TV Review: Borgen, An Extraordinary Remark

Tom Leece is Film and TV editor at Fourth & Main

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The Independent Online

It’s no holds barred for the Borgen season finale, as we open with Hamlet’s most famous rumination and dive into the very same gender debate that the drama has given rise to since its inception. Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) has now been absent from frontline politics for a month tending to her daughter. In her wake she has left a swirling power vacuum filled by sexists masquerading as social commentators.

“We often say that women lend an air of humanity to the corporate world”, Expres editor Michael Laugesen (Peter Mygind) declares, explaining that “women are more in touch with their feelings” before going on to question Birgitte’s maternal concerns. Before Birgitte can say “retrograde”, the gender debate has kicked off, with arch-rival Lars Hesselboe (Søren Spanning) poised to swoop in as the voice of reason in advance of next year’s election. “Danes aren’t called to vote for the best human being”, the ex-premier intones. “Elect the person who’ll make the best Prime Minister.”

But as Birgitte and Borgen are keen to point out, she has largely realised her reformist agenda, and Laura’s (Freja Riemann) incapacitation is an extraordinary circumstance that any parent should be allowed to deal with. Birgitte can and should, it seems, “have it all”, and now she knows it. With ex-husband Phillip (Mikael Birkkjær) helping out at home more and more, she takes the opportunity to call him out on his abandonment of the marriage in a showdown that has been ten episodes in the offing. “You were weak,” she says, “and you left. You let me down.”

As Borgen delivers its final verdict on the ideal work/life balance, Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) encourages Kasper (Pilou Asbæk) to embrace the idea that life isn’t the “pile of shit” he thinks it is. The media maestros are looking for a new flat in the capital, bidding a long overdue farewell to Katrine’s cramped student digs. It’s more than just an insight into the Copenhagen property market (a 2,700-sqft flat with original stucco goes for £665,000); Kasper flies off the handle as only Kasper can when the estate agent starts pressuring him to have kids of his own.

“I’d rather do the responsible thing than feel I’m entitled to everything”, he tells Katrine. The spin doctor is fearful of passing on the genes of the father who abused him and the mother who stood by and did nothing. Borgen won’t let the pessimist off the hook so easily; the message is that it’s better to try and make things work than never attempt them, even if TV1 editor Torben Friis (Søren Malling) is cutting informal (and illegal) deals to prevent Katrine suddenly setting off on maternity leave.

Borgen’s first season ended on a grim note, with Birgitte in anguish, Phillip out the door, Katrine out of a job and Kasper left bereft. It looked at the start of this season like further tragedy would befall the programme’s main players but, midway through, after one minister took an overdose and another was hounded out of office, the writers seemed to grant their remaining creations a reprieve. Divides have been healing, cerebral embolisms overcome and old traumas accepted. It may not be the dour Danish drama we’ve come to expect, but you can’t knock the warm, fuzzy glow of optimism on which the season deservedly ends.

Best scene:

Nothing beats the great orator Birgitte Nyborg invoking the names of Denmark’s first female members of parliament, elected in 1918. Fun fact: that same year Constance Georgine Markievicz was the first woman elected to parliament in Britain, though she never took her seat.

Best line:

“I know you don’t want children but keep the estate agent out of it.” (Katrine, to Kasper). To be fair to Kasper, the over-familiar realtor would have probably welcomed a chance to stick her oar in.

Handy Danish vocab:

As it is the season’s last episode, best to end with a simple “hej hej” (“goodbye”).

Magnus Watch:

An arsenal of toy weapons, a new best friend, and steps taken towards reconciling his parents; Magnus (Emil Poulsen) ends the year on a high note.