If we pitched this as a drama about coalition politics, you’ll likely see nightmarish images of Nick Clegg and Dave Cameron’s faces flash before your eyes, alongside visions of student fee riots and tabloid headlines involving pigs…let’s not go there. But clearly the Danes are a much classier bunch when it comes to coalitions, at least they are according to this gripping Denmark drama.
It focuses on Birgitte Nyborg Christensen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a small-time centrist politician in Denmark’s parliament, who has, thanks to a series of unfortunate events, ended up as the country’s first female prime minister. Luckily help is on hand in the form of spin doctor Kasper (you’ll recognise as Theon’s messed up cousin Euron from Game of Thronesm played by Pilou Asbæk) whose main job is fixing his boss’s reputation after journo Katrine (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) fills the tabloid with her personal life.
You might sit thinking, “Hmm, sounds a bit like House of Cards, or The West Wing,” and we won’t argue with you. Like those series, this one has the outwardly perfect but inwardly tumultuous marriage and home life, those dodgy folks on the inside flirting with the idea of corruption, and the desperate battle to cling on to power. But you’d be wrong to dismiss this, thinking you’ve ticked the political drama box already – for one, the political system in the relatively small country of Denmark couldn’t be much further from that of the US, and secondly, this one has a brilliant, complex female lead.
Nyborg’s character alone is enough reason to watch this show. She’s confident, strong, determined, and human – her integrity and honesty sit alongside her political ambitions. And this complexity trickles down in every plot. The drama is emotionally intricate, displaying honestly the complications of home and work, politics and people. And they’ve turned against their innate, Scandinavian love of gritty noir murder scenes – in Borgen there’s not a dead body in sight. Just pure political drama, and if you ask us, the ideal binge watch.
Thanks to Netflix, you can do just that. And The Guardian’s Sam Wollaston for one is glad that it’s available to stream – he says: “Borgen is more than intricate political drama, though: it is intimate drama, politics made human… A lot of real people could learn a lesson from Nyborg and Borgen.” In Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson says in terms of picking your next show, “you should bump it to the very top of your queue,” adding “this isn’t just a show about a ‘strong female character.’ Nyborg is formidable, but she’s also very multi-dimensionally human. This is true of almost all the characters in Borgen, save one slimy politician-turned-tabloid editor.”
It’s likely thanks to these complex characters that The New York Times’s Alessandra Stanley comments that “Borgen takes a far subtler and more beguiling view of people and political relationships,” calling it a “psychologically astute show in which characters evolve in ways that can be surprising but are always internally consistent.”
First shown January 2012. You can watch the trailer here: