Borgen – 2.01 – 2.02: 89,000 Children & In Brussels, No-One Can Hear You Scream

The return of Denmark’s popular political drama! Can it outshine The Killing again?

Danish political drama Borgen is back! The troubles of Birgitte Nyborg, first even female Danish Prime Minister, return to our screens and we must ask ourselves: can we balance our party alliances whilst still watching this show and not breaking up our families?

Last year’s first series did rather well in our Top Ten TV Shows of 2012, so this is an eagerly anticipated return. Did the first two episodes live up to our salivating anticipation? Spoilers will follow, so you may want to catch the episodes on iPlayer first. Tak.

Something Satanic In The State Of Denmark

This is a depressingly regular feature of all my BBC Four Danish TV reviews, but: why the double bills, BBC? Oh, why? It’s annoying enough with The Killing, but a proper arseache with Borgen, where the episodes are individual stories, rather than part of a huge ongoing serial. Still, I’ll try and cover each one in turn.

Our first episode, then, dumps us back with the characters and massages us with some gentle reminders about who everyone is, and where they be at. Birgitte and Kasper are still running the country, but intrepid reporter Katrine is now journalisting for Laugesen, a man more evil than Satan. Kasper is dating someone else but still lusting after Katrine, while Birgitte gets one of those storylines in which her sissy moderate beliefs are tested by reality. Oh, and her divorce happens.

It’s a very archetypal Borgen plot, but the main political happenings of the week – the dead solider and reactions to same – are emotional enough to get a rise out of us nonetheless while we take a tour of everybody. The series takes pleasure, as ever, at backing Nyborg into a corner and then wringing the tears out of us as she struggles desperately to escape with her principles intact.

As I say, standard fare, but after a year off air, it’s good to get a vigorous run through the routine to remind us of the complex relationships at play, not to mention hammer home a few plotlines from last year’s truamatic series finale.

Are Beardy Mentors Infallible?

And then our second episode of the week (and frankly the first one was tiring enough – PLEASE STOP THE DOUBLE BILLS) takes a proper dive into a major development from last year: Birgitte having to fire her old friend Bent. Meanwhile, elder reporter Hanne goes off the rails and the Kasper/Katrine/Lotte love triangle proceeds much as you’d expect.

The Bent material has a good run of twists and turns, everyone loves a beardy mentor figure (look at the popularity of Saul from Homeland) so you feel it when he finally collapses, and Birgitte breaks down in hospital: yet another hammer-blow reminder of the cost she pays for power. I’m starting to wonder how much more a person can really take.

THe Kasper/Katrine stuff isn’t yet quite as interesting as all that, as we’re kinda waiting for the inevitable ending where Kasper breaks poor Lotte’s heart. Yes, we’ll feel bad when it happens, as both women are being portrayed pretty sympathetically, but hopefully they’ll either get that over with soon or go somewhere different with it. I’m also curious whether Katrine’s ethical dilemmas over working for heartless monster Laugeson will be resolved quickly or made more complex – at the moment, her principled resignation seems only a matter of time.

So that was our first two weeks. It’s a slow start, but unlike The Killing, there are individual plots week by week, so they don’t necessarily have to churn through the main character arcs too quickly to stop us getting bored. Nonetheless, it seems likely the web will tighten around her heroes pretty quickly. That’d be business as usual for this series anyway. Join us next week to see what Daily Mail-esque bullshit Laugeson will make up to blame the current crisis on Birgitte!

Borgen airs in unfathomable doubles on Saturdays at 9PM on BBC Four. More info on the BBC official Borgen website, catch up with recent episodes on iPlayer. Don’t disrespect the Moderates.

Nick Bryan

Updated: Jan 06, 2013

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