There was so much dust in the world of “Black Knight,” representative of the pollution that has largely made Earth uninhabitable. It is a funny coincidence that even the show itself is largely unwatchable. When one watches a six-episode dystopian series based on a wildly popular webtoon and starring Kim Woo Bin, the baseline requirement is that every minute of screen time is essential to the viewer’s experience of the story, if not to push the narrative ahead, then for the stylized action or visuals on screen. However, we dozed off for a very brief 10 minutes during one of the episodes. When we woke up, we did not rewind the episode because there was no point in it. The visuals and actions are quite literally full of dust, and the narrative needed clearer fleshing out. Skipping those ten minutes made no difference to us because of the already-present lack of coherence in the series.
We would like to clarify that we haven’t read the webtoon, so we approached “Black Knight,” having no idea what to expect. But we were left wondering whether someone like us was even considered when making this series. The lack of explanation of the world makes us think that this is strictly a visualization for fans of the webtoon itself. That is especially upsetting because it would have taken so little for us to be included in this. Just the inclusion of a single 30-second voiceover explaining the lay of the land would have made such a difference in our consumption of the series. It is all the more upsetting for us since Kim Woo Bin and Song Seung Heon are actors we love and admire.
There is something about Libra men who are actors; they just make the role their own. However, this is the one time we might have to beg to differ, at least in the case of Song Seung Heon, who plays Ryu Heok. He felt less like a villain and more like a man stuck in his circumstances, which is far from the case, to begin with. To explain his character better, he is what we would call the Korean version of a “white supremacist.” Somebody who believed in gene supremacy and the obliteration of those who “did not matter.” But he was also stuck trying to find a cure for his ailment, and we still don’t know what he suffered from. Maybe it was the sins of his father, who had killed thousands of refugees nine years previously, or the fact that they left 99% of the world’s population behind when they constructed those districts. We have to fill the gaps in the story with these philosophical explanations.
Either way, forgive us for the deviation from our point that Song Seung Heon was just not able to convey the menacing quality that we would expect from a headstrong eugenicist. But we view that more as a fallacy of the script, which failed to explain the source of his beliefs or why he felt the need to go to such elaborate lengths to achieve them when that had nothing to do with his medical condition. Also, why were the mutants the cure for whatever was ailing him? Where are the explanations for these questions? Why was something like this left to the imagination of the viewers? What are we supposed to imagine, anyway? It can be argued that this is not a novel concept that hasn’t been seen before on screen, so we can derive our own theories from that. But if “Black Knight” did not intend to give it a spin of its own, why do we even need to watch this at all?
Then there is the question of 5-8. We got a little background on him, and we are happy about it. But we don’t understand what made him so legendary. He fought people off and always made his deliveries, no matter what. But then, didn’t everyone? Was he ever assigned any special missions because of his skills, or did he derive any extra benefits due to them? Plus, who spread the word about his skills? The world-building in this series is just too poor.
We also figured that conscience must be a huge part of the character’s motivations in the series “Black Knight.” Think about it: the new world accommodates only 1% of the previous world. If we compare it with movies like “Space Sweepers,” we would certainly ask why we saw no diversity in the cast. But if we ignore that, what were the criteria for the selection, and how did people’s social status change after going through that? For example, if only 1% of the previous world was selected, should we assume that they were the richest of the rich in the population? If so, then how did they adjust to not having their previous lavish lifestyles in this new reality? Plus, who were the refugees, and did they really serve no purpose in this new world except to just exist? Is that why they were so expendable? We just don’t know what the stakes are at any point in time, and that is why we are not invested in anything at all.
On the surface, revenge sagas and dystopian stories look like two completely different genres, but they can intertwine rather beautifully. The creation or maintenance of a dystopian society is based on the foundation of class divide and injustice, which is bound to contain simmering anger ready to burst at any moment. This shouldn’t be too hard to imagine since many would argue that we are already in the throes of it in many ways. We are going to sound like broken records at this point, but the intersection of these genres is precisely why the details of the world of “Black Knight” mattered so much. Without them, it is just another uninspiring revenge saga, and if that was what we were in the mood for, we would watch “The Glory.” The bottom line is that “Black Knight” is a humongous waste of time, and Kim Woo Bin and Song Seung Heon deserve better. Still, if you are enough of a fangirl or fanboy to watch this series, you will be left with questions and opinions, just like us.