"There’s a lot of potential that Black Knight fails to achieve which could have put it with the crème de le crème of post-apocalyptic dramas."
BY JOHN MCDONALD MAY 16, 2023
Who ordered another post-apocalyptic action series fresh to Netflix then? Well, here’s another one for you to get stuck into, albeit served on an uninspiring platter of rehashed ideas and a slightly underwhelming finish. On paper, Netflix’s new South Korean drama, Black Knight, ticks several boxes that should have had it competing favourably with the 2021’s ground-breaking Squid Game. The concept is exciting and fresh, the cast is full of heavy-hitting A-listers, the special effects are aesthetically slick, and the action scenes are choreographed by an intriguing eye for detail. What’s letting the side down then?
Black Knight’s problems begin with its identity. It borrows and lends from other, more established concepts that have been released over recent years. It’s a cross between Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Death Stranding video game series, with some of that K-drama charm thrown in for good measure. The struggle of trying to use so many different ideas is a little too much for Black Knight to handle, and the result is an extremely tepid one.
Based on the webtoon of the same title by Lee Yun-kyun, Black Knight begins 40 years earlier when humanity came close to extinction via a deadly comet that crashed down on Earth. The people who did survive though, must live with heavily polluted air and attempts to survive on the driest of desert plains. The population is also split into categories of class, with the upper tier now living in dome cities with a constant supply of oxygen being filtered in, while the “lower class” must survive in concrete houses with little to no resources, and then there are the people with no ties who are dubbed as refugees - life gets about as difficult as it can do for those poor communities.
The story is set in the future though, in 2071 to be precise, with only one per cent of the population remaining on these desolate Korean peninsulas now. Everyone must wear respirators and rely on the “Knights,” an extremely skilled organization of delivery drivers to provide the people with supplies while also trying to survive the harsh wastelands themselves. The protagonist of the series is 5-8 (Kim Woo-bin), a legendary knight who is known for tackling groups of scavengers on his own as well as being an all-around superhero-like figure. 5-8 meets a special refugee boy called Yoon Sa-wol (Kang Yoo-seok) who dreams of becoming a knight himself. But before this dream can be achieved, the Knights, under the leadership of 5-8, must uncover the dark secrets of their home, which is under the corrupt control of the megacorporation Chunmyung Group, led by the evil Ryu Seok (Song Seung-heon).
There are a lot of intriguing performances in this series, namely by Kim Woo-bin who carries most of the series on his back – what do you expect from such a talented and commanding actor though? Although, the supporting cast does offer some interesting dynamics as well; Esom’s performance as Jeong Seol-ah, a military intelligence officer with Defense Intelligence Command and the older adoptive sister of Sa-wol is quite the dominating presence; Kim Eui-sung as Grandpa also offers some pearls of wisdom along the way for anyone that will listen. But even a cast as decent as this can’t hide the poor scriptwriting that engulfs this series from episode one until the final frontier.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Black Knight is the overall pacing of the story though, which feels about as miscued as it gets really. It’s a little hard to follow at times, with an attempt to cram so much inside, but it feels agonisingly slow for the most part, with so many pointless scenes outstaying their welcome before it unevenly switches to something completely different – the timeline in this series is actually infuriating you know. Even the action scenes, which are very exciting for the most part and easily the best part of the series, feel like they were just thrown in to make up for the fumbled parts. On top of that is the fact that it’s incredibly short compared to its contemporaries too, with it only consisting of six episodes (ranging from 45 to 60 minutes in length) it feels like a huge error for the natural growth and expansion of the whole thing.
At this point, it feels like most of what Netflix puts out is severely lacking in consistent quality – all those resources at their disposal only for lazy writing and recycled ideas to be the metaphorical dagger to the heart. There’s a lot of potential that Black Knight fails to achieve which could have put it with the crème de le crème of post-apocalyptic dramas, instead, it falls into the category of – like so many before it and countless more after it – largely forgettable, and that’s probably the most upsetting thing about Black Knight as well.