I have finally caught up with BBC 4′s Borgen double header opening to season 2. Second seasons are always tricky, you have had a great first season and now have a reputation to live upto, something to be compared against.
Borgen did not disappoint, it was as good as it was last season. The political drama and backstabbing flowed as thickly, and the human drama that under pinned it was superbly acted as usual.
The first episode centered around Denmark’s involvement in Afghanistan. In the opening scene we met a young Danish soldier about to go out on reconnaissance in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. As Politicians are wont to do Birgitte Nyborg had popped in on a ‘meet the troops’ visit. The young squadie cheekily asked for a photograph with the Prime Minister remarking how rare it was to have “babes” around camp.
That meeting set the scene for the episode as shortly after the photograph the Taliban launched an offensive killing eight Danish soldiers including the young soldier Nyborg had met and throwing her long-held policy aim to withdraw Denmark from the war into disarray.
Nyborg was now faced with three stark choices, withdraw and hand a political victory to the Taliban as well as upset Denmark’s allies, keep the military deployment with no change and face accusations that the soldiers are being abandoned to their fate, or strengthen the deployment and face accusations that she was escalating the war and possibly fracturing the ruling coalition.
Borgen on the surface is about Birgitte Nyborg, but it is really about a journey of discovery of two women Birgitte Nyborg and Katrine Fonsmark whose fate often intertwines with Nyborg’s and the debacle in Afghanistan once again brought their fates together.
Katrine was embedded with the Danish army at the time of the attack and was witness to its aftermath. On return to Denmark her boss and arch-enemy of the Prime Minister, Michael Laugesson, wanted to use the death of the soldiers to do a hatchet job on the Prime Minister.
Katrine is reluctant to do this and instead pushes for a human interest angle by focusing on the family of a dead soldier, which by coincidence turns out to the same soldier the Prime Minister met in Afghanistan.
Borgen is so well written that sometimes you forget that you are watching a foreign import, but other times you think really? When Katrine went to interview the dead soldier’s father her cold, pushy matter of fact manner was unusual particularly given that she is supposedly one of the more empathetic characters. I suspect even the sleaziest hack from a fleet street tabloid would have been more circumspect in those circumstances.
Ultimately it is the anguish of the bereaved father that resolves the Prime Minister’s dilemma and provides Katrine with the copy she needs for her paper. A letter from his son sent in the event of his death reveals why he served in Afghanistan, and although his Father could not rationalise the reasons, that along with political realities sways the Prime Minister to increase Denmark’s commitment to the war, and the letter also provides Katrine with the perfect copy she was after.
In the second episode of the double-header, the European Union was the source of Nyborg’s problems. Denmark needed to nominate a new Commissioner, straight forward proposition you might think but not in the murky world of politics. Having to make that choice also laid bare how much Nyborg’s relationship with the man who was effectively her mentor, Bent Serjo, had deteriorated.
Bent had become increasingly critical of Nyborg’s policies, and her removing him from the cabinet last season had not helped matters. After another heated argument we see her berating him for not booking appointments with just like everyone else coming to see her. As her exasperation with Bent grew, a suggestion from one of the rising stars of her party, Jacob Fruse seemed to offer the perfect solution.
Fruse a man who reminds me of Boycie from Only Fools and Horses and therefore instantly untrustworthy suggested that Bent be offered the EU commissioner’s job. Shipping him off to Brussels was just the solution Nyborg needed, but there were problems. Bent did not want to go. He eventually came round but unexpectedly at a farewell party to mark the appointment he suffered a heart attack.
It turns out that Fruse had known Bent had a previous attack but neglected to tell the Prime Minister hoping that with Bent out of the way he could take a step closer to becoming Nyborg’s eventual successor. His Machiavellian plot was uncovered and he was dispatched (or should that be exiled) to Brussels for his sins.
Off the main story arc we saw the slow lingering death of Nyborg’s marriage, a reality she was struggling to come to terms with.
The suave but troubled Kasper Juul has a new girlfriend but in an inopportune moment refers to her as Katrine and to compound matters opts to celebrate Katrine’s birthday with her forcing his girl friend to cancel plans she’d made earlier. She seemed baffingly understanding about the whole thing.
Meanwhile Katrine’s relationship with her colleague Hanne Holm strengthened as Hannah revealed the hurt of her pretty non-existent relationship with her own daughter.
Roll on episode 3!
- BBC4…Nordic Noir TV Fans..Borgen is back for Season 2 (didyouwatchit.com)
- The Borgen supremacy: Birgitte Hjort Sorensen interview (telegraph.co.uk)
- Borgen: ‘I never thought it would travel’ (independent.co.uk)