Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Yu Jin Kim
What phrase gets people buzzing with excitement in modern society? It’s none other than the thrilling proclamation, “Your package has arrived!” Released on May 12th, Netflix’s Black Knight met viewers with full excitement and whisked them away into an extraordinary end-of-the-century dystopian realm. This captivating series also marked the triumphant return of the charismatic Kim Woo Bin, who emerged after enduring a challenging battle with illness. With sky-high expectations for his leading role, did Black Knight exceed all anticipation and deliver an electrifying experience to the enthusiastic fans who had eagerly awaited its arrival?
The grand-scale setting and captivating worldview are the crowning jewels of Black Knight. Plunged into a world shattered by a cataclysmic planetary collision, the Korean Peninsula now grapples with a contaminated atmosphere. Amidst this desolation, masked delivery drivers emerge as beacons of hope, carrying life-sustaining air and nourishment to the surviving population. The drama masterfully paints this dystopian landscape, teasing the pivotal role of these couriers as the narrative unfolds. Every frame is a visual feast, a mesmerizing blend of astonishing CGI and meticulously crafted sets that transports viewers into a realm akin to witnessing a cinematic blockbuster.
The action sequences in Black Knight are a true spectacle. The drama unveils a cunning group known as the Hunters, whose relentless pursuit of the delivery drivers’ vehicles heightens the conflict to new levels. Thrilling battle scenes and exhilarating car chases not only captivate the eyes but also enhance the show’s overall allure. However, it is the heart-pounding car chase that truly steals the spotlight as the high-stakes competition to select new delivery drivers unfolds. Set amidst a treacherous sandstorm, this electrifying face-off between courageous participants and roaring vehicles will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Though set in the near future, the story of Black Knight touches upon our present reality. Having experienced the global pandemic over the past few years, where everyone wore masks and refrained from going out, the narrative doesn’t feel purely fantastical. The world depicted in the series, divided into refugee, general and core zones, mirrors the dark underbelly of capitalist society. Consequently, the conflicts and social issues that unfold are not unfamiliar.
However, the show also falls short in terms of its characters. The main issue lies in how the story unfolds through the perspective of the iconic courier 5-8 (played by Kim Woo Bin), who aspires to dismantle the social order and yearns for equal living for all. The drama predominantly features Sa Wol (Kang You Seok), a young refugee with extraordinary strength; Seol Ah (Esom), a soldier who suspects the involvement of the all-powerful conglomerate, Chunmyung Group, in her younger sister’s death; and Ryu Seok (Song Seung Hun), the wealthy heir of Chunmyung Group, who serves as the primary catalyst behind all the tragedies.
Apart from these four main characters, the remaining characters in the story have minimal impact as they mostly consist of co-workers and people in the protagonist’s surroundings who mechanically adhere to 5-8’s viewpoints. While the main plot unfolds smoothly, the absence of a compelling sub-plot renders the overall show rigid, leading to viewer boredom despite its short six-episode format.
The overpowered abilities of the main character 5-8 also detract from the enjoyment of the show. He effortlessly overcomes numerous battles and threats, leading the group of couriers with his superhuman power. However, these easy victories and quickly resolved conflicts contribute to a lackluster storyline, diminishing the overall pleasure and tension of the narrative.
On the positive side, the drama showcases visually stunning scenes that capture the viewers’ attention. However, some combat scenes lack detail, and the chemistry between characters feels insufficient. The explanation of the crisis in the world caused by an unexpected catastrophe is also lacking, as it heavily relies on narration and lines from the characters instead of being depicted through pictures. Moreover, the core concept of class conflicts is not fully portrayed, making it challenging for viewers to truly empathize with Sa Wol’s desire to become a courier and 5-8’s attempt to overthrow the social system.
Black Knight successfully captivated viewers with its remarkable exploration of a broad theme, delving into a worldview rarely seen in Korean dramas. The show’s impressive action sequences, pushing the boundaries of what is typically seen, also contributed to its appeal. However, it is disheartening to witness the lackluster characterization and weak plot, which ultimately dampened the overall anticipated viewing experience. It’s like eagerly anticipating a long-awaited item only to be disappointed by excessive and unnecessary packaging. Perhaps the show could have benefited from adding more episodes to fully develop and showcase its unique worldview to the audience. Ultimately, what truly matters is the content within the package rather than its speedy delivery. (5/10)
Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.