The competition has barely begun, but it already seems as if we have gone through so much already with all of these groups. I am glad that they revealed some constructive criticism from the critics in this episode, but of course, in Mnet dramatic fashion, the actual final rankings for Round One haven’t been revealed yet (by this, I mean the combined scores of the expert and group rankings, YouTube views and global fan voting).
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances that were shown in this episode, and can’t wait for the performances to come in episode 5! As I told two friends of mine who are also following Kingdom, this moment in the competition is what I was truly waiting for-that moment when I find myself having a hard time to choose because the performances were so good.
Before we proceed to the spoiler filled recap, I just wanted to say that I won’t be putting my rankings and explanations yet here, as I’ll reserve it for the next episode when they reveal everything.
For now, you know the drill! From here on out, there will be spoilers!
The episode began with the groups reading out loud some of the comments and constructive criticism they got from the critics right before they started planning what they will do for the next round.
Ateez was told that the “performance was like the dynamics of a live show”, that it was memorable because of those consecutive high notes, and that “they realized the concept with details that weren’t complicated and with a well-written storyline”.
Stray Kids was told that the “frequent changes in the scene didn’t seem to help” as Stray Kids is “known for their spirit”, and that they were able to understand that the boys were using the colors of black and white to symbolize an inner struggle.
The Boyz was told that the performance “exceeded the confinement of the stage”, that the “1st person POV was novel”, and that the performance didn’t seem to match the level of what they did during Road to Kingdom. The air was already heavy in the room when Sunwoo read it out, but they looked disappointed in themselves when it was read out loud. Hyunjae, however, broke the silence and reminded everyone that its good to hear all kinds of criticism.
For BTOB, the critics thought that adding Korean and oriental elements into it suited the song well and that a key highlight was Minhyuk’s sword dancing. However, they were told that it might have been better if there was a storyline to the performance.
iKON was told that the rearrangement of the song, especially as the first part really contrasted with the second part was good; DK’s performance transitioning into the second song was good; and that it was a neat performance. However, they were told that the performance wasn’t as impressive as they expected given that the two songs chosen were very iconic (no pun intended) ones.
SF9 was feeling down due to their low group rankings. The criticism that they got was that the performance felt a bit hectic; and that the “overall mood and connection between the songs were great” but it lacked any highlights or key points in the performance.
Round Two: Re-Born
As the winner of both the group and expert rankings, Ateez was given the privilege of choosing which group they would like to switch songs with, as the Round Two theme, Re-Born, called for them to switch songs with each other. Ateez picked iKON as they have many songs that can showcase their energy. Stray Kids surprisingly chose BTOB, as they do like many BTOB songs and as they felt that rearranging BTOB songs into their color would be very interesting. BTOB was surprised as they were fully expecting Stray Kids to pick The Boyz. So, in the end, The Boyz and SF9 swapped songs. When asked for their comments on the matter, The Boyz’s New said that he had hoped to switch songs with Stray Kids, while SF9’s Chani said that he would have liked to have swapped songs with BTOB.
SF9- The Stealer (The Scene)
When they were discussing what The Boyz song to choose, Chani immediately mentioned The Stealer, because even if The Boyz did perform it during their introduction stage, it combines their own strengths, memorable “points” and it has an “it factor” to it. Jaeyoon absolutely loved the “pow” part, which he kept on repeating for other possible songs such as “Giddy Up” and “Bloom Bloom”. In the end, “The Stealer” won as Rowoon mentioned that it fits them more than the youthful colorful vibe. They then decided to add a twist to the song by giving it the film noir treatment and made it a story in four parts. They then got some acting training from musical actor Chung Sung Hwa, who emphasized that the way they look on stage, their movements, will be informed by the little backstories they create for their given roles. For example, Rowoon practiced staring and looking like the gang’s boss, and it worked! (Mnet also added in some clips of Chani’s and Rowoon’s dramas as well!) Zuho and Jaeyoon also had extra practice sessions as they had more of the action sequences in the performance. It was also noted how although Youngbin is the leader, Taeyang, as the main dancer, naturally stepped up to be the leader for Kingdom.
As for the performance itself, Ateez compared it to an action movie, and Stray Kids said that it was well thought of.The Boyz absolutely loved the arrangement and how they turned the originally dandy and edgy performance into a more “wild and manly one”.
I thought that the performance was a great one, and that they really took the comments and criticisms into consideration. I liked the use of the set, and how instead of it overwhelming them, it became key areas for certain parts of the story, and was very practically used. It had particular key points, such as Rowoon taking the safe in the beginning, Zuho’s and Jaeyoon’s action sequences, the dancer’s dance break, that part when Inseong shoots that guy holding a gun to Chani, and that rap part of Hwiyoung where everything goes wrong and he gets stabbed. I liked that there was a simple storyline- them stealing the crown that The Boyz stole; and the acting was on point! I liked that they were able to include Rowoon without straining his back injury, and I loved how the song felt like an SF9 song. Also, the dancing all throughout was super smooth and slick, just like the song rearrangement, and it reminded me of how much of a strong dance group they are! I’m glad that they are adjusting well to what seems to be what the critics are looking for, but they are doing it with such a positive attitude! I’m excited to see how each performance gets better and better!
The Boyz- O Sole Mio (The Red Wedding)
While discussing what SF9 song to choose, the group decided to attempt doing the famous waterwheel dance formation that SF9 did for their pre-debut song “K.O.” but failed. They also remembered how they used to practice “Easy Love” as trainees, but ended up deciding to go with “O Sole Mio”. However, they became conflicted as they tried to decided a direction to take with the song- should they go with something their strengths or should they go with trying something new? As they were a bit down, Hyunjae set up a meeting between The Boyz (Hyunjae, Juyeon and Q), and their colleagues from Road to Kingdom. Oneus’ Hwanwoong and Seoho came, as well as ONF’s Hyojin and E-Tion, and Verivery’s Kangmin and Dongheon. (As someone who watched RTK, I would have loved for TO1, Golcha and Pentagon to have appeared as well, but I know that these groups were quite busy during the time of filming). The advice they gave them was to stick their strengths of having large scale performances with a storyline while trying something new at the same time. Hyojin also mentioned that they shouldn’t put too much pressure on themselves. They also showed the members hanging out together, just relaxing, and encouraging each other. Eric mentioned that “the one who enjoys, wins”; and Sunwoo told reminded them not to feel too pressured as they have been because of the pressure of being the Road to Kingdom winner.
In the end, their version of “O Sole Mio” was a mix of the SF9 song, Moulin Rouge’s El Tango de Roxanne and Schubert’s The Elf King, while sticking to their “Game of Thrones” theme, entitling this performance as the Red Wedding. The goal was to create a performance that showcased passionate love. In the end, SF9 was amazed that latin pop was able to transcend because of the fact that they added tango into it.
Don’t get me wrong, I did love how experimental they went for “No Air”, but this is them playing up all their key strengths! It had a great set, and the storyline was great! I loved how we had Juyeon dancing the tango with the female lead, and in the end, it seemed as if his dance with her was the last he had. Their dance formations, powerful synchronized dancing were on point, they made us of the LED screen well, the intricate choreography that left you no room to breath while anticipating what will happen next, and lastly, them shooting the arrows onto the LED screen of the sun turning it into an eclipse. SF9 jokingly said that it looked like The Boyz was basically trying to overpower them, but I’d like to reinterpret it as them taking over the said song. I think that the sun is very much SF9, while I’ve always associated more moon like colors to The Boyz. Sangyeon was disappointed that he wasn’t able to set the arrowhead and was very down, but the members tried to cheer him up. New’s high note is ALWAYS on point, but Juhaknyeon’s vocals and facial expression here was just amazing!
iKON- Inception (iKON ver.)
Apparently, iKON became friends with Ateez, and it was seen that they talked to each other during the previous episode’s filming and Jinwhan even exchanged numbers with Hongjoong. Before they discussed what Ateez song they would use, they began to guess which song of theirs Ateez would choose. In the end, they guessed that Ateez would pick a strong song of theirs. For them, several options came up, such as “Answer”, “THANXXX” and “Fireworks”, which is their most recent song. In the end, they went with Bobby’s suggestion of using “Inception”, and discussed on how they could rearrange it to showcase their own style. They then associated the song with the movie “Inception”, and decided to go with that theme, as there are many things you can do with the set to make it seem dreamlike. However, the problem with this was that as the set does move, they had to make sure that they got the timing right. After one practice, they went out to the balcony just as the sun rose and encouraged themselves for the competition to come.
iKON is definitely starting to grow on me, something I pleasantly didn’t expect to happen because of this show!
After watching this performance, I got extremely excited as seeing these three strong performances made me realize that this episode delivered what I wanted from Kingdom. Extremely good performances that didn’t sacrifice theatrics, musicality, and the group’s individual identity.
Aside from the fantastic moving sets that really enhanced the performance, the best thing here was the rearrangement of the song. It didn’t sound like Ateez’s original song because they changed up how the chorus sounded like, which was amazing because they really made it sound more like an iKON or YG song. That camera effect on Bobby while he was rapping was amazing as it made him seem quite dreamlike. The parts of the song that got me the most excited started at 2:27 with Yoonhyeong’s part which led into the chorus as it started me making me feel early 2000s YG feels, and then that part at 3:08 with Junhoe and Jinwhan really solidified 2nd gen kpop vibes so much that it gave me chills! Then that group dance sequence with the light turning red made it seem very surreal! Aside from the fact that it looked like they were having so much fun, I thought that the dance and performance itself were very strong!
Ateez really loved the performance and got excited to show them their performance.
It seems like Kingdom is getting really exciting and I hope that next week won’t disappoint! Which performances did you like? Let me know in the comments below!