Episode Five, Series Two, BBC Four, 9pm

TV Review: Borgen, Plant a Tree

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

The politicians who make up Birgitte Nyborg’s (Sidse Babett Knudsen) inner circle seem to have worse luck than the wives of Henry VIII.

So far this season among ministers good and bad we’ve had a suicide, a cerebral embolism and a stab in the back, leaving just Climate and Energy Minister and Green party leader Amir Diwan (Dar Salim) untainted and unharmed. No prizes then for guessing who comes under fire in tonight’s episode.

For the first time it’s Borgen’s flawed heroine herself, rather than the media or rival ministers, who launches an attack on a cabinet member. Birgitte wants cross-party support to implement her designs for a new Denmark, which means forging a temporary alliance with the Opposition – specifically ex-premier Lars Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) and his cronies in big business and agriculture. Amir, a man of apparent principle, refuses to get in bed with the pesticide junkies and shadowy fat cats of Denmark’s dark satanic mills.

But just as dearly departed Troels Höxenhaven had his own secrets, so it happens that Amir quietly satisfies a little known, if unlikely, predilection for vintage cars. Birgitte sees the perfect way to cow the upstart Green leader: expose the “media darling” to the public as a hypocrite whose attitude to the environment is so reprehensible that he probably harpoons bottlenose dolphins for fun.

Even Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) seems taken aback by the ruthlessness of Birgitte’s political machinations. It is probably the most Machiavellian we’ve seen the statsminister since she forced her unfaithful husband to play happy families in front of the press during last season’s finale. While we’re on the subject, her position on the home front hasn’t much improved. Daughter Laura (Freja Riemann) has clear anxiety issues that, in one of Borgen’s beloved ticking timebomb plotlines, Birgitte dismisses as typical adolescent hormones.

If only everything could be so easily explained. Kasper’s behaviour went from confused to unsettling this week during a chance meeting with Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) that suggests the spin doctor isn’t entirely stable. There’s always been a bit of the emotionally manipulative, habitual liar in Kasper, for the most part explained by the horrors of his childhood, but here he was edging beyond the pale.

It’s not as if Katrine is in the best shape to bear her ex-boyfriend’s troubles as well as her own. Blacklisted in the aftermath of her departure from Ekspres she finds herself doomed either to host Danish chat shows or get cosy with Lars Hesselboe and his comically illiberal Liberals. It seems to be the end of the days of virtue – but wait, isn’t that former TV1 editor Torben Friis (Søren Malling) and his team, finally breaking out from their role this season as Borgen’s glorified Greek chorus?

And, just when things seemed at their most bleak and inhospitable, there’s a vision in yellow back in the halls of power. It’s all very fitting for the fifth episode; Birgitte’s at a moral crossroads, realising how far she’s strayed from the idealism of her early days and how far she’s let her family dynamic suffer in the process. It looks like things may be on the up. Amir wouldn’t like it, but Borgen’s ice could be about to thaw.

Best scene:

In a tense moment, face to face with the minister she’s conspired against, Birgitte almost overplays her hand and tips Amir off about her involvement – or does he know all along?

Best line:

“Amir, not only are you a polluter, you’re also a big fat liar.” (Michael Laugesen). Forget pioneering the video editorial – Laugesen’s bringing playground insults back into politics.

Handy Danish vocab:

Laura’s misery is our linguistic gain: she complains of being “høj” (“tall”) and “tynd” (skinny), which could also be of use in a Copenhagen coffee shop.

Magnus Watch:

“Be careful when you cross the road” is possibly the most fateful thing you can say to a flaxen bouncing boy on a jaded Danish drama, so let’s just be thankful nothing came of it.

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

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