It’s 2071, and the world has become a toxic wasteland, forcing survivors to wear oxygen masks and live in a confined caste society. The only ones allowed to move between districts are Deliverymen, in charge of transporting precious goods such as food and oxygen and defending them against bandits. Among them, the legendary 5-8 (Kim Woo-Bin), inspires many youth with no future such as Kim Sa-Wol (Kang Yoo-Seok) the ambition to become a Deliveryman and free themselves from the chains of their status.
Kim Woo-Bin is back! It’s really nice to see him again, especially in a show that’s such a good fit for him. The posters were really promising, and with Netflix money and a Webtoon-distributed manhwa as its source material, Black Knight seemed off to a very good start.
Money, money, money!
If there’s one thing you can’t deny with Netflix dramas, it’s that they have money, and it shows. Just like Bulgasal, Black Knight doesn’t kid around when it comes to visuals, boasting nicely done post-apocalyptic landscapes and badass costumes. (Unlike Bulgasal, though, the music is a total letdown. There are no memorable tracks or themes, nothing characteristic, just some bland instrumentals I can’t remember for the life of me.)
As for Kim Woo-Bin, he’s in his element, the perfect incarnation of 5-8, and his stature and presence both lend his character all the prowling charisma required to make him delightfully predatory. In fact, he’s easily the best thing about this show: 5-8 is harsh and mysterious, respected and even legendary, as the show likes to repeat, which incites curiosity about his past and what exactly made him into such a legend.
Sa-Wol, on the other hand, I didn’t get invested in at all. His scenes were quite boring, I didn’t care at all about what happened to him and his friends. Maybe they could have made him a bit more interesting by building a mentorship between him and 5-8, but there wasn’t enough time for that, so he ended up being pretty useless to the plot.
The problem, with Black Knight, is that while it had everything it needed to cook up an epic story, it fell way off the mark, and even managed to feel slow and unfinished. It’s something that really bothered me starting from episode 3: I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing, something important that I couldn’t put my finger on. It’s only by reading something about the manhwa (that I have yet to confirm) that I understood: the show took out something capital from the plot, except they left everything that was linked to it, making the entire thing very strange. A hint: this is related to the reason 5-8 is such a legend.
So, yes, I was very confused. Why was 5-8 so well-known? People keep repeating that he’s legendary, over and over, and he’s famous to the point that people will ask him for selfies, but there’s never anything to explain why. All the same, people keep mentioning mutants as if they were an everyday thing, except you hardly see any.
These are only examples of the way Black Knight fails to fully exploit a ton of elements which could have lent it more depth and made it way more interesting than it is. Climatic phenomena, for instance, are completely forgotten, and the one time one shows up on screen, it’s brushed off as if it were just a minor inconvenience. No struggle for life or death in a hostile environment, no true stakes. (Which actually reminds me how empty the outdoors were. No animals, nothing except for Hunters here and there.) I would have loved to see how Deliverymen survive outside when taken by surprise by sand tornados or other such catastrophes.
An Anticlimactic Villain
Last but not least, Song Seung-Heon is criminally underused and underwhelming. His character hardly does anything except sit around in his sanitized office, and while we’re told that he’s dying, he never shows any symptoms, nothing to show how terrified he is of his looming end or even how difficult it is for him to live with this disease. His complexion is perfect, he doesn’t have a hair out of place, and his suit is always impeccable. No stakes here either, so it’s very hard to believe that he’s got one foot in the grave and is desperate for a cure. On top of that, his hatred of the Refugees never receives any explanation whatsoever. At least say something random like bandits killed his mother, I don’t know. Something.
All in All…
Two words: “missed opportunity”. There was so much to do with this concept, this cast and this budget, but Black Knight falls way off, and even manages to feel long when it’s only 6 episodes. What a waste of resources.
Title: Black Knight
Country: South Korea
Starring: Kim Woo-Bin, Esom, Kang Yoo-Seok, Song Seung-Heon
Number of episodes: 6
Genres : Action, Science-fi, Dystopia
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Read the Manhwa: Webtoon