Of course, it IS like another TV phenomenon. Von Trier admitted that “The Kingdom” was inspired by “Twin Peaks,” and one has to wonder if “Exodus” would exist without the creative success of “Twin Peaks: The Return” in 2017. In the same way that David Lynch reviewed characters and distorted images from his landmark series, Von Trier returns to some of the same characters and ideas, once again creating a truly inspired blend of the surreal and the comic. The hospital in which each scene in the series takes place is not only a place of ancient supernatural forces that might be surging to finally drag it down to earth, but it is also a place of true mundane idiocy, a building that is so burdened by the bureaucracy and stupidity as well as the evil that might be buried in its foundations.
What is “The Kingdom” about? Well, that’s where things get tricky. It’s the kind of over-the-top universe where a woman can give birth to Udo Kier wrapped up in a way that sometimes resembles a traditional medical soap opera, but most of the doctors here are self-obsessed idiots. “Exodus” actually begins with a woman named Karen (Bodil Jørgensen) finishing watching the first series and going to the hospital to see what’s going on there for herself. She finds more questions than answers, including a real beating heart from the hospital and the giant head of Udo Kier, drowning in her tears. Alexander Skarsgard fills in for his father in a hilarious twist as a lawyer whose office is in the bathroom, and Willem Dafoe appears as a shape-shifting man who may actually be Satan. Its alot. And that’s just scratching the surface.
It really is quite difficult to do the “plot synopsis” part of a review of something like “The Kingdom Exodus”. While it technically has several competing subplots and a dense mythology, the plot doesn’t matter as much as the mood here. It’s a show that has cumulative power in its moments, be it an odd little comic beat like the head doctor complaining that his computer solitaire is too easy (not knowing that IT already has its difficulty set to 4-8 years). ) or the terrifying image of an aggressively violent doctor gouging out his eye with a spoon (only to return to normal the next time we see him). “The Kingdom Exodus” feels at times as if its tones and subplots are at war with each other: the whiplash of general charade of a broken system with the more terrifying Lynchian elements of a woman exploring the hospital’s spiritual underbelly can be intense. —but that’s very intentional. Hospitals are places of extreme emotion where tragedy can exist in a room next to a miraculous recovery. And von Trier has often played with wide tone shifts with black comedy throughout much of his filmography. The extremes of his tastes find a perfect setting at Kingdom Hospital.