Episode Four, Series Two, BBC Four, 10pm

TV review: Borgen, Battle Ready

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

We’ve all had one of those bad dreams. You’re the prime minister of a North European state with a clogged kitchen sink and hair that just won’t dry in time for work and bang!

The front door opens and in walks your ex-husband with the woman who’s been making Mexican food with your kids. No matter. Who, after all, could understand and ever hope to recapture the essence of that special bond you have with your own offspring? Wait a minute, what? She’s a paediatrician? She’s great with children!

It’s a nightmare tonight for Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen), hemmed in by would-be replacements on both sides. Newly anointed Labour leader and political bête noire Troels Höxenhaven (Lars Brygmann) is taking on prime ministerial airs. Cecilie (Mille Dinesen), a perfectly nice woman, seems to be positioning herself as a potential stepmother to her children. Spin doctor Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) is good with political wisdom; perhaps it’s time he helped out on the home front? “I’m not big on personal advice and stuff like that”, he warns, before telling her not to give up without a fight.

This only brings Birgitte down to the murky levels of delusion where Kasper resides. Strange things happen at these depths. Soap opera attempts at seduction. Lines straight out of 70s blue movie from the man who fixes the plumbing (admittedly, it may have just been the subtitles). Chalk it up to confusing times for the prime minister but, with Kasper’s seesawing moods and Katrine’s subterfuge, which at least finally vindicates the All the President’s Men poster in her apartment, Borgen’s personal dramas were notably wild tonight. Certainly the Danish seamen held hostage by pirates had a tough time in competition.

The maritime plight plot did, however, succeed in bringing Troels and his particular brand of passive-aggressive politics into direct conflict with Birgitte. The most slippery opponent so far, played to noisome and, later, emotional effect by Lars Brygmann, the Foreign Minister brings Labour back into the limelight through his timely “Höxenhaven effect”. We knew it couldn’t last. The question this episode, following the previous hour’s shenanigans, was not so much when Troels would fall foul of being foolish enough to conduct extra-marital affairs in front of the window at a conference centre surrounded by journalists, but how.

It became clear early on that Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) wasn’t to be the one who broke the news. Theories of her own inevitable corruption this season can surely be discounted, as it seems that Katrine’s moral compass will lead her to the closest high ground, past salaries and professional perks alike. It’s almost a shame, as her appointment as the angel of light meant that Ekspres editor Michael Laugesen was confirmed to be evil incarnate. If Peter Mygind’s performance wasn’t so charismatic then the role would almost be a caricature.

Katrine’s virtue must be catching. Staging a fake press conference to set up a one-on-one meeting with the journalist you love may be the height of romance for any spin doctor, but Kasper’s on the straight and narrow for now. His faltering step towards redemption might have been more convincing if a fresh load of his spin and misdirection hadn’t ended the episode. Instead it was a man’s reputation saved through lies and a deal done with the devil. The Nyborg nightmare continues.

Best scene:

Tip of the hat to the Borgen team for taking their most infuriatingly smug creation, putting him on a bridge at night with an old enemy, and leaving us with a sense of uneasy guilt for what we just witnessed.

Best line:

“But why the driver?” (Kasper, to Birgitte). There’s a spin-off sitcom here about two former titans of the political scene trading witticisms as they adapt to single life in the capital. Coping in Copenhagen?

Handy Danish vocab:

“Vasken er tilstoppet” (“the sink is clogged”), for all those dodgy Danish drainage needs.             

 Magnus Watch:

Did he really want dad’s new girlfriend to see his room, or was it all for an illicit few hours on the PSP? Further indications tonight that Magnus’ (Emil Poulsen) air of innocence may be studiously cultivated.

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main 

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