Borgen series 3: who’s who?

Ahead of the new season of the Danish political drama, refresh your memory with our character guide

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Everything’s changed since the end of series two: as the fantastic Danish answer to The West Wing returns to BBC4 for a third season, the action’s moved on by two and a half years.

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If you’ve forgotten where we were, or you’ve never seen Borgen (what the heck have you been doing?), who were all these people? And where are they now?

Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen)

Borgen began with Birgitte, the leader of the unfancied Moderates, doing so well in pre-election live TV debates that she ended up as a coalition prime minister, bossing the much bigger parties around. Imagine if Nick Clegg had become PM instead of David Cameron. And he was a woman. And his political ideals and integrity were completely different. Actually forget that. Anyway, over two series Birgitte saw her progressive dreams challenged by capitalist dogs, jealous rivals and the simple practicalities of government. Her marriage broke under the strain and, in the breathless series two finale, she headed off a leadership challenge by calling a snap election.

Now she’s a high-flying, highly paid public speaker, with a hot but casual boyfriend and not a care in the world. Her clothes are smart, and the soft furnishings in her luxury waterfront flat are simply sensational. But surely she can’t stay out of politics for long? Otherwise there’s no show.

Katrine Fonsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen)

The strongest subtext in Borgen is the story of women making headway in pressured, male-dominated worlds. While Birgitte was blazing a trail in politics, her fight was mirrored by TV journalist Katrine. She’s the best host/interviewer on TV1 News but has often fallen foul of her risk-averse bosses. Meanwhile, her on/off relationship with Birgitte’s spin doctor, Kasper, has provided some of the show’s tenderest moments.

Now she’s a mother of a little boy but she and Kasper are not together – although he is very much still around, sharing the parenting and working as a TV1 pundit.

Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbaek)

A superb player of the media who has often scooped Birgitte out of a political hole and really cares about the policies he spin-doctors. But his life outside work is a mess: he’s tortured by the memory of his father sexually abusing him in childhood, and any relationship he’s had that wasn’t with Katrine hasn’t worked. Nor has his relationship with Katrine: they love each other deeply but differing opinions over whether to have kids split them up once again at the end of series two.

Now Kasper is an attentive weekend dad, and -since Birgitte is out of politics, which means Kasper is too – a star as half of Juul & Friis, Denmark’s top political punditry duo. Friis is Torben Friis, the TV1 head of news, who has spent most of the first two series telling Katrine that she can’t say what she wants on air.

Hanne Holm (Benedikte Hansen)

Awesome journalistic hero Hanne, who redefines the concept of not taking fools gladly, is still at TV1, where she fled after her career in newspapers ended. As her career in newspapers ended because she told Murdochian demagogue Michael Laugesen where to stick his job, this was OK by us.

Now she’s dismayed at TV1’s descent, under the new boss, into cheap infotainment. Hanne likes proper stories. Hard news. She probably knows shorthand and everything. She’s best pals with Katrine too. 

Alexander Hjort (Christian Tafdrup)

The new news boss at TV1. He is a modern young manager, who sees TV news as a cheap commodity and thinks Hanne Holm and Torben Friis’s obsession with things like facts and morals is outdated and silly. They hate him in return, charming though he is.

Alexander represents everything that’s wrong with modern journalism. But on the other hand, look at him! He is hot. Hot, höt, HØT. Our Danish isn’t very good but it’s safe to say Hjort roughly translates as “Hot”. Alexander Hot.

Philip Christensen (Mikael Birkkjaer)

Philip is so wise and dreamy, he manages to be a likeable merchant banker. At the start of Birgitte’s stint as PM, Philip was the coolest first man in global politics, looking after the kids and helping his wife find a skirt that fitted before an important TV interview. They grew apart eventually because she was never at home with the family, and in any case Philip wanted his career back.

Now he is sharing custody of Magnus and Laura and is seeing Cecilie, the doctor he left Birgitte for. She is nice but Birgitte, with whom Philip has a strong platonic co-parent relationship, is incredible. Can he really stay away?

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Borgen series three begins on 16 November, 9pm BBC4