Why you must not miss Borgen a second time

Five reasons why the political saga – repeated from tonight on BBC4 – might just be the best Scandi-drama of all


POLITICAL INTRIGUE Borgen’s writers are obsessive fans of The West Wing and bring a similarly thrilling political fantasy element to the central story of a principled, moderate and, indeed, female politician whose solid morals and down-to-earth delivery sweep her to power. Except it’s not total fantasy: not long after Borgen went out in Denmark, the nation got its first female PM, for real.


SEX APPEAL Google Images is a bigger fan of Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who plays a thrusting young TV reporter, but the thinking man is head over heels for Borgen’s lead actress Sidse Babett Knudsen. All three of her names throb with euphemistic promise, and the scenes where she struggles to fit into skirts before crucial TV appearances definitely have a certain something, but really it’s her eyes, her strange nose-ruffling smile and the quaver in her voice when Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg has to stick to her guns against fierce opposition. Which happens every week. 

ENSEMBLE EFFORT Borgen’s large cast is stuffed with deftly drawn minor characters, the best of them being the aforementioned reporter, Katrine, and her ex-boyfriend Kasper (Johan Philip Asbæk), who (in)conveniently works as a spin doctor. Their story doesn’t quite go where you think and, near the end, they share the scene of the series.

LED BY THE ISSUES Every episode introduces a new political problem – rendition of terrorists, media ownership, institutional sexism – in a way that seems heavy-handed on the face of it. But every episode melds the debate into involving drama, swinging your opinion back and forth and colouring the arguments with lashings of human drama. Just as The Killing wasn’t just about finding the murderer, Borgen isn’t just about whether Birgitte can keep her coalition government afloat.

FAMILY VALUES Birgitte’s home life provides most of that human drama – her family are the real heart of Borgen. She constantly neglects them to go off and serve her country – it’s a good job her husband (Mikael Birkkjær – yes, Ulrik off The Killing II) is so understanding and so laconically funny…


Borgen is on BBC4 tonight at 11pm