’89, Children’ and ‘In Brussels No One Can Hear You Scream’
Everyone’s favourite Danish political drama is back – yes, Borgen returned to our screens this weekend with a promising start to the second season which finds Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) still trying to manage a deteriorating home life whilst running a country at war. It is arguably the best of the spate of Scandinavian dramas that have been on offer recently, and certainly the least bleak, thanks to its excellent writing and wide array of interesting characters who even manage to make the new appointment of an EU Commissioner an exciting storyline. And that’s no small feat.
The action picks up eleven months after the end of the last series with Birgitte considering the future of Denmark’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and it’s interesting seeing this debate from another country’s point of view. Although the first episode contains a few moments of over sentimentality – most notably where a grieving father reads aloud a goodbye letter from his recently killed soldier son, the second episode is a return to form and follows Birgitte as she tries to pick a new EU commissioner. It’s surprisingly engaging (yes, really).
All the main characters from last season are back but it’s still the women who run the show –intrepid reporter, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) stands out as a woman not afraid to get things done and it’ll be interesting to see if after quitting her last job over her journalistic principles she’ll be able to retain her soul in her new job as a tabloid reporter. Birgitte also has her work cut out for her as not only does she have to manage to demands of ruling a coalition government, but she also has to face off potential threats from within her own party. Knudsen excels in this role as she manages to be believable both as the decision making Prime Minister and as a wife and mother, struggling with divorce.
It’s a credit to the writing that no previous knowledge of Danish politics is needed in order to properly enjoy the show and indeed, the story is not just limited to the daily governmental goings on but branches out into the world of journalism and the characters’ personal lives. The different relationships Birgitte has with those around her are one of Borgen’s strengths as they allow us to see her in unexpected ways – she has a close bond with her trusty spin-doctor (an oxymoron perhaps?) whilst things are much more fraught between her and her old mentor, exposing her vulnerable side. Giving us this wider look into the life of the character allows us to see her as more than just a politician.
Borgen is a show which has the confidence to let its actors and dialogue do their part and bring the story to life, making for an engaging watch. It’s an excellent example of how good political dramas can be; there’s no sensationalism or government conspiracies, just good old fashioned politics.