BOrgen crept into Britain early in the last decade with the Great Wave of Scandi – or Nordic – Noir – instigated by The Killing and Wallander. Nor Burgen was nothing like those shows—no horrific murders, no unexpected deaths, no minimal knitwear, no high-risk shootings. Instead, it was a cleverly written and stunningly illustrated political drama about Birgit Nyborg – beautifully played by Sidis Babbitt Knudsen – who unexpectedly becomes Denmark’s first female Minister of Statistics (Prime Minister).
The focus is not only on the political machinations of Borgen (literally ‘the castle’, the Danish nickname for Christiansborg Palace, where the government – which runs the proportional representation system – is located), but also on the private lives of the politicians and journalists who circled around it that soon became a huge favourite of the ‘era Golden” for television. This was a remarkable achievement, not only because it was Denmark’s first attempt at political drama, but also because it focused on the details of Danish politicsLike raising pigs and oil revenues, and somehow taking international viewers with it – with excellent Danish interior design as a bonus.
After he said goodbye for good in 2013, the drama eagerly returns on Netflix on June 2, with renewed leadership and a darker feel that leans more humorously in the stylistic direction of its northern brethren.
why now? I asked Knudsen and the show’s author, Adam Price – who’s not only a well-known Danish TV chef as a writer and show director. It was the right time, Price says. “We told ourselves that if the right story came out, we’d try to get the band back together. See you in 10 years!” Sidse actually said, “Then the real story came out, even though I knew little at the time that he’d end up with Borgen” .
This “true story” includes a major new oil discovery in Greenland – a Danish dependency – that brings most of the old favorites together again. Nyborg returned in a newly formed government as Foreign Minister. Was she really in the same job the whole time? I suggest to Knudsen that she must have been thinking about what her character was doing: “Oh, I’m not at all methodical—I just put them in the closet, and they did well. But I took them out of the closet and they fit like a glove.”
I would say the same to Birgit Hjort Sorensen, who plays the gritty journalist-turned-political consultant Catherine Wonsmark. Sørensen says, “I didn’t think about it until I got the call, and then when I started reading the first text I felt like I was finding an old friend on Facebook, and I was like, ‘Oh! Great! She really lived the whole time!'”
Of all the characters, it was Fønsmark who seemed to come full circle by the end of Season 3 — she dropped her guard, embraced the love — but this new series feels just as preoccupied with the warm, emotional journeys of Nyborg and Fønsmark as it does the Greenland Question. “Catherine used to be very good at her job, but not in her personal life. Then he met Soren [Ravn, Nyborg’s ex-policy advisor, played by Scandi-noir stalwart Lars Mikkelsen] Kind of calmed her down and… it kind of worked. Then she might have been back on the work front for a while, had another baby, and now she’s back in full force,” says Sorensen.
Borgen is also back in full force, but he’s an entirely different beast. Everyone is keen not to call it the fourth season. Instead, it’s a standalone project titled Power & Glory, with the only Greenland plot running through all eight episodes. It’s much darker—from the ominous title sequence onward—that surrounds Nyborg with shadows, emptiness, and darkness. It’s not black, but to Bourgen, it’s as if a lot of the designer’s light has been dimmed.
Nyborg is making a character who is lonelier, more Machiavellian, and loses some of her old self at her job. “If I don’t work 19 hours a day as Secretary of State, who the hell am I?” Knudsen agrees with her nerve-wracking RP accent. “Times have changed and this is really a very interesting combination of old borrowing and something very new. What interests me most is that this time it has to do with her relationship to herself, to her political ideals and values, and her place in the world. So, I guess you can say alone, but there are more differences minute”.
Thinking about time should also be important. In the nine years that the show has passed, we’ve had Brexit, Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo, a global pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The original Burgen existed in lighter times and almost embodied the optimism of the West Wing. “I remember when we talked to journalists from abroad 10 years ago; they said: Is Denmark like this? A country that exists in the world. But even in Denmark we can’t get rid of it now because it is more pessimistic.”
Times have changed for Wonsmarck, too. Once upon a time was the destructive force of nature with a glass ceiling; Now the world seems to have moved forward standing still, leaving it with a feeling many millennials can relate to – they still feel young, but now they are the “big” in the room. “Although she’s only in her forties, she’s also old school, so she understands and accepts the ‘wake-up time’ we’re in now, but she often slips by saying things she shouldn’t. [But] Where she had ambitions for her own good, I think now she is ambitious for journalism in general and wants to save [it] Somewhat.”
Likewise, Nyborg was never a “power for power for power” politician, but during “Power & Glory” we see her digress a little. “How does she justify her actions to herself?” Knudsen says. “It’s not black and white. I was really excited to do this development. Being a leader has become an integral part of their identity, so it’s not just that [power for power’s sake]Because she.”
Price adds, “As Sidse says, if you build your identity around your position, losing it becomes very costly because you then lose yourself.”
There’s also a highly insightful reference to Russia in the opening episode that might make you freak out. Even if the show was shut down for a while before the latest attack in Ukraine, the speech at the end of the first episode would be tough. This isn’t the first time Price has been accused of being a clairvoyant – Burgen always seemed a few steps ahead of reality. “It’s so crazy,” Sorensen says. “I think Adam is well informed, well researched, and makes speculations that often seem to come true.” Knudsen thinks it’s something else. “Adam has a crystal ball — he always has — and he doesn’t talk about it. That’s what happened next.” After all, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s first female prime minister, was elected a year after the first season aired.
Borgen: Power & Glory launches on Netflix on June 2.