Cover Here are nine things to know about "Kingdom: Ashin of the North" (Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)

From the release date to the plot and cast, here are nine things you need to know about the upcoming Kingdom: Ashin of the North special episode

Netflix's first original Korean series, Kingdom premiered to critical success and positive reviews, prompting a second season and now a special episode that follows the origins of a new mysterious character, Ashin. Kingdom provided a refreshing take on both the historical and horror genre, combining elements of the two but also highlighting political struggle set against the backdrop of zombies.

The highly anticipated special episode has been the talk of the town ever since Ashin made an appearance at the end of the second season and is set to provide an expansion of the Kingdom series. Curious to know more? Read on to find out the release date, plot, cast, official trailer and more.

See also: Exclusive: "Kingdom: Ashin Of The North" Cast And Crew Talk About The Netflix Special Episode

1. The release date

After keeping the release date under wraps for quite some time especially after part of the castle where filming took place burned down, Netflix finally announced the 60-minute special episode's release date to be July 23, 2021. Remember to mark your calendars!

See also: Netflix Announces "Kingdom: Ashin Of The North" Release Date

2. The cast

We already know that Hallyu star Jun Ji-hyun (or Gianna Jun) will be headlining the drama from her cameo appearance at the end of season two. This marks Jun's highly-anticipated small-screen comeback, five years after her last Korean drama, Legend of the Blue Sea.

Other than Jun, only two other cast members are confirmed. Park Byung-eun is returning as Min Chi-rok, member of the Royal Commandery who encounters Ashin in the freezing cold northern regions. He later becomes the Head of the Royal Commandery Division and helps Crown Prince Lee Chang fight against the conspiracy to seize the throne in Kingdom. Kim Shi-a will be playing the young Ashin.

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3. The crew

Screenwriter Kim Eun-hee and director Kim Seong-hun—the duo who worked on the Kingdom series—are also helming this special episode. Writer Kim is also writing Jirisan, Jun's upcoming Korean drama together with Ju Ji-hoon (who plays Crown Prince Lee Chang in the Kingdom series). Kim also wrote the critically acclaimed drama, Signal.

Meanwhile, Kingdom is director Kim's first television series. He previously worked on movies, The Tunnel (2016) and A Hard Day (2014), the latter earned him several Best Director awards.

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4. The plot

Towards the end of season two, Chang and Seo-bi find the resurrection plant near the Chinese border and are told by the villagers that someone from China is selling it. We see the final shot of a woman, Ashin smiling mysteriously. It's theorised that Ashin is spreading the virus on purpose. But the question is: why?

In this "sidequel", that question and many others will be answered as we follow the backstory of Ashin, who seems to know about the origins of the resurrection plant that brings people back from the dead. Ashin’s identity and the part she plays in the events that take place in the Kingdom series will also be explored.

In the short but tense teaser, the footage also shows a young Ashin holding a torch as she enters a dark, eerie cave. Inside, she discovers strange markings on a rock and the resurrection plant. An accompanying text reads, "to revive the dead, a price must be paid". After, a hand crashes the plant and the dead is revived before the release date flashes on the screen.

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5. The official teaser

While the date announcement also teased a few scenes from the special episode, leaving many of us guessing, the official trailer finally gives us a bit more background of what we can expect. The official trailer opens with the villagers looking at something in the forest anxiously then we cut to a point-of-view shot of...something running towards them and lunges at one of the villages. The screen fades to black.

We're then shown young Ashin, who's warned by her father "not to go there" but she insists that she saw a strange plant that is "said to bring back the dead". This is accompanied by scenes of Ashin exploring the cave, seeing the plant and the mysterious drawings that we've been teased in the date announcement video. One of the animals that ate the plant is resurrected as indicated by its colourless, lifeless eyes.

Ashin's father tells her that that's more reason for her not to go there. The scene then shows Ashin's mom who seems to be dying. "Just let mom die like that?" she asks. More montage scenes of the dead coming back to life follows, with the villagers running in fear. Ashin wishes for "them to shed tears of blood" and we transition from a young Ashin to the older Ashin with her bow and arrow. This foretells a tale of vengeance. The trailer ends with another wish, "please avenge them" as a mysterious new character stands on top of the temple, overlooking the scenery.

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6. The teaser photos

Netflix has released five teaser posters for the much-anticipated special episode. One of the teaser photos shows the young Ashin from the first teaser trailer. In the other image, the resurrection plant takes on a mystical, ethereal image with magenta-hued blossoms.

Other images include the mesmerising eyes of an infected tiger and a reflection of the resurrection plant, the gruesome bodies of those who suffered cruel and mysterious deaths and the young Ashin standing in a field of resurrection plants that can revive the dead.

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7. The first official posters teases a battle

Netflix revealed the official posters for the special episode. In the first image, we see Ashin covered in a dark robe, facing incoming enemies. Her stance looks calm, not alarmed but she's holding the bow in her hand. Smoke is also coming from the enemy lines and part of the grass is covered in fire. The words, "vengeance is coming" is placed at the top of the poster. Are the advancing forces zombies or are they soldiers? We can't tell.

The special episode summary describes Ashin as "the woman abandoned by all" which is most likely why she's the only person facing the enemies in the poster.

The second poster has the same setting as the first one, just a bit more closed up and we finally see Ashin's face. She's still holding the bow in one hand, looking into the far distance as enemies advance behind. Her expression is mysterious—she is wary or she is waiting for someone? We'll have to watch to find out.

See also: Interview: "Sweet & Sour" Cast And Director Discuss The Netflix Movie

8. The official trailer reveals more

Netflix has been dropping a lot of teasers since the official release date has been revealed. Two weeks away from the show, they have also finally released the official trailer and while most of the scenes have already been shown before, a few new dialogues and details have been added.

Firstly, we see a group of soldiers trekking the forest, where a talisman hangs around a rope with an ancient Chinese character that looks like the word for "long-neglected", it's the place called pyesa-gun, a place forbidden for anyone to enter for years. We then see a pile of dead bodies. The scene cuts to young Asin exploring the cave and afterwards, telling her father that she found a strange plant that "can awaken the dead".

A voiceover of a man says, "I heard something scary lives there. No one has been allowed to enter for the past 100 years" over a montage of villagers exploring the forest, holding various tools. They are chased away by a tiger. A bloodied soldier then says, "Be ready for a bloody revenge." Ashin's village is attacked and we finally see the first look at Park Byung-eun as Min Chi-rok discovers the ravaged village. Ashin asks him, "Avenge him" but he apologies and says, "this is not something Joseon can intervene in."

Ashin seems to grow hatred for living beings as they slaughtered the people in her entire village. "After my job is here, after I've killed every living thing on Joseon and Jurchen soil, we'll be reunited."

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9. The second official poster shows a battle unfold

Netflix reveals the second poster of the 92-minute special episode. The new poster is a contrast from the first one, from the colour, setting right down to the action. It gives off an imminent sense of danger as we see Ashin on top of a roof ablaze in flames. She draws her bow back in order to fend off the swarming zombies. But despite all the chaos, Ashin maintains her calm and expressionless face that the first posters already showed.

This adds to the excitement on how the whole tragedy came about and why she appears calm even in the most perilous circumstances.

Kingdom: Ashin of the North will be released on 23 July 2021 on Netflix. Read our exclusive interview with the cast and crew here.

(This article was originally published on June 15, 2021 and was updated on July 16, 2021.)

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