TV review: Borgen, The Last Worker

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

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After two years in power but now minus her mentor and her marriage, it's no wonder that tonight Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) was getting a little misty-eyed for the good times.

Remember when political advice came with relevant references to Julius Caesar? When she and Phillip would bicker over driving directions and play Pictionary with the kids? “I miss the way it used to be”, she concedes.

Birgitte isn’t the only one. Beleaguered Labour leader and coalition pillar Bjørn Marrot (Flemming Sørensen) wanders down the dim corridors of power past the paintings and busts of long gone politicians. A shipyard welder who we learn worked his way up through the unions, Bjørn now finds himself assailed by sly rumours and the “white collar academics” in his party’s leadership. What ever happened, he asks, to loyalty and solidarity?

These elegies for the glory days get short shrift from Bjørn’s fellow Labour ministers, who are all for disobeying their leader and scrapping the state’s early retirement fund to finance Birgitte’s new welfare package. It’s just the kind of coalition calamity, days before a seaside seminar at which the future of Denmark is to be discussed, that the prime minister doesn’t need. Especially when she finds that on the home front Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) is readying the kids for an introduction to new girlfriend Cecilie. Sometimes Birgitte only seems able to rely on Kasper and, of course, Kim, the ministerial driver with the devilish wit.

The Danish coast and its spectacular sea views are a welcome change from the ministry’s doom-laden halls. The political scene has been steadily darkening for Birgitte – only one cabinet member, the Green politician Amir (Dar Salim), has not been caught up in some intrigue or other – and Kasper’s warning to not let her anger cross the divide between her professional and private lives hits home. In a breakfast table conversation with Laura (Freja Riemann) and Magnus (Emil Poulsen) that felt more like a cabinet meeting, Birgitte took a concessionary approach to the ongoing domestic upheaval. Such goodwill gestures may not hold, though, if she finds herself on the receiving end of many more blithely insensitive phone calls.

Speaking of blithely insensitive, it’s getting harder to root for Kasper (Pilou Asbæk), no matter how troubled the spin doctor may be. There he was with his own rose-tinted perspective of the past, cherry-picking memories from his relationship with Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). It’s true that while the perpetually sidelined Lotte (Rykke Lylloff) isn’t much of a character yet, she’s enough of one to feel for. And while she may not always keep Kasper at arm’s length Katrine is hardly the instigator. The journo has plenty to be getting on with, not least Ekspres editor Michael Laugesen’s (Peter Mygind) refusal to report on the day’s agenda.

Fans of the first season know that while there’s a whole boogle of weasels (I looked it up) at Borgen none are as bad as treacherous Troels Höxenhaven (Lars Brygmann). At first it doesn’t seem so terrible that Katrine could be forced to rake up mud on the Justice Minister, until it emerges that she’s been party to something that will go against all of her ethics. Maybe it will make her think back to dithering editor Torben Friis (Søren Malling) and the happy times at TV1. You know. The good old days.

Best scene:

Borgen’s Labour party has never been cast in the best light, and the subtext tonight seemed to be that it has strayed far from the virtues of its union roots. Political leanings aside, it was hard not to feel for Bjørn Marrot, wrung dry for pathos by veteran actor Sørensen Flemming, as he reminisced with Birgitte at sunset.

Best line:

“I owe you a prawn sandwich.” (Bjørn Marrot, to Thorsen). Just plain odd, but better than shady backroom deals with sacks full of kroner.

Handy Danish vocab:

If Phillip and Cecilie can’t work it out then why should we, some may say, but the Danish for left and right is “venstre” and “højre”.

Magnus Watch:

It was time for big sister Laura to shine this episode, but we now know that while Magnus (Emil Poulsen) may be an attentive listener at breakfast he’s not above bending the rules during the after dinner games.

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main