New season of “Borgen”: In the snake pit

New season of "Borgen": In the snake pit

Ten years after the first episode, the Danish political series “Borgen” is back. The fourth season is more relevant than ever – and no less exciting.

Two women from the political series

Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen, right) is back – this time as Danish Foreign Minister Photo: Mike Kollöffel/Netflix

No spoilers of what the eight episodes of the fourth season “Borgen” contain in terms of plot, nothing revealed of what is revealed in detail from the Politician Birgitte Nyborg becomes. Apart from the fact that her career, i.e. her striving for power, continues, so much can be told: “Borgen” is a Danish television series that began ten years ago with the first season in this country on Arte and about the fate of a woman who is by no means far from a political career Copenhagen reported.

“Borgen”, in English: “The Castle”, is located in the Danish government and parliamentary enclosure and does the same thing in terms of staging as “House of Cards” in the United States and its forerunner, the British House of Cards. Except that the Scandinavian variant does not show men striving for power, but women. And what we learned as an audience in the first few seasons is that women can perform the job of top politician just as virtuously as men, mercilessly and elbow-conscious. With the same tricks and finesse – only that Birgitte Nyborg is initially also a mother and wife.

In the end, these most private environments, which are often associated with atmospheres of motherhood, nurturing, and compassion, will be relegated to the wings. Marriage broken, daughter and son removed from the focus of female life, husband ready for divorce.

The actress who embodies this role is Sidse Babett Knudsen – and she does it splendidly. Not that she was initially such an icy, calculating bitch like Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in “House of Cards” – Knudsen develops her professionalization, this gentle approach to what a political mega-talent like Birgitte Nyborg has to achieve, cautiously.

Now, in the fourth season, this is also no spoiler for the plot, she says to a slight reproach as to whether it would have been worth it for her personally, whether it was worth it – that means giving up private, family happiness – was: Yes.

No more empathetic than male politicians

That she is no longer plagued by feelings of guilt if she isn’t the mother of the company in the morning, including preparing muesli and anxious questions about the children’s school matters, and keeps canceling appointments with her husband in the evening because the political business makes everything beyond that into variables : If necessary, private circumstances must take a back seat. Finally, she says, she can come home whenever she wants.

Remnants of Nyborg’s old relationships and the associated bad conscience are still reflected in Knudsen’s facial expressions. But basically she likes the fact that she carries out her job as an ambitious politician in an outrageous way, ultimately triumphing over the unsentimental insight that having and exercising power, always securing it in all the snake pits of parliamentary and ministerial business, is simply fun for her. She draws pleasure from the round-the-clock battles of her political existence: And honestly, that’s more fun to watch than, for example, Claire Underwood in “House of Cards”.

The Danish screenwriter Adam Price – oh, if only the German film industry had one in stock – sympathetically dispenses with all screenplay-like creaminess, nothing about the entire story of the fourth season is funny, nothing at all invites you to think forgivingly: oh women have a hard time too.

Birgitte Nyborg is neither more empathetic than male politicians nor does she have a softer side and yet she doesn’t come across as a monster, which would only weaken the impact of these sovereign performances. But women, too, love power and like to hold it, if necessary by sidelining the competition, even if it is female. Sentimental kitsch – “Borgen” is completely free of that in the new episodes. And what exactly is this season about? Nyborg is no longer prime minister but foreign minister. Sort of like an Annalena Baerbock. She has to assert herself under a prime minister, her job: political disputes with the former Danish colony of Greenland, which, like Norway and Russia as rich in natural resources, would like to become completely autonomous and rich.

The topics in “Borgen” are more topical than ever: Russia, the EU, decolonization, climate change policy and so on – all very contemporary. It looks like the episodes just came out of post-production a few minutes ago.

It’s worth seeing, it’s extremely exciting and, as always, a lesson in intrigue and assertiveness. Like a snake pit and at the same time typically Scandinavian, “Borgen” is and will always be. Sidse Babett Knudsen has become a political heavyweight as Birgitte Nyborg, and it looks very nasty – and also sympathetic.

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