Borgen: The Long and Winding Road

Birgitte

image source: imaginaryhat/Tumblr

*WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS

Well, they’re finally here! The final two episodes on Season 2. This has been an incredible season with top-notch acting and talented writing. Borgen has matured over the two seasons and this season has proved, once again, the quality of Danish TV production. We’ve stuck with Birgitte through highs and lows and it’s about time we saw her deservedly come out on top! For those of you worrying if Borgen will leave you left hanging like The Killing, don’t worry. The finale delivers everything you could want and more!

“Success is not final, failure is not final, it is the courage to go on that counts.” The words of Winston Churchill drift through tonight’s opening episode offering commentary – albeit loosely – on what has come to pass. Birgitte is expected to carry on somewhat regardless during her daughter’s sudden onset of mental illness and this week is it finally crunch time as tough, but necessary, decisions must be made. Over the past five weeks we have watched Birgitte constantly struggle for power only to then reclaim it by a mere scrape. Her fractured family life has taken its toll on her as a political figure and a bit of Polyfiller™ is not going to cut it. As the finale looms upon us, Little Miss PC must act…nu!

The Sanctity of Private Life

In the penultimate episode, the constant battle between the public and private life of a politician is about to come to fruition. Birgitte is in the final months of passing the last part of Parliament’s reform package. She is looking to oppose a state-funded privatisation of the health sector to create a strong public health care system – could this have been broadcast in the UK at a better time? It doesn’t come as a shock to learn that Laura needs immediate medical attention for her anxiety attacks. It is recommended that she be treated at a psychiatric facility for a long period of time in order to regain some sense of normalcy. However, there is a fifty week waiting list in the public sector and, surprise surprise, there is an opening now in a private hospital in Liseholm. It is important for Birgitte to secure the best treatment for her daughter whilst at the same time not compromising on the healthcare bill. A distraught and confused Philip finds comfort in the arms of his girlfriend Cecile while Birgitte is seen holding it all together for the sake of her daughter. Her face appears expressionless but inside we know the cogs are on overtime.

The infuriatingly vile Michael Laugesen takes full advantage of Laura’s situation and openly defames Birgitte online. He calls Birgitte a hypocrite, offering up a dictionary definition for clarification. To twist the knife even further, he recites the hospital’s menu (Marks and Spencer’s style) much to the disgust of Pia, ‘He makes me sick!’ Yes Pia, we agree. It’s not long before photographers are creeping around bushes to get a shot of Laura and scaring all the patients. They infiltrate the hospital’s grounds like a swarm of bees waiting to get their regular fix of honey to take back to the hive. This kind of journalism satisfies Laugesen immensely and he refuses to feel guilty or admit any wrongdoing. In steps TV1 and the unlikely candidate for a take down: Ulrik Mørch. Ulrik is the teacher’s pet. He is always moaning about Katrine or sulking about his shortcomings to gain sympathy from the team – p.s. this never works. So, in a colossal breakthrough for his character, Ulrik cuts Laugesen off during an interview. He has finally grown some balls and receives a well deserved punch in the air from Katrine – and I hope from those at home too! Before the interview, Ulrik meets with Kasper. It’s an uncomfortable exchange between the two. It’s not a secret that they don’t like each other, but it left me with the feeling that Ulrik might be in love with Katrine.

Elsewhere, Kasper offers some much need light relief to the episode. At the beginning of the episode, Kasper hobbles in on crutches having injured himself during a team-building exercise with some other spin doctors. Birgitte berates him for his carelessness, ‘Don’t play sports Kasper…You have rubbish coordination, ok?’ I’m sure that he can see the irony, as everyone else can when there is a health bill at stake. His coordination may be lacking but his rhetoric is not. Kasper’s past and his revered way with words place him as Laura’s most important ally. For the first time ever, Kasper is welcomed into Case de Nyborg and, in a touching exchange, he reveals to Laura that he spent one month in a mental institution when he was 13. Oh, and I’m sure Laura would have loved to have been privy to his news about him joining Limp Bizkit!

The pressure of being in the public eye really takes its toll on Birgitte. Laugesen’s media frenzy sees Birgitte lose her composure and have a full blown meltdown. She stomps around the office tear-stricken and mortified by the press’ vilification of her.  ‘Who reads this?’ she laments. ‘They rummaged through our bins this morning. What do they hope to find?’ The scavengers may be getting to her but it’s comforting to see her remember to offer Kasper a sweet in her grief-stricken rage. This simple offering, and the light rattle the box emanates as she shakes it, signifies that she hasn’t forgotten what’s important. She is determined not to give up on Laura despite the demons she must battle every day.  In the final moments of the episode, Birgitte decides to take a leave of absence to support her family. As she walks away from the podium, the camera follows her from behind. The camera denies us a reaction by withholding her face and the scene becomes extremely painful to watch. She walks silently into her office to gather her things and only takes a fleeting look at what she is leaving behind. It is, however, a landmark victory for Birgitte. The circle she makes around her office as she gathers her things is a metaphorical journey of how far her character has come since season one. As we reach the finale, all hope is not lost.

An Extraordinary Remark

Birgitte’s decision to take a leave of absence sees Hans Christian Thorsen in charge. Her absence from Parliament puts her at risk for re-election as the polls are falling and her competency as the leader of Denmark is put to the test.

Laugesen is back stirring up more trouble for Birgitte. He spouts sexist remarks about women and the ‘air of humanity they bring to the corporate world’ and how they are more in tune with their feelings than men. ‘I can’t stand that man!’ Well said again, Pia! By the way, I love your glasses. Moving on, under no circumstances does Birgitte regret the decision she has made. She has more time at home and dabbles in some light gardening and bicycle mechanics – for helvede she’s talented – and she’ll be damned if she has to engage in a debate about her gender.

With Laura doing much better, she even has time to argue with Philip about his quick exit from their family. Why did Philip bolt so quickly? This is a question on many Borgen fans minds throughout the series. While it isn’t quite addressed in the detail we would like, their argument is hugely satisfying. Birgitte initially mocks Philip by suggesting that she has become ‘the Birgitte of his dreams’ now that she has more time at home. She questions his inadequate decisions to leave and his refusal to make their relationship work. He has no valuable retorts. He simply looks to her for the answers, ‘but how?’ he asks her in relation to making things work. She doesn’t have all the answers and simply tells him that he was weak. Enter Cecile, and Birgitte hilariously admits that she has been shouting at Philip. For the first time, we are made to feel sorry for Cecile, not just because she got poked in the ear by Philip – how juvenile – but for getting left behind. It was only a matter of time before their relationship showed signs of disintegration.

Birgitte is convinced, by Bent, to return to Parliament. She must decide where her role as Prime Minister fits into her list of priorities. She is scared that Laura may suffer a relapse if she returns to work. This stems from a recent confession Laura makes to her mother. She tells Birgitte that she feels as if she is letting her down. This bothers Birgitte more than she’d like and so she seeks advice from Laura’s psychiatrist. As a mother with a career, the psychiatrist knows all too well how Birgitte feels. She tells Birgitte that you can’t have it all; that she must continue to work to be a role model for her children. Above all else, she is certain that Laura did not get sick because Birgitte became Prime Minister. This exchange seems a rather convenient way for Birgitte to find peace in all the madness, but nonetheless it’s about time she forgave herself. Cue the transformation sequence and the famous high heeled shoes shot from under the bed. The montage continues as she places on her lipstick and earrings and packs her bag. Her actions are underscored by TV discussions of whether or not she will return to Parliament. When she does return to the office, the contemptible Pernille Madsen is gossiping about her. Pernille bemoans Birgitte’s absence and states that it has hardly been felt. However, as Birgitte enters the room she is quick to change her tune. Pernille goes wherever the power goes. Her loyalty is to no one but herself and her own outdated, feminist ideals. Could someone please throw her in the chokey?

Katrine and Kasper are also feeling the strain of a work/life balance. They begin searching for a new home but constantly end up arguing due to Kasper’s cynical take on life. He doesn’t want to have children and who can blame him after the pain he has suffered, but Katrine tells Kasper that he is living proof that children survive the horrors in life. His refusal to ‘hand over’ his DNA to Katrine is not as easy as it sounds. They have managed to get over the initial coming out to everyone hurdle that was bothering them so much in the last episode and the TV1 crew even get front row seats to one of their make out sessions. This is proving to be a more difficult obstacle for the two, especially when Torben wants Katrine to keep her uterus under control and stay baby free for the sake of TV1. In a divine turn of events, Laura offers Kasper the answers he needs to move on. His understanding of her condition sees Laura reach out to him and share an affectionate embrace. With this, he confronts his mother, now in a care facility, to once and for all quash the inner demon.

Towards the end of the episode we return to the question of Birgitte and Philip. Philip has come to realise, after Birgitte enlightened him, that he may have left too quickly. He sees how attentive Birgitte has become to their children and appears to have had a change of heart. As Birgitte watches Lars Hesselboe discuss his failings as a Prime Minister and husband, Philip looks at her longingly. She glances at him and smiles, offering him her hand. However, before he gets chance to grasp her properly, she slides her hand away. This is a truly shattering moment for those fans who believed reconciliation was on the cards. His disappointment at realising he is too late lies heavy on the heart of many. When Philip reveals to Birgitte that he has ended his relationship with Cecile, she doesn’t use it as an excuse to take advantage of him. She speaks to him like a supportive friend, gripping his arm before watching him leave. Moreover, she imparts a smug grin of victory!

To save us from despair we are treated to one last dose of Birgitte’s fantastic and inspiring oratory skills. She has achieved everything she set out to do in government three years ago: rethink the Danish welfare model; secure the environment through long-term planning and strengthen the health care system by making it independent of private insurance.  With silence in the chambers, she delivers an extraordinary remark. She invokes the names of Denmark’s first four women to gain seats in Parliament, and she speaks of how she has shown the people where she wants to take Denmark. She sees gender as an irrelevant topic when it comes to running a democracy and so she is deciding to give the power to the Danish people by calling a general election. They will decide whom they feel is the best Prime Minister for Denmark. This is an extraordinarily brave and respectable way to resign your duties and to show your nation that they are an integral part of the democratic process. Well, Birgitte Nyborg tillykke and tusind tak! It has been an honour to follow you on this extraordinary journey. We salute you!

Episode highlights include: Magnus and his many swords!

p.s. What are we all going to do on Saturday nights without our weekly Danish TV fix?

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6 thoughts on “Borgen: The Long and Winding Road

  1. Oh my – what a fabulous review of the cracking finale – thank you!

    I really did feel that the second series went out on a high (but a plausible high), and provided a lovely counter-balance to the end of the first series, when everything began to disintegrate following Philip’s departure.

    My favourite moments were the high-heels-back-to-business montage and the inspiring speech at the end, where the sexist idiots got put firmly back in their place. But we still know that it will be a tough road ahead (cos Bent said so), and I love that the difficulties of being a woman in such a high-powered position are never glossed over. She really earned the right to her exuberant crinkle-nosed smile at the end.

    Thanks for all your great posts – look forward to more when series 3 starts 🙂

  2. For me, Borgen’s strength is its three personal stories and although I enjoy all three, I think that the scriptwriters tend to favour Birgitte a little too much. That’s understandable as she is PM and Sidse Babett Knudsen plays her so well. In this series, each time I’ve worried that Kasper and Katrine were not getting their share of screentime the narrative has gone on to reassure me that they are still important. In this last (terrific) pair of episodes, Kasper’s story has been given space but Katrine seems to have lost her back story (I’m struggling to remember her family from Borgen 1) and the relationship with Hanne hasn’t developed enough to fill the gap. The Borgen writers do such a good job that it seems churlish to mention this but it could be even richer in mixing the three stories. I’m hopeful that Katrine will get her space in the third serial.

  3. I thought this series of Borgen was by far the best, I loved the ups and downs of the last two episodes and the ending. Excellent review, thank you for sharing.

    I believe a second series of The Bridge is in the making – let’s hope they will bring it to the UK soon!

  4. You are most welcome Miss Pea and thanks ever so for your additional comments. They are always a pleasure to read and give extra insight into this wonderful show.

    Roy, thank you for you comments too. I can confirm that Katrine has plenty of screen time in Season 3 and it’s rigtig rigtig good. Birgitte still runs the show, which is expected and it’s shaping up to be a wonderful season. They’re half way through Season 3 in Denmark and it’s not as heavy going as Season 2, but there are some excellent developments and shocking moments as well as more spot the Danish actor bingo!

    Helena, I agree that this has been the best series so far! There is a second series of The Bridge on the way. It is hopefully expected Autumn this year, but nothing set in stone. Thank you for your kind words.

    Lizzie 🙂

  5. What am I going to do about not reading your write-ups at the beginning of a week!!
    You’ve covered all the important things in the episodes, but I’d like to add a few frivolous remarks of my own. I’ve loved the use of toothbrushing, especially the use of manual toothbrushes (clearly, electric ones are too noisy). Also, I’m impressed by the amount of standing up that is done, either for interviewing on tv or small editorial meetings. The poster for the film of ‘All The President’s Men’ in Katrine’s flat is a very nice touch.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about one of the many highlights being Magnus and his swords, I would add that Laura’s peck on Kasper’s cheek was smartly done (even if it does have overtones of a teenage crush about it.)

    • Thank you so much Bruno. Glad you enjoy reading them so much! I will definitely be having withdrawal symptoms myself.
      I really appreciate any additional comments made and I’m very glad you brought up tooth brushing – although I have to disappoint you by telling you that I don’t own an electric toothbrush! I wanted to make a space for toothbrushing in one of my reviews but sometimes there is just so much it’s easy to miss things, so thank you for bringing it up!
      I plan to review some more Scandi shows in the future – The Bridge Season 2, and of course Borgen Season 3. There will also be other stuff in between.

      Lizzie

      Lizzie

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