Borgen s3 ep 9; s3 ep 10

At the start of episode 9, Birgitte gets the all-clear from her doctor, and I exhaled in relief; because that, I thought, brought to an end one of the two worst storylines in the three seasons of Borgen. (The other worst storyline, Jeremy the Handsome English Architect, has also featured in this season, of course, which is perhaps why it hasn’t been as good as the first two. Anyway, Jeremy’s no doubt rubbish bridge is being built in like Finland or somewhere. Well done, Jeremy, and watch out for those antibiotics.)

With that out of the way, Birgitte is free to resume full-on campaigning, starting with the priority issue – how to distinguish the Birgitte Party from the Moderates. The obvious answer is to try some negative campaigning, which translates into Danish as “negative campaigning”, unless my ears were playing tricks on me. So Kruse – identified as having a short temper – comes under attack, and there’s an effective bit of political theatre at a centre-ground debate, when Birgitte rips pages out of the Moderates’ manifesto, illustrating which of their promises they can no longer be trusted to keep.

But there’s a bigger secret lurking in Kruse’s past – not dealbreaking, but enough to raise a question about his character. There’s a bit of debate – it-would-help vs we-don’t-do-this-sort-of-thing – but after Birgitte’s daughter is doorstepped by a journalist she’s pissed off enough to tell Katrine to release the Kruse story to the media. Katrine, though, decides not to, although if we’re being honest her motivation isn’t particularly high-minded: she wants to stay in the good books (and trousers) of the Leninist love machine himself, Professor Søren Ravn, still providing services to both the party and to Katrine.

Armed with Søren’s economic data, then, Birgitte turns up for the eve-of-election leaders’ debate, which Torben has managed to turn back into an actual debate, rather than the gameshow Alex wanted (“democracy for the proletariat”), at least sparing Birgitte an ordeal similar to that endured earlier in the episode by Jon in front of TV2’s cheerleaders. And she cleans up: she goads Kruse beyond endurance by asking him a question about his economic policy, which frankly I couldn’t understand. So, if you cut taxes by 10 billion kroner, increase welfare spending by 12 billion kroner, but that’s based on a projected 0.9% growth in treasury spending… anyway, Kruse snaps. (If I can be forgiven an irrelevant interjection at this point – sorry though I was to see the back of Nete, I’m prepared to accept Anne Sophie Lindenkrone, the leader of Solidarity, as a substitute.)

Which takes us to the last ever Borgen, set on election day. But first there’s a grievous miscalculation, as Birgitte discovers a lump. This, of course, after reassuring Magnus that she had made a full recovery. Enough. I suspect it’s partly there to give Sidse Babett Knudsen a Great Acting Moment, her meltdown in the taxi on the way to the hospital, but actually the scene where the doctor again confirms that she’s clear is much, much better: internalised, silent trauma and relief, rather than shouting platitudes in a second language. I don’t mind being manipulated, but this whole arc has been cheap manipulation of a sort which I thought Borgen was above.

And so to the election, and Borgen comes full circle: as at the start of season 1 Birgitte does better than expected and is offered the post of Prime Minister as part of the coalition negotiations. (Which, curiously, seem to take place mostly in public.) Inevitably Benedikte Nedergaard has manoeuvred herself into a position as the more acceptable face of the Freedom Party, leaving poor old Svend Åge to råge against the dying of the light in an oddly touching conversation with Kasper.

And we finish with Birgitte once again rocking up at Borgen, sadly with Jeremy rather than Phillip in tow, this time to become foreign secretary rather than prime minister. As for everyone else: Katrine might be with Søren for now, but I’m prepared to believe that in due course she and Kasper will reunite – I need at least one happy ending, dudes – and Torben, having faced Alex down and shaken Pia off, is, presumably, back with his wife and still filling the TV1 schedules with underperforming political shows, which is a happy ending of sorts for him, I suppose.

With that, we’re done with Borgen. It was a more or less unqualified triumph in its first two seasons and, while this season wasn’t as good, it was better than I was anticipating. For Sidse fans, BBC4 has bought the rights to some Danish historical drama which stars her, and Kasper, and Torben (and Barbara Flynn off of The Beiderbecke Affair and A Very Peculiar Practice) and as it’s slated to show in late 2014 in Denmark, that gives the producers plenty of time to get Katrine and Svend Åge on board as well.

And for Scandi-drama fans, next up is season 2 of The Bridge (Bron/Broen), the first season of which I liked, just not quite as much as everyone else. But we’ll be reviewing.

Borgen s3 ep 7; s3 ep 8

Last week, I expressed the hope that we’d seen the last of Sick Birgitte. No such luck, unfortunately. She’s still receiving radiotherapy at the start of episode 7, but decides to “cope alone”; this becomes a huge mistake when Hesselboe calls a snap election, meaning that the parties – and specifically the party leaders – need to be available and on top of their game 24/7, even if they don’t go for TV1’s demented tracking-the-leaders-by-GPS idea. (Alex is fixated on TV1 “winning the election”, somewhat blurring the lines between politics and media.)

And it all culminates in a leaders’ debate, at which Birgitte comes perilously close to ending her career, and that of everyone in the Birgitte Party. Look: I get that it’s an appallingly difficult time for her, and I get that there’s no-one in her life to whom she feels close enough to confide. But that doesn’t really excuse turning the brilliant, steely Birgitte of seasons 1 and 2 into a self-deluding idiot, apparently willing to throw her entire party under the bus. Of course she would tell Katrine at the very least, who would then have made sure that either she was properly prepared for the debate, or that someone else took her place, and that some sort of succession/incapacity plan was in place.

Katrine – suspecting that something isn’t right – even tees up Søren Ravn, the Stalinist shagger-turned-academic from last week, to rewrite the party’s economic policy and brief Birgitte on it. But Birgitte’s mind – understandably – isn’t on the intricacies of the eco-friendly economic policy prepared by Ravn, and she runs straight into the inevitable slow-motion car-crash which awaits the underprepared candidate.  As soon as it becomes clear that she can’t even begin to back up what she’s saying TV1’s Ulrik gets in her face – quite rightly – and she flounders badly. For some inexplicable reason, Hanne Holm and Pia get all sanctimonious afterwards, saying that the debate was unfair to Birgitte. I’m not sure where the show thinks our sympathies are going to lie at this point, but mine certainly weren’t with Birgitte.

Is it all right to say that I didn’t care for this episode?

However, by the end of episode 7, Birgitte has decided to start telling people about her illness, and this continues into episode 8, even if she’s still deluded enough to think that it can be kept a secret. It can’t, of course, and she goes on TV2 to tell Denmark that she’s still hard at work, won’t affect her, etc. This isn’t entirely the case, as it happens, but in the meantime it means that poor old Torben gets more shit for not getting the interview for TV1.

But life at TV1 is complicated enough: Torben’s wife finds out about his affair with Pia – in fairness, Torben didn’t really try hard to keep it a secret – and Benedikte of the Freedom Party essentially offers Ulrik a bunk-up in return for soft treatment on a forthcoming interview. Just like Torben and Pia, they use the studio for their fumblings. Isn’t it uncomfortable? What happened to going to a hotel? Anyway, it’s all part of Benedikte’s diabolical plan to drive a wedge between herself and Svend Åge, who’s preoccupied with grumbling about TV1’s anticipated attitude to the Freedom Party’s anodyne election video – “knowall hipster irony”, he calls it. Heh.

Meantime, for Birgitte, things are going from bad to worse – her eyes are a very long way away from the ball, meaning that she gets cut out of coalition negotiations, the party’s sinking in the polls, and Jeremy’s dripped back into town. On top of that, someone in the leadership circle is leaking any policy initiatives they do have to the Moderates. Yes, there’s a mole, and as Nete spends most of the episode sulking it’s not a huge surprise when it turns out to be her. It’s a shame, though. Erik we could have lost, but I like Nete.

With the party flatlining, something radical is needed, and Birgitte produces it: the Birgitte Party won’t stand as part of any coalition agreement, but will support parties on an issue-by-issue basis. Presumably it’s earth-shattering in the context of Danish politics, and it certainly seems to turn their fortunes around. (And there’s a surreptitious walk-of-shame for Katrine, who may finally have fallen prey to the charms of Søren.)

I thought this one was better than episode 7, but in truth I didn’t much care for it either. In fact, these might have been my least-favourite Borgens ever. Two episodes to go, and I’m a little concerned that we’re not going to go out on a high.

Borgen s3 ep 5; s3 ep 6

In the last episode, the hapless Danish pig was used by the Birgitte Party to establish itself as a political force. Now the party needs to do something with that power; and in episode 5, ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery’, an issue presents itself. Trouble is, it’s a complex one: prostitution. To start with there’s a welcome return for the ever-unlikeable Pernille, who attempts to bounce Birgitte into signing up to an agreement to criminalise sex work; and, egged on by Katrine, who feels strongly about it, she very nearly agrees. However, Nete – fast establishing herself as my favourite member of the Birgitte Party by a long way – suggests that it might all be a bit more nuanced than that, so Birgite holds off until she can find out a bit more about it. This is portrayed by another much-missed returning villain, Laugesen, as straightforward vacillation.

But what the Birgitte Party does is actually speak to someone who represents sex workers, Helene. “People often don’t want to hear our point of view”, notes Helene, who goes on to observe that criminalising the women suggests that they are incapable of exercising free choice, and need to be saved from themselves; and criminalising the punters suggests that the women are victims in need of protecting. And this leads to the black comedy of a “discussion”, chaired by Pernille, at which do-gooding well-meaning middle class professionals line up to patiently explain to Helene that she’s deluding herself. For what it’s worth, I should say that I used to be involved with a group which advocated for sex workers, and I’m very much on the side of regulation and support rather than criminalisation. Ultimately Birgitte comes down on that side as well, but proves unable to do much beyond stopping Pernille.

There’s an entertaining little diversion when Birgitte quizzes the men in her life about whether they’ve ever used sex workers. Phillip’s answer – “Birgitte, you’re the mother of my children. I have never slept with any woman but you” – is close to perfect. But Archie off of Monarch of the Glen admits that he’s used sex workers while away on business, once or twice. (Translation: a couple of dozen times at least.) This troubles Birgitte, although not as much as the complete lack of chemistry between her and Jeremy troubles me. As to why this matters we need only look at Scandal, for example: there are plenty of cogent criticisms of the Olitz story arc, but the chemistry generated by the actors threatens to burn a hole in the screen, which generally gets it through. Birgitte and Jeremy are like business partners. Or actors kissing.

In the background, the TV1 storyline continues: Torben (who is, IRL, married to Pernille) is now apparently having an affair with Pia, and Alex wants to make the early evening news more girly, saving the heavyweight stuff for later in the evening when the men are watching.

It could be argued that this episode was structurally, if not thematically, similar to episode 4, with Birgitte handling a single issue, but that’s the sort of thing which Borgen does well, and I liked it.

And so to episode 6, ‘Sins Of The Past’, in which Birgitte and the crew realise that their new party needs one or two plausible electoral candidates. Fortunately Birgitte has one in mind – step forward superstar Danish economist Søren Ravn, played by Lars Mikkelsen. That’s Lars Mikkelsen, folks. Troels EFFING Hartmann from Forbrydelsen. My second-favourite TV politician ever. (Joint first, of course, is everyone in The West Wing.) And he’s still got those cheekbones. And those eyes. Gosh. Now, Ravn has a Past – both as a 1980s Communist, and as a swordsman of some repute. The historical Communism is apparently dealt with in a remarkably desultory piece of vetting by Katrine, who may be compromised by the fact that she’d clearly like to disrobe in front of him. (And who, I ask you, can blame her?) So OK, yes, he was a Communist. But not a Communist Communist. Oh no.

Thus Ravn is thrown to the media wolves, with Laugeson, of course, the most lupine of them all; and, slowly, more of his past is exposed. Well, perhaps he visited Moscow a few times. And there was that time he went to East Berlin. And, yes, he hung out at the Soviet embassy. And his bessie was a KGB agent. But he wasn’t, all right, so can we move on? With Katrine as ever-willing, if hardly disinterested, media advisor – “Anything else I can hold for you?” – his potential political career slowly circles the drain, until the level of interest in his past becomes intolerable and, to the evident glee of Jon, he withdraws his candidacy. (Jon, in fairness, did have good reason to be disgruntled about the high-handed way in which Birgitte tossed him aside as economic spokesman when Ravn came sashaying onto the scene.) And with one more meaningful look at Katrine he’s off, presumably never to return. Shame. Still, for those of us who’ve never quite recovered from the first season of Forbrydelsen, there was a little thrill when he shared a scene with Rie. And Mikkelsen himself will be back in the new year in Sherlock.

The other major development in this episode is that Birgitte’s Hand – foreshadowed in the last couple of episodes – has become a thing, with the news that her hand trouble is connected to precancerous cells in her breast. There’s undoubtedly something affecting about the way in which there’s no-one she can call on for support when she goes into surgery: Phillip, no matter how well they get on, is her ex-husband, and Jeremy clearly isn’t regarded as capable of stepping up as full-time partner. So she’s on her own.

I would like this storyline to get dealt with soon, though; if it’s going to hang over the rest of the season then there’s a real danger that what we’ll be watching won’t be Borgen. Particularly as I’m starting to get a little bit over the TV1 storylines: Alex knows about Torben’s affair and thus has a hold over him, but as Torben discovers there’s nowhere else for him to go. So there’ll be more bleating about curbing the frankly excessive number of current affairs shows TV1 has on the go – at least two nightly news shows, as far as I can see, plus Juul and Friis, plus that Dilemma one Hanne Holm hosted last week. I don’t quite understand why these shows are so expensive, but that apart I’m probably in agreement with Alex and his patchy beard. A qualified success, then, depending on where the writers take the remaining four episodes.

Borgen s3 ep 3; s3 ep 4

a5a636f40b504256a2d938187af7568b_juulogfriis1024The Birgitte Party needs an issue to generate publicity, and a few policies to generate credibility, otherwise it’ll look like a disparate group of independent single-cause loners and fangirls led by an egomaniac in a sulk. (And money. Money would come in handy.)

At the start of episode 3 it looks as if the Issue has presented itself, when the topic of immigration and integration appears on the TV1 radar. They’re going to have a televised debate about it –no doubt to the delight of viewers across Denmark. Poor old TV2 will just need to content itself with piling up the ratings again. For the Birgitte Party it’s a chance to develop a profile, but it needs the right spokesperson: ideally neither too dark nor too Caucasian. Katrine dedicates herself, with more than a hint of irony, to finding someone who’s the “right shade of brown”.

The first candidate, a “full-fledged Muslim”, is dropped on the basis that he has a gang past and a neck tattoo. Meantime economist Nadia makes an impressive debut on one of TV1’s multiplicity of current affairs shows, and Torben offers her a regular gig, only to be second-guessed by scarf-and-stubble man Alex, on the basis that she’s a “Pakistani prophet of doom”. So Birgitte swoops with a view to getting her to articulate the party line on immigration, and delegates preparation to Katrine.

Which isn’t ideal, because Katrine is distracted by the state of her relationship with Kasper. And here we get to the big problem with this episode, and it spills across into episode 4 as well: normally sensible people behaving like complete idiots. Katrine just doesn’t know what Kasper wants, and obviously won’t do anything stupid like ask him, so instead she throws a succession of strops when it becomes evident that he is seeing other women, like he’s completely entitled to do, being single and all. And Katrine brings her personal life right into the workplace, like the total girl she is. It eventually falls to Birgitte, in episode 4, to tell her to STFU, which is helpful of her, but you’d think she has better things to do.

And the other person who’s unaccountably stepped out of character is Torben. Star of TV’s Torben and Friis, Torben’s been out of sorts since Alex arrived as his boss. Now, everything we’ve seen of Torben so far would suggest that he’s a man of principle tempered by pragmatism, and a wily old fox. So what on earth possessed him to go to his staff and use Alex’s “Pakistani prophet of doom” line to explain why Nadia won’t be back at TV1? Needless to say, there’s a complaint. He does develop a pair in episode 4, but then snogs colleague Pia.

Back with Nadia: she’s being set up to appear as the Muslim face of the Birgitte Party on yet another TV1 current affairs show, Dilemma, hosted by everyone’s favourite old boozehound Hanne Holm. There are a couple of difficulties. The first – it’s not her area of expertise – is surmountable. The second – that she holds medium-to-hard-line views herself on immigration and culture – is unexpected and more difficult to get round. So Nete is fired in at short notice, and does rather well up against Benedikte Nedergaard (Marie Askehave, Rie in Forbrydelsen), fast becoming established as the Marine Le Pen of the Freedom Party. (More of Benedikte in episode 4.)

And while all of this is going on, Birgitte lunches 1.5 million kroner out of an ever-so-slightly sinister banker, Jørgen Steen Anderson. Of course, he wants something in return, and has been negotiating with Jon over the Birgitte Party’s policy on corporation tax. Birgitte returns the money, and belatedly decides that it’s time to start running the party properly, the first stage of which is to kick everyone out apart from their core team.

Which takes us into episode 4, forever to be known as the one about pig farming. Birgitte is dining à deux with unctuous architect Jeremy, who reacts badly to Danish pork, plump with delicious antibiotics. He throws up all over the restaurant; this gets him, Birgitte, and her personal life onto the front pages of the Danish press, and Birgitte onto TV1 Evening, a sort of One Show-a-like. She uses this platform to get Danish pig farming onto the agenda.

Lining up against her, there’s a welcome return for unreconstructed Svend Åge of the Freedom Party, a politician from another, um, åge, who is a pig farmer himself and clearly regards any criticism of his practices as townie squeamishness. As it happens, I have a sneaking sympathy for his position, as a carnivore myself; we’re happy to eat the meat while wilfully closing our eyes to how it’s produced. On the other hand, the rebarbative sight of Svend Åge snipping off piglet tails on TV, then advising the parliament that people just want to eat rubbish, is too much even for the Freedom Party, and the ambitious and photogenic Benedikte Nedergaard manoeuvres him into toeing the line. I have a feeling it might end brutally for Svend.

Back at Birgitte’s, Swiss Toni has made her risotto with mushrooms, lemon rind, and parsley (EW EW EW), presumably to be followed by fine wines and Belgian chocolates. Just me, or is Jeremy way too smooth for his own good? (Yes. I may be jealous.) And Katrine picks the most fatuous of fights with Kasper, then more or less takes leave of her senses when he reacts. Look: Kasper’s a strong character, he’s undoubtedly become more likeable over the years, and he and Katrine make a good couple. I’m more than happy to ship Kastrine. But she really needs to get her shit together.

In the end, though, Birgitte is able to put the distractions to one side and use the health of Brer Pig to broker a deal with Hesselboe, thus confirming the arrival of her party as a genuine, if minor, political force; Katrine’s farmer brother, used as a source of piggy info, is collateral damage, but I can’t imagine we need to worry too much about that. Borgen has history, of course, for taking apparently trivial issues and turning them into the stuff of unexpectedly thrilling TV drama, and it makes a decent fist of doing the same with pig farming. I probably preferred episode 3, though, and I wonder whether that’s at least in part because I’ve taken agin Jeremy.

Borgen s3 ep 1; s3 ep 2

At the end of the second season, Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) called a general election, announcing that she was “going to let the Danish voters decide whom they feel is the best prime minister”. It is, of course, always risky for politicians to ask that question, as it virtually invites the answer “not you anyway, dude”. Which, it turns out, is what happened to Birgitte.

So we catch up with her two-and-a-half years later, with Hesselboe back as PM. Birgitte has managed to acquire a consultancy which takes her to Hong Kong every now and again, a few board memberships, a fashionable apartment, hipster spectacles, and a new boyfriend; that being Archie off of Monarch of the Glen. (I keep saying this, but it means nothing to me – I didn’t see a second of Monarch of the Glen, so I’m just taking it on trust.) She also has an affectionate and civilised relationship with her ex-husband Phillip, which is good, I suppose; but I can’t help lamenting, once again, the fact that the writers thought it dramatically necessary to separate them. Dysfunctional marriages are over-represented in the arts; functional ones under-represented.

As for everyone else: Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) is juggling single parenthood and her job at TV1, where she’s their most popular presenter, and somewhat prima donna-ish; also there, her babydaddy Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) and news editor Torben Friis (Søren Malling) are running what looks like an ever-so-slightly-camp discussion show called, with penetrating originality, “Juul and Friis”.

But there’s trouble ahead at TV1: new head of news Alexander Hjort rocks up with scarf and stubble to wonder aloud why there’s so much news on the channel – very good question, mate – and to note that their rivals are getting better ratings, so costs will need to be cut. I was slightly surprised by this, particularly given that TV1’s mission statement still seems to be “We Never Sit Down” – just how expensive is it to film two guys in a studio talking about current affairs, particularly if you don’t even spring for chairs?

Back with Birgitte – she’s becoming increasingly unhappy with the way in which her successor Kruse is steering the Moderates, particularly when after some coalition horsetrading he seems ready to sign them up to a controversial policy on the deportation of immigrants. Believing, as retired politicians everywhere do, that her country still needs her, she decides to leave Copenhagen-les-Deux-Églises and challenge Kruse for the leadership.

And at one stage it looks as if she might succeed. However, in the middle of the Moderates’ debate, Kruse is summoned to Parliament for talks with Hesselboe, leading to a dramatic deal, and Kruse looking like a decisive and successful politician. It’s a low blow from Hesselboe, her old foe, and after Kruse narrowly retains the leadership Birgitte has nowhere to go.

So she decides to form her very own party. Admittedly this is the sort of thing which makes slightly more sense in a country which has a tradition of small parties and coalition governments, and it is of course presented as highly principled, but it came over to me as perhaps a trifle high-handed: losing an election (as part of a minority party in a coalition anyway); breezing back in from Hong Kong with an expensive watch on her wrist; failing to convince her own party that it needs her as leader; and then, rather than staying and fighting, flouncing off to form the Birgitte Party.

Which is where we find her at the start of episode 2, with Katrine hired as media advisor. “You’re out of touch with the people you want to mobilise”, notes Katrine. Time, then, to do a bit of recruitment, and one by one Birgitte brings disillusioned pols on board – the slightly fangirlish Nette, the untrustworthy Jon (although I’d like him to be the good guy and Nette the dodgy one), and rightwinger Erik, who’s agin the immigration policy because he’s married to an Ethiopian. Dear old Bent stamps his foot for a while, but we kind of know what he’s going to do when Birgitte crooks her finger in his direction.

The TV1 newsroom is turning into, well, The Newsroom, with debates between Hjort and Torsten on how to cover the news: Hjort objects that Torsten keeps running stories about losers, and this is thrown into focus when Birgitte does her first interview as leader of the Birgitte Party on TV2, rather than going to the Juul and Friis Show.

We’ve already had it signposted, though, that Hjort is going to be the villain, particularly when he beds Katrine and is all, like, “Yeah, I totally hit that”, the next day at TV1. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out: Torsten seemed somewhat thrown – was he jealous? – and Kaspar might or might not be over Katrine; it wasn’t entirely clear from his reaction when she proposed to have dinner with him whether he thought that she was trying to seduce him, or whether he wanted to be seduced. (As it happens, although I think Katrine is a very strong character, and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic of having her and Birgitte run a political movement will develop, I wonder whether some of the single parenthood stuff was a bit too on-the-nose. It’s well-covered ground, and perhaps could have been approached with a little more subtlety.)

Of the two episodes I preferred the first, which covered the necessary ground with speed and flair; by contrast, I thought episode 2 took a little longer than it needed to get to its inevitable endpoint. But overall this was a strong, if not exceptional, start; and it’ll be interesting to see whether the Birgitte Party turns out to be the product of principle, pragmatism, or rampant egomania.

Public Service Announcement 48 of 2013: Borgen

Unpopcult favourite Borgen returns this weekend for its third season. At the end of season 2 we left Birgitte (the radiant Sidse Babett Knudsen) in power, if only just. By the start of season 3 we’ve moved on two and a half years; Birgitte is out of politics, and making a nice living on the public speaking circuit, with a few consultancies and board memberships on the side. She will, however, be drawn back into the political world during the season, and will also acquire a new boyfriend (Archie off of Monarch of the Glen), which presumably means that those of us holding out for a reunion with Philip are going to be disappointed.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the reaction in Denmark to this season was muted, and the advance word from America – where they’re about halfway through – is that it doesn’t match up to seasons 1 and 2. Still, we’ll be the judges of that, and even lesser Borgen is going to be better than just about everything else on TV. Creator Adam Price is on the record as saying that there won’t be a fourth season, so we should enjoy it while we can. Usual stupid double-bills (Saturday, BBC4, 9pm).

Borgen s2 ep 9; s2 ep 10

After last week’s rather over-padded double-bill this was more like it, with the conflicts between the political and personal, which have shaped both seasons, being brought into the sharpest of focus.

In episode 9, ‘The Sanctity Of Private Life’, the circumstances of Laura’s illness force Birgitte into making some choices she would rather not have to make. Firstly, she’s told that, if Laura is to be treated via the public healthcare system, she’ll have to wait for around a year. If Birgitte and Phillip are prepared to pay, though, Laura can immediately be admitted to Liseholm, the ideal residential healthcare facility for her. The political context to this choice is that Birgitte’s government has introduced a series of reforms aimed at rebalancing the Danish system in favour of the public side, and to go private might leave her open to a charge of hypocrisy. With her child’s wellbeing at stake, she and Phillip barely hesitate before paying up.

I had some difficulty with what happened next, though: Liseholm, weirdly, seems to be in the middle of a public park, and it starts to get besieged by the media. Now, obviously all I know about the Danish media is derived from shows like this and Forbrydelsen. I did find it hard, though, to believe that they would behave in such a feral way towards a deeply troubled teenager, Prime Minister’s daughter or not. (In comparison, when the notoriously vicious British press was faced with a broadly similar situation a decade or so ago it behaved with unusual but commendable restraint, to the point where more or less nothing has ever been published about it.) Anyway, this development starts to affect Laura’s recovery and the health of Liseholm’s other residents, to the point where staff tell Birgitte that Laura will have to leave.

Birgitte, though, in a West Wing-y development, decides to stand down temporarily as Prime Minister, thus allowing her to devote more time to Laura, and apparently successfully defusing media interest in Liseholm. Which I don’t buy for a second: I can’t see how Birgitte demitting office for a month or so makes Laura’s story any less interesting; rather the opposite, I would say. But apart from Laugeson’s unhinged ramblings on his paper’s website, everyone leaves well alone, and deputy prime minister Thorsen enthusiastically takes over pro tem. It should be said that Borgen’s framing of these dilemmas is very smart: the influence of Birgitte’s gender hangs over the episode, but essentially these are choices that any Prime Minister, male or female, would have had to make in the same circumstances. (Whether a male PM would have made the same choices, of course, is another matter.)

Episode 10 (‘An Extraordinary Remark’), on the other hand, is all about the male/female double standard, both for Birgitte and for the Kasper/Katrine relationship. Dealing with the latter first: Kasper and Katrine “come out” to work colleagues, and to begin with everything’s going well; when they start house hunting, though, it becomes clear that Kasper doesn’t want to have kids and Katrine does. Now, given Kasper’s searingly painful personal history I thought it rather obvious why he would be dubious about becoming a father himself, and I felt that Katrine’s reaction was a little unsympathetic. But perhaps I’m being a dude about it. And it all gets even more complicated when Katrine is given a permanent job with the TV station, but with a very heavy hint from Torben that he wouldn’t be expecting her to get knocked up any time soon.

After a visit to see his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, though, and a conversation or two with Laura, Kasper starts to see things another way. It should perhaps be said at this point that Freja Riemann as Laura was quite terrific this week, and that her scenes with Pilou Asbæk as Kasper were just lovely. Really superb. It’s been a good season for Kasper and Katrine; they finish it as more sympathetic people, in a relationship which I would imagine most viewers are happy to see them in.

Back with Birgitte, though, and it’s clear that she’s under Bad Mother attack from the men: opposition leader Hesselboe goes on TV and blithely admits that he puts politics before family, unlike, perhaps, Birgitte; and that the electorate is quite entitled to vote for the candidate it thinks will make the best leader for the country, rather than for the best human being. However, the head of Liseholm (a woman) candidly admits to Birgitte that she too has had the same choices to make, and that were Birgitte not to return to office she would be a poor role model for her daughter. Which is a positive message, I suppose, but presumably leaves Birgitte, like many working mothers, feeling guilty whatever they do. But Birgitte goes back to work and, armed with the knowledge that Hesselboe is about to announce that he will be offering huge tax cuts at the next election, gets her reform bill passed and then calls an election. (Again, very West Wing-y.)

Add in Phillip splitting up with Cecilie, and it made for an interesting contrast with the end of season 1: then, it will be recalled, Birgitte apparently discovered that she had to sacrifice most of her principles, and indeed her marriage, if she wished to cling to power. This time, though, she’s stood up for what she believes in, seen off the challenge of the blonde paediatrician,  even brought dear old Bent back into the fold, and she’s smiling broadly.

As happy an ending as we could hope for, really, and an excellent pair of episodes to finish another very good season of Borgen. My view remains that, of our recent clutch of Scanda-imports, only the first season of Forbryselsen tops this show. The third and final season is presently being shown in Denmark; let’s hope we get it soon.