Episodes Seven and Eight, Series Two, BBC Four

TV Review: Borgen, What Is Lost Inwardly Must Be Gained Outwardly

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

If The Dirty Dozen had been a film about fewer than twelve diplomats visiting Africa to broker a peace between warring nations it might have looked a little like Borgen did this weekend. Assembling her crack team at short notice for a daring piece of foreign policy, Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) recruits a bearded veteran with a few tricks left up his sleeve and a rebellious sceptic with a crucial skill set.

The mission they choose to accept, with Birgitte’s support base in need of a boost, entails a resolution of the conflict between the fictional nations of North and South Kharun. It’s the brainchild of business tycoon Joachim Crohne (Ulf Pilgaard), which can only ever be a bad thing, but Birgitte soon realises that humanitarian brownie points will raise Denmark’s profile higher than a hundred seasons of The Killing ever could, saving her coalition and salving her conscience in the process. While Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) seems content to flirt with Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), the prime minister sets off accompanied by old colleagues Bent Sejrø (Lars Knutzon) and Amir Diwan (Dar Salim) to spread peace on earth.

Those pausing iPlayer in curiosity may note that the delegation’s destinations occupy a similar area to Sudan and South Sudan and, would you believe it, North and South Kharun are respectively Islamic and Christian. It’s doubtful however that Borgen will win prizes for the year’s most nuanced portrayal of African politics. War crimes, intrigue over oil, entrenched homophobia, corruption and Kasper’s “people who once fought each other with machetes” remark wouldn’t do much for the Kharunese tourist board, were it to exist. The even-handedness of Birgitte’s first season trip to Greenland seemed a dim memory.

At least the statesmen Birgitte encounters were no more conniving than Borgen’s homegrown politicians. Omar Al-Jahwar (Abdi Gouhad) of the northern nation is a scheming intellectual wanted by The Hague, while his rival Jakob Lokoya (Femi Elufowoju Jr.) smiles as he announces that “there are no homosexuals in South Kharun.” With Katrine and Hanne (Benedikte Hansen) investigating corruption in the region’s oil industry and Laura (Freja Riemann) flushing her antidepressants down the toilet at home, everything looks set for a catastrophic collapse. As it is, although Birgitte’s linguistic arsenal fails to include Mandarin and Laura’s problems are deadly serious, there was reconciliation and harmony all round.

Katrine and Kasper dodge a series of arguments; Amir acquits himself and Bent is hailed a hero. There is even a montage to demonstrate just how damn efficient the Danes are at solving crises. But despite the double bill, two of the plotlines never seemed to be resolved. First there was Jakob Lokoya’s cheery homophobia, penned perhaps with closeted Foreign Secretary Troels Höxenhaven in mind only for the writers to remember that they’d killed him off in the fourth episode.

The second involved the bloodstained businessman who, after being pursued by two of the brightest journalistic minds in the history of Danish drama, fobbed them off with a ring binder and their dullest scoop ever. Both threads were presumably an insight into the compromises necessary when bringing peace to hostile nations, but amid all the hugging and back-slapping it raised the possibility that predominantly bleak Borgen is more provocative than its happier doppelganger. That said, there was a return to form at the episode’s end, laying out Birgitte’s dilemma for the season’s final episodes.

Best scene:

On the way back at sunset from their meeting with Jakob Lokoya, guitar twanging thoughtfully on the soundtrack, Bent and Birgitte mull over the imperfect deal they’ve cut.

Best line:

“For once, we can be proud of our prime minister here in little Denmark.” (Torben Friis). A positive end to the week for the state broadcaster’s foremost and most miserable political analyst.

Handy Danish vocab:

The elusive monarch got several further mentions on Borgen; even if Denmark’s “dronning” (“queen”) didn’t play bridge with Joachim Crohne, the fictional version of the reigning Margrethe II did enjoy dinner with Birgitte.

Magnus Watch:

With his natural talent for sleuthing the proto-Wallander worked out his big sister’s secret in no time. A junior private eye spin-off is surely in the works – Magnus (Emil Poulsen) could even pair up with Sarah Lund’s grandchild, when it comes of age.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice