Borgen S1-3: Netflix ~ Spoiler Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Image shows scenes from Borgen. The central image is the theatrical poster for the show.


🇩🇰 BORGEN 🇩🇰 

Borgen (2010- ) is a Danish political drama available on Netflix. S1-3 ~ 10 episodes x 58 min per season. In Danish with subtitles and dubbing available. Cert 15 U.K.

Premise: 

Birgitte Nyborg Christensen, a minor centrist politician, becomes the first female PM of Denmark. Borgen is a political drama about a prime minister’s rise to power, and how power changes a prime minister.

Crew:

Adam Price (Ride Upon The Storm, Ragnarok) is the co-writer and developer of the series, together with Jeppe Gjervig Gram and Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt, Mindhunter, Follow the Money). 

Cast (selected cast list):

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg

Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as Katrine Fønsmark

Pilou Asbæk as Kasper Juul

Søren Malling as Torben Friis

Mikael Birkkjær as Phillip Christensen

Freja Riemann as Laura Christensen

Benedikte Hansen as Hanne Holm

Emil Poulsen as Magnus Christensen

Lars Knutzon as Bent Sejrø

Benedikte Hansen as Hannah Holm

Thomas Levin as Ulrik Mørch

Peter Mygind as Michael Laugesen

Anders Juul as Simon Bech

Lars Mikkelsen as Søren Ravn

Dar Salim as Amir Dwian

Alistair Mackenzie as Jeremy Welsh

Notes:

In Danish Borgen, lit. ‘”The Castle”‘, is the informal name of Christiansborg Palace where all three branches of government reside: the Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court and is often used as a figure of speech for the Danish government.

Kasper Juul having his leg in a brace at the start of season 2 was due to Pilou Asbæk breaking his leg playing football a day or so before filming started. The asides and quips are even funnier when you know this. 

Borgen S1-3 is produced by DR, the Danish public broadcaster. In a partnership between Netflix and DR, a fourth series of Borgen with the original creative team, along with Sidse Babett Knudsen and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen etc. reprising their roles, is programmed for broadcast in 2022.

Review:

Borgen is a smart, interesting and engaging TV series full of political twists and turns, interesting characters and dynamics. This is a show with very many facets and characters, so I will only be focusing on some of these in this review. 

Each season has its own distinct political focus. Series 1 has our protagonist, Birgitte Nyborg, on her way to becoming Prime Minister and all the political machinations that involves. Series 2 the focus is on her period in office and the demands she faces in retaining her position. Series 3 she is no longer PM so the focus switched to how she is to form an alternative political party and regains her position as the country’s leader. 

What makes Borgen so engaging, for me at least, is not however merely these political aspects but the characters of those involved. For instance Birgitte’s family, husband, Phillip, and their children, who are deeply affected by her work. Then there is her relationship with her other trusted friends and advisors such as Bent. Brigitte herself is an intriguing character but even if she is knocked off course at times, her moral compass always sets true. Her self-awareness and concern to stick to her ethical standpoint, but also how these are both challenged at times is an enthralling watch. To have a female character be written so intelligently, with depth, facets and understanding is also praiseworthy.

The characters of, and dynamic between, Katrine Fønsmark (journalist) and Kasper Juul (Nyborg’s spin doctor) are intriguing. From the outset we see their fractured personal relationship gradually peeled away, and it is clear both have their own “issues”. The main element of their relationship seems to be trust, or the lack of it. But does it go far deeper than that. 

I found Kasper’s character to be the most fascinating and certainly, emotionally, one of the most affecting. We are steadily lead to realise that he is a deeply damaged person but, initially at least, we have no real idea as to why. There are hints and intimations though, which are there to be picked up upon. It is only when we are in the depths of season 2 that we are shown clearly, dreadfully, appallingly, exactly why he has these issues, has changed his name, can empathise so deeply with the mental health issues of Birgitte’s daughter, buries his childhood memories deep within, fiercely reacts in the defence of minors, etc. The single episode devoted solely to the backstory of his abuse, led by his own father and perhaps allowed by his mother, was very deeply affecting. All in all a fascinating character. 

Katrine too is an interesting and “difficult” character, in some ways perhaps less easy to empathise with than Kasper. Her character development is subtle and her story arc as she swaps from “poacher” to “gamekeeper” by season 3 is intriguing. Again we see the results of the skill of the writers in developing her character’s complexities.

Season 3 was, I felt, less engaging than the previous two but nevertheless a very worthwhile watch. Less engaging perhaps because less Kasper Juul (due to Pilou Asbæk’s desire at the time to do more theatre etc.) Along with the previous two seasons the third does, however, combine extremely well to show the inner workings of the media and TV journalism. Søren Malling’s character of Torben Friis really comes into his own in this season as it shows the terrible effects his job has upon him, his colleagues and his personal life. 

The cast of this show is simply phenomenal. There is not a single weak performance or link in the main or supporting cast. Lars Mikkelsen’s character is an interesting addition to the storyline. No doubt all their performances were enhanced, enabled even, by the quality of the script.

Borgen is generally written at the highest level with each episode moving stories and characters forward. I loved the use of epigraphs in their relevance to the theme of each episode. The themes it delves into are meaningful, often challenging and not confined to the political arena: betrayal and loyalty, courage and cowardice, morality and ethics, responsibility and accountability, conflict of interest, greed, abuse of power etc. Another great quality of this show is how it unhesitatingly tackles difficult, emotive contemporary political issues; perhaps sadly not many of these seem to have changed in the intervening years between when this series was first aired and now. It certainly challenges the viewers as to their own view of the world and certain groups, issues etc.

Borgen is a TV show I can unreservedly recommend. Smart, sexy, shocking, affecting and dazzling. I cannot wait until season 4 next year (despite no Pilou Asbæk and therefore Kasper Juul) as I know these writers, producers, crew and performers will not disappoint.

Awards:

This show and its cast and crew has received many nominations for awards and have won: a BAFTA; Monte Carlo TV Festival x 2; Prix Italia; Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels; and a Peabody Award

Trailer Season 1:

Trailer Season 2:

Trailer Season 3:

For those who are fans of Nordic/Scandi TV shows and films there is great affiliated Facebook Page:

https://m.facebook.com/manvelovTheofficialfanpage/

This online publication also has its own Facebook Page with a wide variety of content: 

https://m.facebook.com/reel2reeltalk/

Other Links:

More Spoiler Reviews: 

https://reel2reeltalk.com/category/spoiler-reviews/

More TV Reviews: 

https://reel2reeltalk.com/category/tv/

More Non-Spoiler Reviews: 

https://reel2reeltalk.com/category/non-spoiler-reviews/

More Film Reviews: 

https://reel2reeltalk.com/category/film/

2 Comments

  1. Oh! I just scanned the beginning of your article, and saw the news of s4 in the planning. Interesting!

    You and I have chatted about why I’ve not watched Borgen by now, despite being a lover of Nordic drama series, particularly the Danish series Arvingerne [The Legacy] , Forbrydelsen [The Killing], the monumental historical mini-series 1864, and (part Danish) Broen|Bron [The Bridge].

    I love epic dramas, and so I am thinking of your recommendation seriously, despite the political bent which I don’t tend to care for. I’m sure the series is extremely well-executed, and I’d probably recognise at LEAST half the cast. 😃

    Thank you, Dv.
    Dk

    1. Although politics obviously features quite heavily it all comes across for more personal and relatable than it might otherwise do. A phenomenal TV series. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did wif and when you watch it. Thank you for your comment as well.

Thanks for reading this article, please feel free to comment