Nordic Drama

Borgen S3 E1-2 “A child of Denmark”/”The land is built on law” (BBC4)

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Contains spoilers for the first two episodes of season 3

The good news: Borgen is back! The bad news: the third series will be its last. The good news again: it’s better than ever.

There had been a few uneven patches in its first two series but overall I think it turned out rather tremendously. Tritely pigeon-holed as the “Danish West Wing” when it started, Adam Price’s Borgen stood out chiefly thanks to the lead performance of Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg who at the beginning of the first season became the first female Prime Minister of Denmark and thereafter held together a precarious coalition government over the course of the next two years. This meant that Borgen had a particularly topical appeal to British audiences in 2010 and 2011 as the UK happened to find itself under its first proper coalition government since 1945: seeing how Nyborg keeps the factions together and achieves things in the precarious situation became almost a how-to manual for Britons in understanding our own new political reality.

In 2013, Borgen continues to remain scarily relevant and sharply responsive to what’s going on in the real world. Moving on two years from season 2, we now find that Nyborg lost the last election and subsequently resigned as party leader to become a famous and highly paid international public speaker (shades of Tony Blair?) and a member of many important company boards. Her children seem happy, she’s on good terms with ex-husband Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær), and she has a new architect boyfriend from Britain (played by Monarch of the Glen star Alastair Mackenzie.) Being out of politics agrees with her: even her gorgeous new penthouse apartment is a world away from the older, cramped family home she shared with Philip and the children as Prime Minister. In fact the whole show looks glossier, more modern, more confidently stylish and creative all round. Read the rest of this entry »

Borgen S2 E3+4

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Contains spoilers for the two aired episodes.

I really don’t intend to do a detailed week-by-week review of the entire season of Borgen, but this week’s instalment of episodes seems to require it.

Put simply, I thought this was possibly the best and strongest two episodes of Borgen to date. Sometimes the show can be a little uneven and its parts disconnected, but “The Last Worker” and “Battle Ready” were as strong and well-written as anything the show has done to date, managing to tell effective and gripping stories in which the personal and emotional strands wove into the political and dramatic storylines and back again in the most perfectly integrated way. And having grumbled about BBC4 showing the series in double-headers when episodes are generally stand-alone instalments, here we have two stories that flowed seamlessly from one to another giving the whole evening the sweeping sense of a well-thought-out two- hour motion picture rather than a TV show.

“The Last Worker” featured Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) trying to get a new social welfare policy agreed with her coalition partners (this coming spookily within days of Britain’s real PM David Cameron unveiling something like the same thing for the UK – talk about relevance!) but the process being undermined by her coalition partners in the Labour Party having trouble with their union backers over the question of early retirement leading to the ousting of the sweet, honorable but in truth rather shambolic and effective party leader Bjørn Marrot (Flemming Sørensen). Read the rest of this entry »

Borgen S2 E1+2

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Contains spoilers for the two aired episodes.

And so Borgen is back to keep up our quotient of Danish drama on a Saturday night. Having sat through too many minutes of ITV’s earlier output Splash! which had me anticipating the end of the world and the coming Armageddon with its lazy simplistic concept and amateurish execution, it was a relief to find something on TV with a brain and a heart in roughly the right places.

Series 2 of Borgen (the title comes from the familiar name of the building that houses the Danish government offices in Copenhagen) starts off pretty much where season 1 left off despite the note on screen that this was some ten months after the events of last season. In fact, the new series continues seamlessly from the first and the only reason for the stated elapsed time is to move on a few of the dangling story threads from where we had left them: Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and her husband Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjær) have gone from early separation to the final stages of divorce; it’s clear that once-closest ally Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon) hasn’t got over Birgitte’s need to fire him from his top Cabinet post and their relationship has deteriorated badly; and Birgitte herself is now much more confident and in charge about ruling her administration. Read the rest of this entry »