Each episode of Danish TV series The Kingdom concludes with its principal creator, Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, etc.), directly addressing viewers as the credits roll, making tongue-in-cheek observations about the story’s progress and hinting at developments to come. During the first two seasons, which originally aired in 1994 and 1997 (though both received a boutique theatrical release in the U.S., as four-hour “films”), these puckish author’s messages took place on-camera, allowing von Trier to wield his devilish smirk as a weapon.
By stark, hilarious contrast, The Kingdom: Exodus—five brand-new episodes that finally wrap things up, a quarter century after the previous cliffhanger—finds von Trier literally hiding behind a curtain during the closing credits, with only his dress shoes visible as he delivers his usual lightly sarcastic remarks. Now 66, he confesses to being too vain for the spotlight, fearing comparisons to what he accurately deems his “unbearably cocky” younger self. Many years have passed since The Kingdom last graced screens, after all. Not everything can be just the way it was.
By the end of Exodus’ first episode—which, subtitle notwithstanding, is expressly labeled as part 9—that’s become abundantly clear to anyone who’s seen the previous eight installments. Having been directly inspired by Twin Peaks (which likewise got an unexpected afterlife 25 years after closing up shop), The Kingdom similarly has one foot in horror and the other in soap opera, blending supernatural elements with idiosyncratic, over-the-top melodrama. Rather than follow various residents of a small town, it’s set almost exclusively in Copenhagen’s largest hospital, nicknamed The Kingdom, with multiple interrelated storylines involving staff, patients, ghosts, and, in the case of a character played by the singular Udo Kier, “other.” Von Trier, however, faced a major difficulty that David Lynch had been fortunate enough to (mostly) avoid: Between 1997 and 2022, most of the series’ prominent cast members, including the two whose characters were the closest thing to conventional protagonists, passed away. This made simply picking up where season two left off, even via a big leap forward to the present, all but impossible.