Shows set in unstable worlds offer especially intense thrills. “Crash Landing on You,” “Homecoming” and “Kingdom" are three exciting options for streaming.
“Crash Landing on You”
“Crash Landing on You” shows love unexpectedly arise in the volatile Korean Demilitarized Zone. Directed by Lee Jung-hyo, this Korean show charmingly contrasts life in wealthy Seoul with a humble North Korean military village. The story begins when Yoon Se-ri, a feisty and self-confident businesswoman out paragliding, is mistakenly carried into North Korea when a tornado strikes. Son Ye-jin delivers a stellar performance as Se-ri, showing both the drive that transformed her from family outcast to heir to the family’s business conglomerate, and also the magnetic personality that make many happy to help her.
Hyun Bin is superb as the stalwart and honorable Ri Jeong-hyeok, a captain in the North Korean army who falls for Se-ri when he first sees her stuck in a tree. Born into privilege and more passionate about piano than warfare, Jeong-hyeok finds his life transformed as he helps the forthright and energetic Se-ri.
The show’s many fine performances include Yang Kyung-won as the sarcastic and nervous Master Sergeant Pyo Chi-su; Hwang Woo-seul-hye as Do Hye-ji, who selfishly prays for Se-ri to remain stuck in North Korea; Oh Man-seok as the villainous security officer Cho Cheol-gang; and Nam Kyung-eup as Yoon Jeung-pyeong, who recognizes his daughter Se-ri’s honesty and talent. Yoo Su-bin is particularly delightful as Staff Sergeant Kim Ju-muk, whose fascination with South Korean culture includes heartfelt interest in soap operas.
“Crash Landing on You” successfully links stories about privileged South Koreans with fascinating glimpses into North Korean life, while building a wonderful love story that transcends all military, cultural and familial divisions.
Watch it on Netflix.
For a paranoid vision of military-industrial connections, watch “Homecoming.” Based on a podcast by Elli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, “Homecoming” slowly unravels mysteries surrounding an experimental drug. In Season 1, director Sam Esmail patiently builds a world of uncertainty and foreboding, with characters’ efforts to remember propelling the plot. Julia Roberts is excellent as Heidi Bergman, a waitress struggling to remember her time working with veterans in the Homecoming program. Stephan James is superb in both seasons as Walter Cruz, a U.S. soldier suffering from the memory-altering effects of an experimental treatment for PTSD. Bobby Cannevale is excellent as Colin Belfast, a manipulative corporate supervisor. Shea Wigham compellingly portrays the earnest federal investigator Thomas Carrasco.
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Season 2 is even stronger. Janelle Monáe is terrific as a woman who wakes up in a rowboat with no memory of how she got there and must reconstruct her role in a labyrinthine plot. Chris Cooper deftly plays the stubborn Leonard Geist, who resists the military’s efforts to commandeer his memory-altering berry crops. Hong Chau provides a standout performance as Audrey Temple, a nervous, low-level worker who transforms into a confident, corporate go-getter.
Watch on Amazon Prime.
A thrilling and visually sumptuous story that combines civil war with zombie horrors. Directed by Kim Seong-hun, the Korean “Kingdom” tells a story set around 1600. The powerful Haewon Cho clan, whose warriors menace all who defy them, are trying to get the current queen’s unborn child to be named heir to the Joseon throne. Unfortunately for everyone, the mysterious plant they used to resurrect the king caused a pandemic that transforms corpses into monsters that reanimate after dark and, making bone-crunching sounds as they jerkily move, devour human flesh.
Ju Ji-hoon shines as Lee Chang, the legitimate Crown Prince, who first investigates and then fights the human plague ravaging the realm. Excellent performances include Kim Sang-ho as Chang’s loyal bodyguard; Mu-yeong; Ryu Seung-ryong as the menacing Lord Cho Hak-ju, who heads the vicious Haewon Cho clan; and Kim Hye-jun as the haughty Queen Consort Cho. Bae Doona is especially compelling as Seo-bi, a physician’s assistant who uses brains and bravery to combat the destructive disease. “Kingdom” features magnificent cinematography, showing an unstable society struggling to fight an unearthly zombie menace.
Watch it on Netflix.