Even if you’re only a little bit into K-pop, you probably know the big name superstars who are beloved all over the country (and now perhaps the world). Not everyone has that level of mega success, but many are still quite well-known with large fandoms who help sustain their careers. However, the sad truth is that there are also dozens of groups who will never get the full recognition they deserve, commercially or artistically. Road to Kingdom really hammers this point home in their opening scene, showing big names like BTS and SEVENTEEN accepting music show trophies… and highlighting the lesser known idols standing in the background. While the participants of last year’s Queendom had varying levels of popularity, they all were somewhat established in the industry and familiar to the general public. Road to Kingdom has a different goal: as a prequel of sorts for the upcoming Kingdom (whenever that is), it’s a journey for underrated groups to show their potential – and maybe get that big break they’ve been waiting for.
To avoid making an already long recap even longer, I made an informational post about the participating groups here. But in all honesty, I’m actually not familiar with a lot of them – the only one I knew well before the show was Pentagon. So, this is basically my disclaimer that I won’t be able to identify every single person by name during these recaps, because most of my notes say something like “That guy from ONEUS with red hair” or “The one from VERIVERY who is clearly a visual.” (^^””) I swear it’s not personal or me being biased; I’m just REALLY bad with names and faces when I start getting to know a group, and I’m juggling six at once with this show. MNET’s editing does NOT make it easy to identify people (T_T).
To summarize my exact knowledge of the Road to Kingdom groups, I’ve provided this table:
|Name||Agency||Debut Year||How Many Members I Can Recognize||How Many Singles I Know|
|Golden Child||Woollim Entertainment||2017||5/10||5/6|
|The Boyz||Cre.ker Entertainment||2017||2/11||0/8|
After some words of encouragement from previous Queendom contestants, we start out the first episode with basic introductions to all of the groups. Most of them have similar entrances, so I won’t cover them individually. They’re all super excited, they’re all wowed by the stage – which is true to the show’s name and literally has a giant road running through the room – and they always jump at the noise that announces another group’s entrance. (Though to be fair, it is a super surprising sound.) And, of course, they’re all extremely curious to see who else is going to be on the show. The level of secrecy is apparently so high that they weren’t even able to use the bathroom while at the studio.
In truth, everyone was actually given a chance to find out the identity of at least one other group beforehand. The first four (The Boyz, VERIVERY, ONEUS, and Golden Child) were instructed to anonymously call each other and ask questions without revealing their identities. This resulted in a very humorous sequence of Golden Child and The Boyz trolling each other with funny voices and infuriating answers. It was all fun and games until Juyeon (from The Boyz) incorrectly guessed that Golden Child was VERIVERY and accidentally used his real voice in calling them out. Unfortunately for him, Jaehyun (from Golden Child) recognized him and informed the rest of the group… and Jangjun gleefully let The Boyz know that they were unmasked.
Oh, Juyeon… so confidently wrong.
Since there are seven groups on the show, the remaining three (ONF, TOO, and Pentagon) used a group chat to talk. TOO’s Woongi was somehow able to deduce ONF’s identity after asking where their entertainment agency was – apparently there aren’t that many in Mapo-gu, so he knew they were talking about WM Entertainment. Meanwhile, Pentagon got almost immediately found out when they sent a video of Hongseok singing “Dr. BeBe” in a “different” voice (spoiler: it wasn’t actually different) and a close-up picture of Kino‘s eye (some TOO members recognized his mole). But it’s interesting that even if the groups didn’t recognize exactly whom they were talking to, they ended up naming a lot of their fellow competitors while guessing. So I think they had a pretty good idea of who was going to be there, even if their suspicions weren’t confirmed.
I’m used to survival shows like Produce 101 where everyone is very tense and sizing each other up in the initial episode – like that famous moment when Baekho from NU’EST basically scared everyone. Maybe it’s because the stakes aren’t as high on Road to Kingdom (since everyone’s already debuted), but I’m pleased that the atmosphere already feels different. All of the groups seem pretty excited to see each other, and some of them are probably already friends. Even TOO, whom no one initially recognizes, is given a warm welcome. Though I will say, everyone does seem a bit in awe of Pentagon.
Once everyone is assembled, we meet the show’s MCs: actress Lee Dahee and TV personality Jang Sungkyu (the same hosts for Queendom). They start out by explaining the meanings behind a set of numbers that each group was given, which basically summarizes the whole show. There are 7 teams taking part, and they will have 4 missions including the finale – which will be a live broadcast. And… there will be 2 eliminations. That’s right: unlike Queendom, only five groups will get to perform in the finale. One team will be eliminated after the second mission, and one after the third. Naturally, no one is very happy upon hearing this news. The final number indicates that there will be 1 winner, aka the team who accumulates the most points throughout the show. But there’s a potential twist! The team who earns the most votes during the live broadcast will also earn a spot on Kingdom, so it’s possible there could be two groups who win. However, if one team has the most points overall AND on the live broadcast, then they will be considered the sole winner.
The last number, 90, represents their first (unofficial) mission. All of the groups have been asked to prepare a 90 second performance that best describes their team and their image. There is no decided order; basically, whoever stands up first can go. Both ONEUS and TOO pop up, but ONEUS yields when TOO says they want to go first because they fear getting distracted by their seniors later on. It’s a nice gesture, but one that ultimately comes back to bite them when they end up going dead last. (I actually really felt bad about that.)
Next Page: The 90 Second Performances