Follow TV Tropes


Series / Riget

Go To

"No living persons know it yet, but the gateway to the Kingdom is opening once again."

Riget (The Kingdom in English, although it also translates to The Realm) is a Danish TV series created and co-directed by Lars von Trier. While it acts as a Medical Drama on the surface, it also contains copious amounts of surreal and religious horror, supernatural events, and a dark, wry sense of humor, up to and including a Greek Chorus of dishwashers with Down syndrome. Entirely filmed on location with handheld cameras and a grimy, sepia-tinted color scheme, it has been described by critics as "Twin Peaks meets M*A*S*H" (with Trier crediting the former as an influence).

The setting for the series is the eponymous Rigshospitalet (The National Hospital) in Copenhagen, with focus on the neurosurgical ward and its employees and their somewhat mundane everyday life. But, as the Opening Narration explains, something strange is slowly infesting the old building, and it is growing stronger. Mrs. Sigrid Drusse, an elderly lady with a keen interest in spiritualism, is trailing the source of the disturbances, begrudgingly helped by her son Bulder, who works as a porter at the hospital.


Meanwhile, war is brewing in the neurosurgical ward between the new, arrogant Dr. Helmer and the more down-to-earth Dr. Krogshøj (AKA Krogen (The Hook)). Helmer has recently botched a brain operation on a young girl and is trying to hide the evidence, which will give Krogshøj the advantage. The Head of Department, Dr. Moesgaard, is blissfully ignorant of all this as he is busy planning his great reform of the department "Operation Morning Air". At the same time, his immature son Mogge runs afoul of his professor, the (madly) idealistic Dr. Bondo, after having stolen a head from the morgue and used it for a prank. Dr. Bondo wants to get his hands on a rare tumor in dying Mr. Zakariassen's liver. And when Mr. Zakariassen's family says no, the good doctor is driven to desperate action.

And there is something strange about the pregnancy of Dr. Petersen...


The series ran for two seasons, respectively in 1994 and 1997. It was never officially cancelled, but the deaths of the actors playing three significant characters prevented any continuation. In December 2020, however, Trier made the surprise announcement that he was going to make a third season, titled Riget Exodus, which will act as the Grand Finale to the show. Trier expects to start filming the new season in 2021, and for the finished product to be released at some point in 2022. An American adaptation, developed by Stephen King and called Kingdom Hospital, was created in 2004.

This TV series contains examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: Krogshøj might be a low ranking doctor, but he is also the hospital's resident Knowledge Broker who knows every dirty secret worth knowing, giving him quite a bit of political weight to throw around as he can call favors from pretty everyone.
  • Anti-Antichrist: Lillebror.
  • Author Avatar: Trier himself always appears doing the credits to give a closing monologue, in which he usually recaps the plot, delivers some Script Wank and reminds everyone to: "Take the good with the bad."
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: Usual medical drama credits, with action shots of the regular cast looking tense/concerned/competent interspersed with ambulances and the like. Hang on, why's that Ominous Latin Chanting there...
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: Heavily implied in this scene, in which Dr. Helmer gazes at the lower body parts of his Haitian companion who uses the urinal next to him. Helmer then slaps him in the face as if offended.
  • Blackmail: Krogshøj's speciality. Helmer and Mogge both get to experience it.
  • Blind Driving - in an ambulance, no less.
  • Body Horror
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Yes, they've got one of these, too. Just mind your nose, duckling.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stig Helmer is a deconstruction. He's a Large Ham and narcissist Jerkass, but he's also a highly competent surgeon and rarely makes mistakes. Deconstructed since his personality makes him insufferable for most of the hospital staff and patients. When he does make a mistake, like with Mona or when he tries to poison Krogshøj, his Jerkass traits lead to Serial Escalation.
  • Brick Joke: When Stig takes over administration, he orders to narrow the door. After he gets shot by Rigmor, his wheelchair doesn't fit through it.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bulder.
  • Cameo: For Stellan Skarsgård who appears in a sole scene and playes a Swedish lawyer
  • Casting Gag: There is some suspicion that Lars von Trier intended to cast as many actors from Matador as he could possibly find. Regulars in both Matador and Riget counts Holger Juul Hansen (Varnæs in Matador, Doctor Moesgaard in Riget) and Ghita Nørby (Ingeborg Skjern / Rigmor) were regulars in Matador, while Kirsten Rolfes (Mrs. Drusse in Riget) appeared in a single episode of Matador. Other actors from Matador play various bit parts throughout Riget.
  • Catchphrase: "Danskjävlar!"
  • Chewing the Scenery: Stig Helmer with the hammy acting by Ernst-Hugo Järegård. Most memorably the iconic "Danskjävlar!" scream.
  • Chew Toy: Bulder especially - the poor guy can't catch a break. Overall, pretty much half the cast.
  • Cliffhanger: The second series ends with several of these. In the DVD commentaries, the makers mentioned that it might be just as well that Actor Existence Failure prevents them from making a third series, seeing as how they had written themselves into a corner.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land: The hospital is pretty much this, in a dark way.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Moesgaard Sr., who's blissfully unaware of all the strange things that happens in the hospital and constantly raves about "Operation Morning Air".
  • The Comically Serious: Dr. Helmer, especially when confronted with "Operation Morning Air" and other team building exercises, like everyone at the morning meeting having to announce their presence in song.
  • Deadly Gas: Krüger killed Mary with chlorine gas under the guise of inhalations to treat an imaginary lung disease. At one point we see her ghost exhale green fumes.
    • Note that the cut to Mary's ghost exhaling green gas is made right after Drusse realises what happened to her, making this very potent Nightmare Fuel.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Helmer and Krogshøj. Sometimes they go head to head.
  • Decapitation Presentation
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Krogshøj towards Judith Petersen, and Mogge (with a heaping great side of Idiot Ball) towards the sleep lab nurse.
  • Dr. Feelgood: Krogshøj extracts cocaine from surplus local anaesthetics and sells it to the other doctors.
  • Dr. Jerk: Dr. Helmer embodies the trope.
  • Externalizing Internal Monologue: Thanks, thou watchtowers of Sweden. With plutonium we bring the Danes to their knees.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Krogshøj after his near-death
  • Fetus Terrible: Judith Petersen's unborn child.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The Sons of the Kingdom, who "plead allegiance to concrete science, and animosity towards the occult in all its forms". While ghosts and demons are running around the corridors in plain view.
  • For Science!: Dr. Bondo will do anything to get Zakariassen's tumor. Including having the diseased liver transplanted into his own body. He and his students also repeatedly intone "For Science!" as a group mantra in the second series, complete with collective "thumbs up".
  • From Bad to Worse: For Dr. Bondo who first gets the liver with tumor transplanted into his body then it is not replaced as he wants the tumor to grow. As it is replaced by the healthy liver the methastasis have already spread.
  • Greek Chorus: The two dishwashers with Downs syndrome.
  • Grim Reaper: A human-looking version of Death appears at the end.
  • The Grotesque: Little Brother
  • He Also Did: Von Trier is otherwise seldom this funny, at least intentionally.
  • Hellevator
  • Hollywood Satanism
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Little Brother.
  • Jerkass: Mogge was clearly very immature from the beginning, but he really starts to come out as this in the second series.
  • Large Ham: Stig Helmer lives this trope combined with Deadpan Snarker. Actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård was a well-regarded ham of Swedish theatre and television.
    • He's not the only ham on the menu: the Psycho Psychologist Ole is fond of hamming as well. Dr. Bondo's ham remarkably grows in size when he speaks to his students or colleagues.
  • Left Hanging: And HOW! Not only are four plotlines stopped on a massive Cliffhanger, but thanks to the death of three vital actors it is highly unlikely that the series will ever get a proper ending.
  • Little Old Lady Investigates: It's really hard to fake your way get into the neurology ward, you know.
  • Long Lost Sibling: A few.
  • Love Martyr: Rigmor, most of the time.
  • Love Triangle: For Mogge, Sanne and Christian.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Bondo. Check out his little speech to his pathology class about how the dead contribute to the community thanks to having overcome the fear of human contact so sadly prevalent among the living. (This is delivered while standing next to a corpse the students are about to examine ... followed by "Alright, let's get carving", as he reaches for the scalpel). That he's also a twisted version of The Spock does not help.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The second season suggests that the first season's "ghost ambulances" were the result of an "ambulance speed record" game involving some of the orderlies and medical students.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Drusse. She still haven't forgiven her adult son, Bulder, for moving out. Even though it was about 30 years ago, and he moved back in with her after just two weeks on his own.
  • Near-Death Clairvoyance
  • Near-Death Experience
  • Never Mess with Granny: Also Mrs. Drusse. Not technically a granny, poor Bulder having been smothered too far to stand a chance at such things. He once tried to move out, you know. For about a day. Decades ago.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Krogshøj after his near-death experience.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Mogge Moesgaard during the sleeping experiments. Later subverted.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The intros have lots of it. Obscene Ominous Latin Chanting, if you listen closely. With a funky dance routine. Within the story, the death of the chaplain in the second series.
  • No Ending: After a massive cliffhanger, there will likely never be a third and final season.
    • The cliffhanger is so complex, it qualifies for an involuntary Gainax Ending.
  • Only a Flesh Wound
  • Only Sane Man: Dr. Helmer thinks he is this. Sometimes he may even have a point. Other times, not so much.
  • Opening Narration
  • Oracular Head
  • Orderlies Are Creeps: Averted, as Bulder and Hansen are very nice.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Partly subverted.
  • Posthumous Character: Aage Krüger. Many people wish.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Ole
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Rigmor
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Bongo, in the Cliffhanger of series 1 ep 2.
  • Red Right Hand: Krüger painfully grows horns when Mrs. Drusse identifies him as a demon.
  • Redubbing: The abovementioned Greek Chorus actors were overdubbed by others, presumably because their Downs syndrome prevented them from delivering their lines satisfactorily.
    • Udo Kier was also redubbed. He just delivered his lines in phonetical Danish and was dubbed over afterwards. This was done for both of his roles, but they did have different dubbers for both.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Helmer is caught pretty much red-handed trying to alter the medical records:
    "You may be wondering what I'm doing here. And do you know, I don't know either? I can't explain at all!"
    • Or when he pours everyone coffee while trying to poison Krogshøj and loses track of the fatal cup, and Helmer angrily snatches the coffee away from everyone on the pretext that they are being ungrateful by not drinking it. Even though they were just about to.
  • Serious Business: The bizarre rituals of the series' Brotherhood of Funny Hats.
    • Also the counseling techniques of Psychotherapist Ole.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The spiritist Mrs. Drusse is a character from Danish author Hans Scherfig's (The Stolen Spring) novels.
    • The name Stig Helmer is the name of the meek protagonist of a Swedish comedy franchise.
    • The repeated motif of a concrete wall, which is breached by water, as an image of the spirits breaking into the world of mortals, was also used in Lucio Fulchi's classic surreal horror movie The Beyond (1981).
  • Skyward Scream: DANSKJÄVLAR!!! (DANISH F*CKERS)
  • The Social Darwinist: Krogshøj after his near-death.
  • Surreal Horror: So much of it. Do we even have to mention what Dr. Petersen gives birth to?
  • Understatement: "He's been different ever since he came back from the morgue".
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Krogshøj plants one on Helmer. In front of the entire morning staff meeting.
  • Title Drop: In the Opening Narration. Look at the quote at the top of the page.
  • World Gone Mad: The whole hospital, pretty much from the get go. And that's before the hauntings begin (who, at best, merely manage to add the cherry to the crazy cake). The few characters who are relatively sane end up going nuts as well over the opurse of just two short seasons.

Should you wish to spend more time with us here at TV Tropes, you'd better be prepared to take the good with the bad.


Video Example(s):


Dr. Stig Helmer's Envy

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlackIsBiggerInBed

Media sources: