‘Borgen’ is finally back – and still rock solid

Borgans is one of the most successful Danish series ever. Tens of millions of viewers around the world sympathized for three seasons between 2010 and 2013 with the sympathetic, idealistic politician Birgitte Nyborg, who tried to survive in the hectic political arena.

The highly addictive series showed politicians as flesh-and-blood people. Thanks to the scene in which Nyborg struggles with a beautiful black suit that no longer fits before an important performance, she immediately stole many hearts in the first episode. Nyborg’s nearly impossible struggle to reconcile her career and her family life was immediately apparent.

Moreover, the fact that a woman would stand at the top of a predominantly male political ape rock was a novelty. It wasn’t until a year later, in 2011, that Denmark’s first female prime minister became a reality, when Helle Thorning-Schmidt took office as prime minister.

Moreover, the series made clear to a large and remarkably young audience what role parliamentarians, journalists and civil servants play in the dynamics that allow a democracy to function in a healthy way. The makers even developed teaching material for the first series to teach Danish students more about parliament and some of the hottest current issues that were discussed in the episodes.

Also read: ‘Burning’ on stage: crushing spectacle

A new direction

The first three seasons were broadcast in more than seventy countries; the success launched the international careers of protagonists Sidse Babett Knudsen (Nyborg) and Pilou Asbaek (as spin doctor Kasper Juul, who, incidentally, will not return in the fourth series). In 2016, director Ola Mafaalani even made a nine-hour Dutch stage version of the first two seasons, which drew full houses for months.

Despite the success, main protagonist Knudsen said he had been hesitant for a fourth season for years; she didn’t want to disappoint fans of the trilogy with a mediocre comeback series. Fortunately, spiritual father Adam Price came up with a new idea that on the one hand does not affect the foundation of the series, but Secure at the same time pointing in a new direction.

The common thread remains Birgitte Nyborg, the amiable party leader of a D66-like middle party. After being prime minister (seasons 1 and 2) and starting a new party (season 3), she is now foreign minister. As with most colleagues in films and series, it turns out to be difficult in practice to hold on to the ideals that motivated her to choose this profession.

Secure once again takes the viewer along in the search for compromises and Nyborg’s continuous navigating between dream, deed, laws and practical objections. In the meantime, she also tries to maintain a good relationship with her family – which had fallen apart in previous seasons.

Scene from the series Deposits: Power & Glory

Photo Mike Kolloffel

An overarching plot

When Nyborg was still prime minister, she was given a separate case for each episode. In the fourth series, there is one overarching plot that slowly threatens to spiral out of control. The discovery of oil in Greenland not only puts the relationship between Denmark and its former colony on edge. The meddling of the US as well as Russia and China, all of whom are eager for more influence over the strategically located island, is quickly turning the discussion between the two sides into a global political snake pit.

It’s amazing how showrunner Price of the fourth series has made anything but a rerun. He knows with Deposits: Power & Glory clever in capturing the zeitgeist by broaching virtually all major issues of 2022 with his story: the geopolitical relationship, climate change, the debate about fossil fuels and the after-effects of western colonialism.

The complicated relationship between Denmark and Greenland was already touched upon in the first season, when a political scandal threatened the American air base on the island.

Where the previous seasons were mainly about the balance of power within Christiansborg, the heart of Danish politics, the focus is in Secure season 4 more on the political scheming on a geopolitical level. It is less about seeking compromises and (even) more about international backrooms and double agendas. Even Nyborg seems to be drifting more and more in the direction of Frank ‘House of Cards’ Underwood, away from the passionate idealist she still was in the first series.

Also read the interview with actress Sidse Babett Knudsen: I’m just the prime minister. And she happens to be a woman

Intuition and ingenuity

Her intuition and ingenuity alone, which formed her compass in the first three series, no longer seem to be sufficient to achieve all intended goals. This not only brings her into conflict with her new young prime minister, but also with party colleagues and old friends, including her old mentor Bent (the now 80-year-old Lars Knutzon in a touching supporting role).

The media has also undergone a change in the past ten years, shows the new season through the eyes of journalist Katrine Fonsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). As anchor of the major channel TV1 she was bold, crafty and uncompromising. But now that she’s become head of the news service, those qualities seem to turn against her. New journalists no longer allow themselves to be bullied by their boss, but instead spew their bile directly via social media or ring the bell with the editorial board. More than ten years ago, the issues of the day, the viewing figures and the hateful comments on Twitter or Instagram reign.

The biggest drawback of Secure 4 is that, unlike the previous three seasons, the series has only eight episodes. Especially towards the end, the problems that have gradually accumulated (for the most part) seem to be solved very quickly. Fortunately, the finale offers the chance for, and makes very curious about, even more new adventures from Nyborg. And if she herself no longer feels like politics, the baton can perhaps be passed on to her driven but still rowdy son Magnus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen). The twenty-something made it increasingly clear throughout the season that he may want to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

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