Borgen Review - Danish Political Thriller - Is This The New Killing?


There we were, thinking the end of The Killing meant we'd had our fill of Danish intrigue. Instead, BBC4 has cannily filled the Saturday night gap left by Sarah Lund and her icy stare, with another Danish thriller from the same production company. More cheekbones and subtitles, yay!

Where politics was one of several strands running through The Killing, it has taken centre-stage in Borgen, with the first two episodes tracking the country's leaders on the eve of a national election.

As with The Killing, the plot, from the off, chopped and changed happily between multiple settings. We met the incumbent Prime Minister, personally compromised by a wobbly-heeled, juggle-eyed, distinctly high-maintenance wife, bizarrely intent on blowing his credit card on a handbag and, with it, his chances for re-election.

Meanwhile, a TV journalist found her married spin doctor lover dead in bed - which sounds like something straight of UK political thriller State of Play. And the opposition leader went off for "a meeting with my constituents in Middelfart" - which doesn't sound like anything you'd hear anywhere on English-speaking telly.

At the heart of it all, another willful female character set herself apart from the male masses. Birgitte Nyborg, played with glee by Sidse Babett Knudsen, tried to steer her party of central Moderates through the churning waters of coalition, with deals falling by the wayside at every turn.

Things moved fast in this kick-off double-bill. By the beginning of the second episode, Birgitte was waiting to meet the Danish Queen for a mandate to form a government.

But that wasn't the end of the affair, with both opposing party leaders plotting to keep their hats still in the ring, and Birgitte's adviser willing her on, "Power is not a cute little lapdog that jumps up and lies in your lap. You have to grab it and hold onto it..."

But, where The Killing's Sarah Lund was a lone wolf personally as well as professionally, Nyborg was seen enjoying a warm family life, with plenty of cuddles and big glasses of red wine poured by an adoring husband, and she is an altogether more rounded, balanced personality, with fewer chips on her shoulder. Nonetheless, she shares Lund's capacity to ruffle feathers at work, steering wonderfully off message whenever she steps through the gates of parliament.

Borgen doesn't stand out with the same stark bleakness as The Killing, but the characters are as well-formed, with enough desires and flaws to keep us happy for another eight episodes, or until the next Danish thriller comes along like a bus.

Some snaps of Borgen:

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