After ten weeks of competition, Kingdom: Legendary War has concluded. Six groups competed, showcasing different strengths and skills throughout the season. BtoB, SF9, iKon, Stray Kids, The Boyz, and Ateez were judged based on expert evaluations, self-ratings as well as YouTube views, and global voting to win the crown of King. The last five episodes saw more interactions between the groups, unit collaborations, covers, and original songs culminating in a three-hour finale show with live global voting. 

The final ranking stands as follows:

1. Stray Kids

2. The Boyz

3. Ateez

4. BtoB

5. iKon

6. SF9

In this discussion, we ask our writers: how did the second half of Kingdom: Legendary War measure up to the first? Which performances or original songs stood out to you? Do you agree with the final ranking? And finally, what are your thoughts on the show overall?

Siena

While many of the issues I had with Kingdom’s first half didn’t go away in its second, I still think the show noticeably improved as it neared its conclusion. A big part of that was the increased interactions between groups. That kicked off with the fun sports day episode, and then the Mayfly and It’s One team challenge was the highlight of the whole show for me. Not only was it endearing to watch all the idols bounce around in their newfound camaraderie, but some truly great performances also emerged from the collaborations. My personal favorites are the delightfully theatrical “Wolf” and the moving vocal showcase  “Love Poem”.

I do think Kingdom struggled to maintain momentum after the team challenges. You could feel how fatigued all the idols were, and maybe even the producers too, and later episodes felt a little sluggish. Still, there continued to be impressive stages, including BtoB’s “Blue Moon”, Ateez’s “The Real”, and SF9’s “Believer”. 

I’m sure much fuss will be made about the final rankings, but honestly, I’m not sure they ever mattered. For one, after the Produce debacle, Mnet’s competition shows will never be without the shadow of doubt when it comes to their results. But more crucially, the structure of Kingdom itself makes it clear that the show’s priority isn’t rankings, but rather creating the opportunity for bombastic stages and cute interactions that could never exist elsewhere.

Therefore, what truly mattered for the participating groups is seizing that chance and creating memorable performances and viral moments. I think most of the teams did a great job with that, and I’m happy for all of them to have gotten increased attention through Kingdom. I know that I’ll be following all these groups more intently going forward, and I hope other Kingdom viewers will too.

Janine

I  have to agree the second half of the show lost some of its steam. Even though some of my favourite performances came from the second half of the show, I found it tough to keep invested in its progress. The problems of the first half exhausted me in the second. I wish we had more opportunities to see more versatile performances that spoke to an audience without trying to appease the ‘splosions gods.

Kingdom’s judging structure was vague and difficult to relate to, as a viewer. I decided to disregard the ratings midway (after all, no one would be eliminated) and simply enjoy the stages. I think the teams participating in the show suffered from the natural desire for a showstopping number, which made some performances less effective.

My series favourites SF9’s sinuous “Move” cover might have shown more of their simmering charisma and fewer lasers. The Boyz may have been able to pivot away from the Game of Thrones worldbuilding that made their ambitious performances flashy but difficult to follow. But without this structure, we may not have seen the more swing-for-the-fences efforts of the more established groups.

The desire for a showstopper has been a double-edged sword this season, but it has created an atmosphere of competition that gave each group the opportunity to beat their imagined best. The crowned kings of K-pop, Stray Kids, did an incredible job of balancing the expectation for pyrotechnics with showing their talents. The show played to a lot of their strengths, but they did not rest on their laurels but pushed to show their range and competence admirably. Kingdom: Legendary War hasn’t been perfect, I don’t know how many of these stages will be unforgettable but I will always remember how hard everyone fought. 

Sara

If only there was a show where K-pop idols could just collaborate and create eye-catching stages—and let’s make it co-ed, shall we? This is what the second half of Kingdom left me with. While I wasn’t completely blown away by most of the collab stages, I did enjoy seeing the mix-and-match of skills that developed new dynamics and friendships (plus new antics, seen with iKon at 8:33). I would probably spend less time rolling my eyes at Mnet’s attempts to build “suspense” and more time loving every moment if they developed a show that brings together K-pop idols and shuffles them to create stages.

Otherwise, I became more interested in Kingdom after the field day episode. While it was still “work,” it seemed like everyone could relax and have fun for a few hours. Also, I can’t stop laughing at the fact that Kevin from The Boyz twerked, as he mentioned, on national television (but don’t worry, his mom is “very proud” of him). 

On a more serious note, I loved “Love Poem.” Sometimes Eunkwang’s voice dominates over those around him, but the balance Jongho and Seungmin created with him was perfect. All they were doing was singing, yet I believe that this was the most powerful performance of Kingdom. Additionally, SF9’s cover of “Move” completely hooked me. Yes, I have a few frustrations with it—I want more Zuho, and I’m curious why they never danced together as a group—but it’s so addicting to watch. I really wish this turning point came earlier, because SF9 deserve better than sixth place.  

I’m happy for Stray Kids, but I think the ranking lost its meaning throughout the show. At the end of the day, though, I’m glad these groups got the space to push their limits as artists and performers.

Victoria

I think I would agree with everyone so far about the confusing and likely inconsequential ratings. Between the vagueness of the rating paradigm and previous Mnet scandals as you have likely heard about by now, I stopped keeping up with it, beyond tracking who was ranked first some weeks.

With that being said, some of my favorite stages are out of the second half of the show, especially the collab stage “Paint (물감놀이)” from the Mayfly rap unit, Ateez’s “The Real,” Stray Kids’ “God’s Ddu-du Ddu-du (신뚜두뚜두) ” and BtoB’s “Blue Moon” (Cinema Ver.).

I thought “Paint” was delightfully loud and creative (literally), especially knowing that all the members had a hand in the production. Stray Kids’ “God’s Ddu-du Ddu-du” and Ateez’s “The Real” were both delightfully punky and grungy in a very anti-establishment way that I’m especially a fan of. And as for “Blue Moon”, who doesn’t love a little jazz in their popular music? “Blue Moon”’s arrangement, staging, and balance of cheesy, tongue-in-cheek storytelling really suited BtoB and their antics as the oldest group in the competition well.

I loved watching all the groups’ camaraderie and friendships bloom, especially as they discussed creating music together and hyped each other up in their performances. I especially enjoyed seeing some members just overtly simping over their friends in the reactionary clips (shout out to Wooyoung and Eunkwang).

While the rankings were ultimately of little significance, I did appreciate how the latter half of the show really showcased the growing closeness of the groups. Whether it was for Mnet clout or the fostering of genuine friendships, I do hope that future shows really prioritize diverse performance offerings and the interactions between groups, rather than needlessly creating animosity between them, like the second half of the show seemed to.

(YouTube, Images via Mnet, JYPE)