The challenge in watching the best TV series is finding the next best. Several years ago Glen and I rued the conclusion of Borgen (the Castle), a nickname for Christiansborg Palace that houses Denmark’s Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court. In three seasons we became well acquainted with Birgitte Nyborg, the (fictional) first female Prime Minister of Denmark. Birgitte dramatizes the conflicts and compromises of a woman, a wife, a mother, a canny politician who heads a coalition government. We not only witness her trials and occasional triumphs but also get an in-depth lesson about coalition politics in a democratic society.
Parallel to Birgitte’s story arc is that of Katrine Fønsmark, a talented news anchor hungry for notoriety. In a review of Borgen Jace Lacob writes: “One hallmark of Nordic television is its use of realistically rendered female characters, and Birgitte and Katrine are no exception: Ambitious, flawed, and driven, they are spiritual kinsmen even while their work often puts them at cross-purposes.”
When a fourth season, Borgen – Power & Glory, appeared unexpectedly on Netflix last spring, we rejoiced. All but one (Birgitte’s spin doctor, Kasper) of our favourite characters returns in this politically relevant season. It opens with the discovery of a huge oil deposit in Greenland, an autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. As Foreign Minister and in keeping with the green policies of her New Democrats, Birgitte vocalizes her opposition to drilling. Much to her chagrin, she later learns the Prime Minister wants to capitalize on the potential, and substantial, oil revenue. Will Birgitte dial back her criticism or stick to her — and the party’s — principles?
Meanwhile Katrine has advanced to Head of News at TV1 and is taking decisions to boost the station’s ratings. In doing so she alienates much of the staff and her family. We ache witnessing her bumble along.
A pursuit of power influences the decisions of both women who sometimes fail, spectacularly. The show dissects power while tackling big issues: feminism, the role of the media, governance, climate change, geopolitics, Inuit rights and more. In all seasons Borgen is entertaining, engrossing and provocative. It deserves a top rating of ♦♦♦♦♦.
P.S. Viewers also invest in a few strong male characters in ancillary roles. And of course we cannot help but compare Denmark’s governance with the polarized politics of the U.S. and to a lesser extent Canada as well.