyz probably the most out of the Kingdom groups but I thought that while they themselves really did as best as they could – the song mix and the stage directions just failed them this time. I don’t see this as their fault but the No Air mix was weak and meandering, completely erasing the power of the song’s original chorus. Also because there were so many single shots of the members and the choreo then wasn’t as tight, the performance then fell apart even more. I was also a little bit sad because of the camera – I understand that the directions for the Mnet camera operator must have been quite complicated + the POV dancers sandwiching him throughout the performance must have been annoying but I felt that he accidentally shot a lot of the studio background, lights and staff lurking of the other side of the scene as well and it took me out of the performance even more.

    iKON on the other hand did amazing and their “dance practice” video from their YT channel show an even stronger performance and BTOB are just all around wonderful and I am so happy they they chose to participate. They bring so much balance and skill.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is it me or are they editing the reactions a little cleaner? Like instead of totally interrupting the song and replaying from when they cut away, they are letting the song play over the reactions so we don’t get those awkward cutbacks.

    I might have enjoyed the Boyz performance this most- they just go there. I also think it’s funny ikon “dynamited” Love Scenario.

    I love watching BTOB’s preshow dynamic, I just felt those white square set-pieces totally killed the energy, vibe, and storytelling. It really highlighted the disparities between production budgets.

    I’m really enjoying the show. I watched the ep with my friend who only watches kpop content when I show him (and his favorite song is Lovelyz Achoo) – and he loved it too. He really pointed out how the pre-performance content really highlights what each group is about. The Boyz with their intense prep and almost “method acting” the songs. BTOB drinking beers and eating pizza, enjoying each other’s company. Unfortunately, to me, ikon’s segment made them seem kinda unsure, and floundering. Glad the performance ended up pretty cool!

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  5. Absolutely agree with your rankings here! Although the footage of iKON picking a song was drawn out to a painful degree, I thought their performance was the cleanest and most effective. It was easy to understand what they were going for and it was executed well. BTOB really are in a league of their own and I appreciate their presence—they’re not taking this too seriously, which they shouldn’t!

    I’m admittedly biased towards The Boyz, but this was just messy. Their polish—in concept, costuming, and performance—is what stood out for me in RTK. The lack of polish is what made Checkmate their weakest RTK performance, imo, and the same issue of oversaturation was abundant here. Several elements were interesting: Sunwoo dangling from the rope (which the solo cam revealed was almost a disaster!), Juyeon with the dancing fabric, Eric’s flip…but together it just felt incoherent to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is my first time watching a reality show featuring a group of idols. K-POP’s survival shows aren’t for me. They are too cut-throat and I am not interested in upsetting myself this way. I tried watching I-Land once and felt it was mostly psychological warfare on a bunch of kids and hated the stress and mental anguish that Big Hit, Mnet and the industry in general puts on young children. So, I decided not to watch Road to Kingdom and skip to this instead.
    Kingdom seems like a performance-based competition so groups like Stray kids, Ateez and the Boyz appear to have an advantage in this format. With that said, Ikon stole this episode for me. While I am familiar with a bit of their discography, I didn’t know of the boys as much. The guys all seem to have fun and a bit awkward personality, which is quite disarming and great for variety shows. They also took their 6th position in great strides. Their performance was a solid story storytelling with fantastic music. I loved the love scenario arrangement and how it was performed as a musical. The transition to killing me could have been jarring but it was done seamlessly. It was a great performance and the best of this episode for me.
    The Boys on the other hand seem to be under a lot of pressure. I understand that they feel like they need to go bigger because of their performances in ‘Road to Kingdom’, but it was hard to watch as Sunwoo put himself in that uncomfortable situation despite not really wanting to. I hear that ‘Road to Kingdom’ gave a boost to their careers and they sold tons of albums after that, so the guys are under pressure to keep that momentum going for this show as well. I just hope they have a great management team who can get the guys any help they may need to manage all this stress level etc. I’m sure a lot of other idols groups are also under this pressure, considering how over-saturated the K-pop industry appears to be.
    Their performance however was a letdown. For all the props and the stunts and the backflips(which was quite cool), the music itself was a not good. I wasn’t a fan of the remix and so I couldn’t get into their performance. The guys have cool ideas and I hope it works out for them in the future.
    Weirdly, I am glad that BTOB is a part of this show. Their style certainly isn’t made for a show like this and the guys are aware that their strengths lie in spaces other than visual experiences, which strengths may not easily translate on such a show. But they bring so much calm and joy as a senior group to a viewer like me who would otherwise be just anxious watching the behind the scenes of the other younger groups. The guys have great attitude and I know it comes from their experience but I’m hoping the younger idols take a note of this for the future. Performance wise, they stuck to their strengths and added some theatrics to their performance which was quite neat to watch. It made for an enjoyable viewing.

    Seems like I have the same ranking as you, Nick!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Boyz performance was really stunning, I love the POV fiming. Unfortunately, the remix does nothing to support the dramatic visuals. I agree with commenters above that there is a lot there – a lot of interesting stuff, but it doesn’t quite come together in a satisfying and polished way.

    I never knew much about BTOB but their vocals sound really good. I’m not sure how I feel about the sword fighting and song transitions, but it definitely looked cool. I like the traditional Korean concept there as well.

    Ikon steals the show for me, too. Funky Love Scenario is the only remix on this show so far that I enjoy just as much as the original. I, too, love musicals and musical-like concepts. Well-paced, too. Really solid!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. i stopped following stray kids as much in mid-2018, so it’s surprising how big their fandom grew? though their 1st rank could’ve also been influenced by the demographic of their fanbase haha

    BTOB’s performance is my favourite so far, I’m a sucker for the traditional remix. There were comments on reddit about combining their performance with OMG’s Destiny remix, and it would work so well? Regardless, I’m a big fan of their staging and voices, they’re always such relaxed singers

    I’m not sure how I would rank iKon’s and The Boyz’ performances because I’ve gripes with them both. iKon’s musical remix is excellent, and they used their props to great effect, but I’m not a fan of the addition of Killing You, despite how well they pulled the transition off 🤔

    The Boyz’ performances were as technically competent and creative as ever, but the high concept’s starting to feel stale? and this is coming from someone who wanted them to win RtK! as much as i liked their Danger / Reveal / Shangri La performances, i really want them to pull a Heroine and perform something unbashedly musical-esque in Kingdom — they’ll definitely be able to pull that off

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  9. I think the biggest difference between the groups this episode was the emotional appeal that each group had and it was obvious by the other group’s reactions. I mean BTOB know that the second they stand in a circle and start singing the water works start pouring. That one Ateez member with the phone banner looked close to tears the entire time. BTOB’s stage was simple yet effective and really beautiful(now that’s not a word you’d expect used on a show like Kingdom). And Ikon just know how to both have a good time and to make the audience have a good time. Someone needs to release the full Love Scenario remix cause that was such a bop. Their story was clear and not overly complicated and they somehow made two opposite sounding songs work so well together (though the LS remix was vastly superior to the Killing Me one).
    These two groups just bring a completely different feel and attitude to the show like when Ikon returned from performing and immediately were like “okay now we get to enjoy everyone else’s stages” and BTOB just seem so supportive(they really have nothing to lose-they’re just here to sing their little ballads and joke around). I mean Ikon and BTOB were the only participants that the other groups sang along with (and I think I heard some fan chants at one point).
    Now compare that with the Boyz and the gap is obvious. The Boyz just seem stressed and anxious (someone needs to give these poor guys some rest) and they lean into these highly detailed theatrical performances with little emotional appeal. I mean I respect the details but at the end of the day I literally just don’t remember them so they have such little impact especially since their bells and whistles aren’t really that cohesive. Like why do the under water thing if it’s going to be a game of thrones theme and if everything is white and grey why have the hand’s jewelry be red. I feel like the Boyz have really cool ideas performance wise (the dancing through the sheet was awesome though it seemed a bit random and modern for their theme) but it’s too much all at once (coupled with a disinteresting arrangement of No Air that was borderline criminal). Stray kids really did them a disservice putting them first (but that was probably on purpose because competition show and all).
    I hope the Boyz get out of this slump and honestly I’d love to see them tackle one of their fresh songs (Bloom Bloom for the introduction stage would have been very interesting) and have some fun with it, I propose Giddy Up because that queen deserves some love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is it. The Boyz just seem stressed and anxious to deliver a performance that tops the previous one—which isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but their performances have felt joyless and mechanical to me. It doesn’t look like they’re having fun or immersed in what they’re doing, and I don’t feel emotionally drawn in when watching them, so far.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. iKon stole the show.Perfect performance.
    BTOBs was a little boring but their performance was clean.
    The Boyz performance was a mess. They were trying too hard with their props and cringy acting.

    Remove the unnecessary props and cringy acting, iKon will win.

    Like

  11. When The Boyz did their underwater photo shoot for this performance, it reminded me of the similar but traditional Korean clothed photo shoot of the tragically overlooked ACE did for their last album (it really produced some gorgeous photos and I’d urge anyone to take a look at them). It just got my head stuck on wishing less known groups that have had such strong title track runs were on the show that I zoned out most of The Boyz performance. I’d give a similar ranking as you, but I definitely appreciated BTOB’s self-awareness and the execution of their song, so I’d have them neck and neck with iKon, especially since they managed to draw me in with a song I’ve never particularly cared for that much previously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ACE are awesome, and the photo book they produced for their last album was awesome. So incredibly elegant. The album itself is awesome too.

      I am speaking very proudly because darling daughter had control of the ipod in the car the other day, and she decided she wanted to play all ACE. She apparently really likes “Cactus”. I am OK with this.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My ranking IKON > BTOB > The Boyz (not that it matters, my few streams mean nothing in this vote)

    IKON – Love Scenario half – this was good! It’s a good solid pop song that doesn’t need high concept to sell it, just a bunch of trench coats and enough dance to make it song and dance. The break off to Killing Me half was awkward because (hah) the dance wasn’t strong enough. I agree with Nick though that the typical Ikon supporter is not the kind to obsessively stream and whatever it is the kids do this week to vote.

    BTOB – I am a sucker for sageuk and hanbok, so I liked the styling of this one. The performance itself was like their first one – actually live, and good for this competition, but compared to other venues and other expectations just middle of the road. I don’t know if the story had any deep cultural meaning, but it was cool to watch. Also, can’t remember the song afterwards.

    The Boyz – see, this is why the 3rd gen just doesn’t do it for me. Sure there is a lot of work and passion in there, but it comes across as all heat and no light. Or is it all light and no heat. I am speaking broadly, not specifically about The Boyz. At this point I am over this style because it brings nothing new to me, nor nothing old redone in a refreshing way. Vigorous arm waving trying to signify …. What? What existential angst is trying to be coveyed? OK, the stretchy scrim work in magenta and yellow hues was cool while that lasted.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love tbz performance, that’s what I wanted to see in kingdom stage. Live vocal, rap, dance, acting, story, concept, scenery, costume, lighting, and sound. Ikon & BTOB are also good. Every group has their own style. it’s so interesting. Can’t wait to see stray kids, ateez & sf9.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I totally agree with the ranking this week! iKON is able to deliver a high quality performance that looks relaxed, which is a huge appeal for me. They’ve been my favorite two weeks in a row. The storyline was well-executed, & the LS remix was fantastic. I also thought they really used the stage to their advantage. DK falling off the staircase and Chanwoo throwing the lighter were both such cool moments.
    I enjoyed BTOB’s performance. I really liked Changsub’s opening. Overall, I felt like they didn’t lean into the concept enough. The original choreography didn’t go with the traditional remix very well in my opinion, & I didn’t feel like there was enough transition into Minhyuk’s solo section. However, the transition out of it was truly perfect, with the instrumental coming back in as he puts his sword down and changes clothes. I also just realized that the last part before they walk into the trees is like a victory celebration, which adds a lot to the storyline.
    I truly do love high concept stages, but I think it’s time for The Boyz to just keep it simple for a performance or two. There were parts of this I think were awesome (the screen freezing over, Sunwoo hanging from the rope, Juyeon dancing in front of the screen), but it felt like there were too many details & the bigger picture got lost. The song was dragging so much when the high notes happened it didn’t seem like a climax at all. I also feel like their performances are starting to focus too much on one member. There’s a ton of talent throughout the group, & I want to see them showcase that.

    Liked by 1 person

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