Borgen: Season Two (MHz Networks)

Borgen-Season-Two 75It suffers from predictable material, unequal pacing within the script, and a naïve approach to political discussions.

Borgen-Season-Two 500

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and it smells like the lies, tricks, and gimmicks of international politics and sleazy media coverage.

The 21st century introduced a new standard for politics, and its abusive relationship with the media. No longer are whispers spoken in dark hallways. Instead, words are set to bold and placed before a blinding spotlight. It is an inescapable reality, but it appears on our computers, mobile devices, and on our televisions.

Borgen is a one-hour political drama that hails from the flatlands of Denmark. The ten-episode per season series follows Birgitte Nyborg, played by the beautiful Sidse Babett Knudsen, who is a dedicated mother and skilled politician who unexpectedly becomes the first female prime minister for the relatively small nation. Nyborg is portrayed as the epitome of Woman; she climbs the ladder of power through her own conviction and heart and eventually holds and carries that power with swiftness and pride. However, she allows herself to be guided by her spin doctor, the young and scene-stealing Kasper Juul, who is portrayed by up and comer Pilou Asbæk. Juul, in turn, is enchanted by his former lover and journalistic colleague Katrine Fonmark, played by the sensational Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.

While season one spent most of its time (perhaps too much time) establishing the world of Borgen and the rules that dictate the universe, season two is liberated from those constraints. The second season develops and challenges the characters once they have taken hold of the power they sought in the previous season. Often, movies and television shows focus on the rise and fall of leaders, so it is a relief to finally see what an individual of influence does during their period of power.

Together, the three lead characters are intertwined in the complex balance of duty and family. Each struggle with their private lives, as well as with their careers, but nothing is left sacred. So, we watch as each individual fight their relentless enemies with intensity and ruthlessness. The lines between government and media are so blurred that they become one in the same; politicians and journalists do whatever they may to annihilate one another with viciousness and immoral compromises in order to survive. Now, this may sound like I am talking about Game of Thrones, but Borgen illustrates the structure of Machiavellian philosophy and attempts to apply that theory to a realistic scenario.

Borgen is a world filled with men, but it is the women who stand on the pedestal and shine. Nyborg unwillingly deals with a messy divorce and with the sanity of her two children but does so with a face of strength every time she enters Parliament. She remains grounded in her morals and creates an aura that makes it almost impossible for the viewer to see anyone else in her position. Nyborg has a counter weight though: Fonmark is an idealistic and intelligent young woman, who can neither hold down a job nor a man. Like Nyborg, she follows her heart, but suffers the consequences that Nyborg is free from. Between the two is Kasper, whose dark past but sincere character provides the most powerful subplot in the series.

The show definitely had the potential to be a compelling fictional story. Unfortunately, it suffers from predictable material, unequal pacing within the script, and a naïve approach to political discussions. The viewer is forced to go through scenes that are forgettable, uninteresting, or simply dull, until a climatic shift occurs, and suddenly a scene appears that slightly redeems the unnecessary material shown prior. The dialogue itself, even for a show that covers a heavy subject, falls flat and, at times, becomes useless noise. While the actors superbly hold the audience’s attention, this sometimes proves to be not enough to motivate the viewer to continue with the next episode.

However, Borgen has aspects that somewhat relieve the show’s issues. For example, the series has gorgeous cinematography. The lighting design and camera composition is so well done that it could easily be placed on a big screen without feeling out of place.

Borgen has an equal amount of strengths and weaknesses: It was developed for a very specific international audience and falls short of the brilliance of other dialogue heavy series such as The West Wing and The Newsroom. However, it does capture the daring environment that dictates the political and journalistic landscapes. But the pentacle of Borgen is how the creators open up on the contributions women make daily to their family, to their country, and to themselves. For once, the female characters are not put to the side of the man, but they are instead the leaders of the world they live in. | Brittany Larimore

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