Borgen (The Castle)

I am looking forward to 2022 for many reasons. We should be able to travel again, walk the streets unmasked, and eat in restaurants. I could keep going but by now you will know all the other things I have been missing. Also, Borgen will be back for a fourth season. Filming has started in Copenhagen,  almost ten years since the last series aired. It has been too long a wait for this viewer!

Setting the Stage

Borgen, is the Danish nickname for the Christiansborg Palace, home to all three branches of government in Denmark.  Thus, the perfect name for a political drama set in Copenhagen. For the purposes of perspective, ten political parties have representation in the Folketinget. Also there are eight seated independents. The Social Democrats have the largest representation with 49 of 179 members . No party has held a majority since 1903. Despite this, Denmark is a stable democracy with a reputation for design, innovation, sustainability and hygge. Consistently, various organizations rate this little country of 5.8 million people one of the top three for happiness. Similarly its capital, Copenhagen, is usually in the top five happy cities.

Are you wondering how such a progressive nation high on the happiness scale does it with such a wild multi-party system? Well, it may be due to that political system. The Radical Left has fourteen seats and the New Right, only four. So, just imagine the clean-ups that would be possible for the Conservatives in Canada and the Republicans and Democrats in the United States. In Denmark, you cannot be in power or have any ambitions for power without commitment to compromise and multi-partisanship.

The Story

The story evolves around Brigitte Nyborg played by Sidse Babett Knudsen. At the outset, Nyborg leads the Moderates,  a minor political party. She is thought to have little chance to lead government. However,  events conspire to make her the compromise prime-minister. She progresses (or regresses, depending on your point of view) from a bicycling, idealistic politician to an effective, chauffeur-driven prime-minster. 

There are two other parallel dramas. One relates to the impact of the stress of political power on family life. The other is about the complex relationship between Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbaek) and Katrine Fonsmark (Brigitte Hjort Sorensen ). Kasper is Nyborg’s Communications Chief and Katrine is a television journalist. Private lives have spill-over effect on public personas and vice versa. 

This series features first class character development and compelling side-stories. Also, it showcases beautiful Copenhagen. However, the attraction for me was the compelling and strangely calming political drama. It features complex conspiracies, back-stabbing incidents, mud-slinging, and political exile. Despite all of that, the politicians have dialogue about important issues and make compromises that advance the national agenda. There is a sense that electors will punish parties and individuals that are intentionally obstructive. The acting is excellent but Knudsen shines brighter than the rest. 

Sidse Babett Knudsen

It’s one of the finest television performances I’ve ever seen: an indelible portrait of a pioneering woman—driven but despairing, contained but compassionate, sexy but not too sexy—in the midst of discovering that she can’t have it all.

Andrew Romano of Newsweek  

When season four begins, my heroine, Brigitte Nyborg,  will be foreign minister. In the meantime,  I may re-watch series one through three on Netflix.

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