Borgen: 2.09 - 2.10 - The Sanctity of Private Life & An Extraordinary Remark
With this final pair of episodes, Borgen finally poses some of its big questions directly: What are the real obstacles facing a woman Prime Minister, or indeed any female professional? And, when faced with some of the clichés made reality, how does she deal with them? Elsewhere, the relationship dramas come to a head and we finally discover what young Magnus Nyborg likes to watch on television. HINT: it ain't In The Night Garden.
Let's get to it. Spoilers abound, don't read it if you haven't seen the epic last two episodes. The rest of you: How did it end? How does series two stack up as a whole? Let's question our beliefs together. After we've watched the episodes on iPlayer, I suppose.
Birgitte Vs Satan - Can She Afford To Lose?
I found the early build-up of Laura's mental illness struggles a little cliché and obvious by Borgen standards, but all better this week, as that storyline finally wreaks havoc in the foreground. How can Nyborg deal with such a personal struggle, whilst still maintaining her political position? Obviously, she can't, and in the first episode this week, there's an inversion of the show's typical style. Instead of neglecting her family for her job, Birgitte does the opposite, missing meeting after meeting to look after Laura. This can't go on forever.
The developments in the latter half of the episode, as press coverage of Laura's illness becomes more and more intrusive and unpleasant, might have seemed cartoonish and implausible two or three years ago. Nowadays, in the aftermath of the hacking scandal, all fairly mild stuff, and Laura should count herself lucky they didn't lock her up and waterboard her until she told them Birgitte was really a man. To be honest, the one part I did find unbelievable was where they all simply backed off once Birgitte stepped down. The press were still covering the PM's recusement extensively, but not troubling her daughter at all? Okay then.
But anyway. The first episode does a lot of set-up for the finale, pushing Birgitte to breaking point until she finally snaps, and framing Kasper and Katrine for their big confrontation. It even has that absolutely killer cliffhanger I wanted last week, as Birgitte steps down temporarily for the greater good. And, once again, for anyone who enjoys comparing Borgen to The West Wing, they did a very similar plotline. I thought this might be Hans Christian Thorsen's chance to shine once he takes over, but after a couple of sinister scenes early in the episode, he doesn't do much. Even when she ain't PM, this show is all about the Nyborg.
So she wafts around, trying to work out her life, as the press hammer her for showing understandable human weakness. For anyone who thinks I've been too mean to Hell-Born Monstrosity Laugesson in previous reviews, he definitely earns it here. His series of video blogs are basically an ongoing DVD hate speech commentary, and once more, would sound unrealistically bigoted if I hadn't seen similar rhetoric in newspapers.
Endings, Declarations, Amputations
In general, this is the closest Borgen has ever come to tackling its core issues really bluntly: Should the differences between women and men be framed as weaknesses? Should Birgitte be judged on taking time off to care for children? Should Katrine be asked to promise not to have kids in exchange for her job? No, not really, and as Birgitte says at the end, it should be about who the best person is. About the closest the series has come to flat-out moralising, but after two full series and repeated demonstrations in action, I think they've earned this big moment.
Not to mention, if the declaration of themes isn't enough ending for you, Birgitte also calls for an election, so that's next series sorted. Genuinely an amazing ending, by the way, beautifully played by Sidse Babett Knudsen and the supporting cast. After last year's painfully miserable climax, I can let finish on a more upbeat note this time.
Elsewhere, Kasper and Katrine deal with their side of the children debate, as Kasper-Kenneth takes another big step in confronting his dark past. His meeting with his mother was the other big emotional scene of the episode for me, and it's nice to see the character showing real growth and learning from past events like an adult, and still struggling with his demons even after he's faced them. The childhood abuse angle could've felt really obvious, but I really like they way they've done it. His friendship with Laura in these episodes also worked really well. Bravo.
The only part of the finale I met with indifference, really, was Phillip breaking up with Cecilie. Nothing personal, Cecilie, but you only ever seemed a roadblock girlfriend, and much like Kasper's break-up with Lotte, it all felt like an inevitable amputation. I did like Phillip's scenes with Birgitte a lot, though - fittingly for a series ending, their big conversation had clearly been brewing all year.
Oh, and Magnus Nyborg watches a TV show about wine. Yes, maybe his friend's dad presents it, but still, that kid is middle class.
In terms of general thoughts: Borgen had a great second year, I thought. A few spells of predictable business faffing around the status quo, but they were mostly over quickly, and the final few weeks brought the material together with skill. Can't wait for series three, which I hear is airing in Denmark right now. The lucky bastards.
So, how did the second year work for you? Good, bad, disappointing? Let us know.
Borgen has now finished, sadly. The BBC official Borgen site is still up, as are a few recent episodes on iPlayer. Tak for reading, everyone.