Borgen again! TV’s most prescient show is back – and still working its magic | Television

Borgen snuck into the UK at the start of the last decade among the great wave of Scandi – or Nordic – noir, initiated by The Killing and Wallander. Only Borgen had nothing to do with those shows – no grisly murders, no unexpected deaths, minimal knitting, and zero high-stakes shootouts. Instead, it was a skillfully written and stunningly shot political drama, following Birgitte Nyborg – played beautifully by Sidse Babett Knudsen – who unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s first female Statsminister (Prime Minister).

Focusing not only on the political machinations of Borgen (literally “the castle”, the Danish nickname for Christiansborg Palace, where the government resides – run on a system of proportional representation – but also on the personal lives of politicians and journalists from its orbit, it quickly became a staple of the “golden age” of television. It was a remarkable achievement, not only because it was Denmark’s first attempt at political drama, but also because she focused on the details of Dance Politicslike pig farming and oil revenues, and has somehow taken international viewers with it – with excellent Danish interior design for good measure.

‘Sidse told me to see you in 10 years!’ … Borgen: Power & Glory. Photo: Mike Kolloffel/Netflix

After supposedly signing on for good in 2013, the drama makes a much-anticipated return to Netflix on June 2, with a new player and darker feel that, oddly enough, leans more in the stylistic direction of its Nordic black brethren.

Why now? I ask Knudsen and series creator Adam Price – who, in addition to writing and showing, is a well-known television chef in Denmark. The time had come, Price said. “We said to ourselves that if the right story presented itself, we would try to reform the group. Sidse actually said, “See you in 10 years”! Then the right story came out, although at the time I didn’t know it would be Borgen.

This “good story” involves a major new oil discovery in Greenland – a Danish dependency – which puts most of the old favorites back in place. Nyborg is back, in a newly formed government, as foreign minister. Has she really held the same position all this time? I suggest to Knudsen that she must have thought about what her character was doing: “Oh, I’m not being methodical at all – I just put her in the closet, and she’s doing fine. But I took it out of the closet and it fit like a glove.

I ask the same of Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who plays fearless journalist turned political adviser Katrine Fønsmark. “I didn’t think about it until I got the call,” says Sørensen, “and then when I started reading the first script, I felt like I was finding an old friend on Facebook, and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, she’s actually been alive this whole time!

Of all the characters, Fønsmark was the one who seemed to come full circle at the end of season three – letting his guard down, accepting love – but this new series evokes the steamy emotional journeys of Nyborg and Fønsmark as much as it does. so does the Greenlandic question. “At the time, Katrine was very good at her job, but not in her private life. Then meet Søren [Ravn, Nyborg’s ex-policy advisor, played by Scandi-noir stalwart Lars Mikkelsen] kind of put her at ease, and… it kind of worked. Then maybe she came back to the work front for a while, had another child, and now she’s coming back strong, ”says Sørensen.

Borgen: Power & Glory.
Borgen: Power & Glory. Photo: Mike Kolloffel/Netflix

Borgen is also coming back strong, but he’s a very different beast. Everyone is careful not to call it a fourth season. Instead, it’s a standalone project under the Power & Glory title, with Greenland’s unique plot running through all eight episodes. It’s much darker – starting with the ominous title sequence – surrounding Nyborg with shadow, emptiness and darkness. It’s not a black tone, but for Borgen it feels like a lot of the design lighting has been toned down.

Nyborg strikes a lonelier, more Machiavellian figure, losing some of her old self to her work. “If I don’t work 19 hours a day as Foreign Secretary, then who am I?” she said at one point. Knudsen, in his disconcerting English RP accent, agrees. “Times have changed, and it’s really a very interesting mix of the old Borgen and something very new. What interested me the most this time was her relationship with herself, with her ideals and its political values, with its place in the world. So it’s, I guess you could say, lonely, but there are more nuances.

Reflecting the times must also have been a huge consideration. In the nine years the show has been absent, we’ve had Brexit, Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo, a global pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The original Borgen existed in a lighter era, portraying an almost West Wing optimism. “I remember when we were talking with foreign journalists 10 years ago; they said, “Is Denmark like that? such a country existed in the world. But even in Denmark we couldn’t afford to do that now, because it’s more cynical.

Times have also changed for Fønsmark. Once upon a time, she was a force of nature shattering the glass ceiling; now the world seems to have moved on as she has come to a standstill, leaving her with a feeling that many millennials can relate to – still feeling young, but now they are the “adults” in the room. “Even though she’s only about 40, she’s also old school, so the ‘revival’ time we’re in now, she understands and accepts it, but she often slips up because she says things she’s not supposed to say. [But] where she had ambitions for herself, I now think she is ambitious for journalism as a whole, and wants to save [it] in a sense.”

Likewise, Nyborg was never a “power for power’s sake” politician, but during Power & Glory we see her drifting somewhat. “How does she justify her actions with herself?” Knudsen said. “It’s not so black and white. I was really excited to do this development. Being a leader has become such an essential part of one’s identity, so it’s not just [power for power’s sake]it’s because that’s who she is.

Price adds, “As Sidse says, if you build your identity on your position, then it becomes too costly to lose it, because then you lose yourself.”

There’s also an extremely prescient Russian reference in the opening episode that just might make your jaw drop. Even though the show had been wrapped for a while before the latest offensive in Ukraine, a speech at the end of the first episode hits hard. This isn’t the first time Price has been accused of being clairvoyant – Borgen has always seemed to be a few steps ahead of reality. “It’s so crazy,” says Sørensen. “I think Adam is so knowledgeable, so well researched and makes speculations that often seem to come true.” Knudsen thinks it’s something else. “Adam has a crystal ball – he still does – and he won’t talk about it. It happened back then too. After all, Denmark’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was elected a year after the first season aired.

Borgen: Power & Glory will launch on Netflix on June 2.

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