Borgen season 4 review: Power & Glory is triumphant return for Danish drama
Sidse Babett Knudsen returns as Birgitte Nyborg in new episodes of the political drama.
It has been almost 10 years since we last saw Birgitte Nyborg, played by the incomparable Sidse Babett Knudsen, as she drove to her new appointment as Foreign Minister after becoming the leader of a new political party, the New Democrats.
Now, hit Danish political drama Borgen has finally returned to our screens for a fourth run - appropriately titled Power & Glory on Netflix - which brings the machinations and diplomatic crises to a whole new audience.
We pick up years after we last saw our idealistic but realistic heroine and she is now an experienced Foreign Minister in a new coalition government and serving under a new female premier, Prime Minister Signe Kragh (a delightfully smug Johanne Louise Schmidt).
While former PM Birgitte is an old-school politician who serves on principles and her party's policies, Kragh is more career-focused, social media savvy and pragmatic.
The two soon come into conflict after a new international issue arises when oil is discovered in Greenland, a constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark.
The New Democrats are a liberal party with a strong focus on protecting the environment and reducing the impact of climate change, but Kragh and her allies are keen to exploit the economic benefits of drilling for the fossil fuel in Greenland.
An added issue is that politicians in Greenland are also keen to drill for the oil as a means of securing independence from Denmark, complicating the debate further with the issue of colonialism.
Thus begins a political crisis not just for Denmark and Greenland but also for Birgitte's career - does she honour her party's principles and risk breaking away from the government over this issue, or does she turn her back on the party's promises to keep them in power and also remain in her high-ranking job as Foreign Minister?
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Much of this new season of Borgen is focused on the sacrifices one must make to keep power and stay in control and whether a successful leader can hold onto their principles.
This is the darkest we have seen Birgitte go - the closest to her 'breaking bad' - with some of her most ruthless and underhand actions yet, unlike the nearly-always conscientious Birgitte of yesteryear.
Nyborg's personal life is mostly non-existent, her husband Philip (Mikael Birkkjær) has moved on to have a new family, her daughter is abroad, while her adult son Magnus (now played by Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) has developed his own political conscience which results in significant conflict between mother and son.
Knudsen excels at conveying Birgitte's isolation and internal struggle, as she becomes increasingly obsessed with her career over everything else.
Of course, Birgitte may be the lead protagonist but there is a large cast of characters here - both in the form of returning and fresh faces.
The secondary protagonist once again is the journalist and Birgitte's former advisor Katrine Fønsmark (an affecting Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), who has returned to broadcast news as the head of her old work home, the struggling news channel TV1.
However, heavy is the head that wears the crown as, like Birgitte, Katrine finds herself forced into making very difficult compromises that threaten her journalistic integrity and also bring her into conflict with the channel's star anchor, Narciza Aydin (Özlem Saglanmak).
Elsewhere, the other most central figure for the season is the bookish academic and later diplomat Asger Holm Kirkegaard, played with an awkward but sweet sincerity by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard.
Asger becomes the focus as we see him head to Greenland and negotiate with politicians there, discovering a dark mystery and finding what could be forbidden love.
Various other familiar faces also return to the fold and are most welcome, including the somewhat underutilised Søren Malling as Katrine's mentor, Torben Friis, and Lars Mikkelsen as Katrine's partner, Søren Ravn.
Meanwhile, another major character in this fourth season unlike Borgen's previous outings is its scenery. The series has never looked better, particularly when capturing the breathtaking vistas of Greenlandic landscapes and the natural beauty which is so passionately fought over in the series.
In fact, the whole series is looking glossier and larger-scale, helped by the more international implications of the plot.
The dialogue and plotting remain fast-paced and switch between both Danish and English with as much impressive skill as Knudsen's excellent linguistic abilities.
The themes and topics addressed have also never felt more timely. Whether it is climate change, environmental policy, European politics, the increasing influence of China, the unpredictability of the Russian government, the continued might of the United States of America in Europe or the impact of colonialism in the modern world - particularly in regards to Greenland.
The importance of a non-partisan civil service - which is something of increasing relevance to British audiences - is also hammered home by some thoughtful work from new additions to Birgitte's staff, played by an understated Simon Bennebjerg and a down-to-earth Magnus Millang.
One of the most affecting elements of the series, however, remains the struggles of women in power. It's hard to not empathise with Birgitte and Katrine - even as they make harsh decisions - as often they are on their own in doing so and are swimming in raging waters against the current.
Seeing how both characters deal with their challenges and decide what to prioritise between the personal and political is the most gratifying journey of all.
Will power or glory await either of them?
Ultimately, the primary focus of Borgen remains its leading ladies and the series is wise to keep both Sidse Babett Knudsen and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen front and centre and grounding the show in their performances.
We just hope there's even more to come.
Borgen: Power & Glory is released on Netflix on Thursday 2nd June 2022. Borgen seasons 1 to 3 are available now on Netflix.
Looking for something else to watch in the meantime? Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.
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