sat 01/11/2014

Borgen, Series 2 Finale, BBC Four | TV reviews, news & interviews

Borgen, Series 2 Finale, BBC Four

In which embattled Prime Minister Nyborg boldly takes back the political initiative

Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) flashes trademark smile for the media

After last week's spectacularly unconvincing foray into saving Africa (usually the last refuge of a doomed statesperson), Birgitte Nyborg returned to the centre of Denmark's political life for the concluding pair of episodes in series two. Back amid themes of political infighting, media skulduggery and personal relationships under pressure, Borgen had, amid sighs of relief, come home to where it belonged.

Immediately, crisis loomed. Birgitte (Sidse Babett Knudsen) had to bite the bullet and accept that her anxiety-stricken daughter Laura (Freja Riemann) needed more than phone calls and a soothing pat on the head in between meetings if her health wasn't to take a teminal nosedive, so she and estranged husband Philip (Mikael Birkkjaer) booked her into a costly private clinic. Otherwise they'd have faced a year-long wait for state-provided care. Snag was, though, that Birgitte was in the midst of driving through legislation to clamp down on private medical insurance, in order to increase funding to the public health service.

She seemed surprised, but shouldn't have been because she was warned by her spin doctor Kasper (Pilou Asbaek, pictured right), that this instantly became a "political hypocrisy" story, whipped up by bad guy Michael Laugesen's toxic tabloid, Express (or Ekspres, if you must). It was reminiscent of those Labour politicians who preach comprehensive education for the masses while sending their own children to expensive public schools - indeed, it's remarkable how similar the political preoccupations of Denmark seem to be to our own, to judge from Borgen at least - and before long Laura's clinic was besieged by yapping newshounds and paparazzi leaping out of the bushes. Perhaps Birgitte will set up a Løvessen Inquiry into media ethics in series three.

After a tearful outburst of anti-media hate ("They're rats!"), Birgitte took a bold step and temporarily handed over the PM-ship to her deputy, the drab and lump-like Thorsen. Her daughter had to come first, and she had to go cold turkey on the intoxicating power-trip of round-the-clock meetings, speeches, press conferences and issuing instructions to people in corridors.

Hence, the dominant theme as the series boiled to a conclusion was whether women could indeed "have it all". This doesn't just mean the Prime Minister. Kasper is suddenly getting very serious with TV journo Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) and planning to buy a colossally expensive flat with her. However, while it seemed that what initially drew them together was their shared love of political intrigue and the adrenalin charge of controlling or reporting fast-breaking news, suddenly Katrine has gone all moochy and is talking about children ("I'm 31"), a subject which sends Kasper, twisted by childhood abuse issues, into spasms of panic. It's also about to go down badly with Katrine's editor at TV1, who specifically asked her not to get pregnant just yet. Idiot.

Borgen's creator, who goes by the perplexingly un-Danish name of Adam Price, has admitted that the series is "definitely some kind of feminist project", and it would be hard not to conclude that the series presents men as the inferior species. The show's male politicians tend to be reactionary and ossified old codgers, especially the troll-like fellow who leads the Freedom Party (Ole Thostrup, pictured above with Sorensen), the exception being the principled, photogenic young muslim Amir Dwian (Dar Salim), former leader of the Greens. Even Birgitte's husband hasn't emerged as a potent symbol of male strength and decisiveness, though actor Birkkjaer has been declared a sizzling sex god. He now stands exposed as weak for deserting her too quickly, while treating her replacement Cecelie (Mille Dinesen) as a mere crutch to be used when required. How he must yearn for another role like the implacable assassin in The Killing II.

Anyway, we irised out on a recharged Birgitte, decisively taking back the political initiative and raring to go for series three. And once again flashing that big, brilliant smile, where she crinkles up her nose so delightfully. Even Obama wouldn't stand a chance against that. 

Birgitte had to go cold turkey on the intoxicating power-trip of round-the-clock meetings, speeches, press conferences and issuing instructions to people in corridors

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