Borgen: Full Season 1
September 23, 2020 10:24 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

A shocking turn of events thrusts relatively unknown Moderate Party leader Birgitte Nyborg Christensen into the political spotlight in Denmark, culminating in her seating as the country’s first female Prime Minister - with all the personal and political complications such a situation brings.

As can be expected, Birgitte is faced with an uphill battle breaking into “the old boys club” at Christiansborg Palace (Denmark’s seat of Parliament and the “Borgen” of the series title); at turns she is aided and hindered in her journey by her “spin doctor” Kasper Juul and his on-again off-again companion, brilliantly ambitious journalist Katrine Fønsmark, who share the space of co-secondary leads in the course of the first season. This season tackles topics running the gamut from the effect political ambition can have on families; child sexual assault and its lasting effects; the Greenland issue and covert acts of US oppression on former Danish colonial territory; the fight for equality in corporate boardrooms; and the bitterness of former politicians who are given journalistic bullhorns.

Borgen, often compared to the US political drama “The West Wing,” ran for three seasons in Denmark between 2010 and 2013, with a new Netflix-produced fourth season set to arrive in 2022. The first three seasons, full of familiar faces (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Pilou Asbæk, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Dar Salim, Lars Brygmann) to those into Scandi Noir or Game of Thrones, are now on Netflix.
posted by angeline (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Really enjoyed this first season. It’s a lovely bit of escapist fiction - the “big” scandal being a coat purchased on a the PM’s card. Great watching Sidse and Pilou together. He was wronged so hard by GoT.
posted by weed donkey at 9:20 AM on September 26, 2020

Pilou really is a great actor - he had a very minor role in one season of The Borgias (the Showtime one) and I found him memorable enough to be pleased that he got a role on GoT. But no, they really didn’t do right by him! Happily he and Sidse really kill it in Borgen. They work so well together, and I think Birgitte and Kasper’s complicated relationship is one of the gems of the show.

As for the big scandal... it seemed to be a rather large amount of money put on a government card, and I felt the drama was justified and multifaceted - Hesselboe is on the brink of election. His wife and her issues are probably a fairly regular presence in Danish gossip rags. His priority at this crucial time is to keep her out of them right now, as expediently as possible, and he does have the intention of sorting the financials out sooner rather than later. But he’s arrogant, and focused more on his job and the power it brings him than on his troubled spouse. That’s ripe for exploitation. Enter Laugesen.

Laugesen is a sleazy bigot with a clear theatrical streak and a tabloid journalist’s instincts. He just fucked up on live news television with his immigration stance and knows how to take the news of the PM dropping a big chunk of change in a British luxury store on the people’s dime and twist it into something even bigger than it already is. That doesn’t save him, though, it sinks him right along with Hesselboe, because “misuse” of government funds is bad but also nobody likes a sleazy, smug asshole being his sleazy, smug asshole self right on live television.

(well, clearly some people do given the state of American politics today - but THIS is Denmark in 2010, presumably things were different)

I think the loose link isn’t really the story of the coat purchase but rather how Birgitte skated into the gap left by it. But even that plays into the full season story because she is so very out of her depth on her work-life balance, but she wants to do right by Denmark, and she has a great deal of integrity. Which is appealing but ultimately she realizes it can’t be all she has.

Really dislike her husband though. He made me think of the bad, unsupportive boyfriend from The Devil Wears Prada. Just a whiny emasculated fusspot.
posted by angeline at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah her husband was not well written - for me, he went from being alternately a whiny fusspot, to justified by her actions (leaving him at his going away party, ignoring him for Kasper, etc etc). The show was attempting to portray her poor work/life balance, but I agree that it ended up just making her husband seem like a turd sometimes. I don't think that was the writer's intentions.

One of my favorite things about this show is that is a combination of two of my favorite Sorkin shows - Sports Night and West Wing. It's both a show about the inner workings of politics and TV journalism. That is a brilliant way to do it.
posted by weed donkey at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I though the decline of the husband was actually one of the more interesting arcs over the first season. He went from being a supportive, we-have-a-deal semi-stay-at-home-dad to unreasonable egotistic but-I-wanna-be-a-CEO-and-damn-the-kids over the 10 shows, pivoting (I think) around his boorish behavior when Birgitte's father comes to stay. The writers, I think, made it clear that he's not handling his wife's success well, and that he's wrong to be behaving like this. The twist is that the stereotype is at a diagonal: a successful man "extending" his success by having an affair or something while his longsuffering-but-comprehending loyal housewife manages the ménage. Borgen subverts a lot of our expectations and that's interesting.
posted by chavenet at 3:24 AM on October 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

What I love about this show (so far, I've got as far as end of season 1) is how well is builds on an unpromising basis: a show in Danish dealing with Danish politics. Do I want to spend an hour hearing about the interplay between Copenhagen and Nuuk, how that is reported and the way if affects the key players? It turns out the answer is a resounding Yes - I really do! Even more so to watch the characters change and develop as the episodes go by. No wonder it was called "The best TV show you've never seen".

The show's plot points have, apparently, had a very good track record of appearing as actual political stories - to the point where Helle Thorning-Schmidt - who became Denmark's first female Prime Minister shortly after the show's release - has claimed she actively tried not to be too influenced by Birgitte Nyborg.
posted by rongorongo at 11:17 PM on October 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Danish is almost completely an impenetrable language for me - but one of the delights of shows like Borgen is picking out the occasional word that might mean little to those in England but which is perfect Scots: "hoose", "oot", "efter", "flitting", "greetin", "braw", "bairn", "quine" and so on)
posted by rongorongo at 3:03 AM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

GOD yes I too was questioning whether the Danish policy thing really would make for TV that pulled me in, and it was the Greenland episode that really convinced me! Prior to that I’d been mostly watching because I liked Birgitte and Katrine a lot... and then all of a sudden I was down a rabbithole of Greenlandic politics.
posted by angeline at 4:17 PM on October 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

This is such a great show. I was sucked in from the very first episode! The storylines, the acting, the character’s just so damn good. And the Greenland episode was fascinating. In Canada lately, our government has been forced to grapple with its treatment of First Peoples and the legacy of colonization—residential schools, forced relocation, theft of land and resources, broken treaties, continued paternalism. The parallels with Denmark’s relationship to Greenland were very clear, because it’s exactly the same: the poison fruits of colonization.

We just finished the second season, and I can truthfully say it’s just as good, possibly better, than the first!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:40 PM on October 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

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