Borgen: Season 2 DVD Review: Nothing’s Rotten in Denmark

Who knew Danish politics could be so much fun? Picking up a year after the first season, this collection finds Birgitte Nyborg, the first female Prime Minister of Denmark, fully in control of her elected position and no longer the tenuous newbie of before. That professional mastery comes at the expense of her personal life, as she remains separated from her husband and faces a new challenge in the form of her now clinically depressed teenage daughter.

Meanwhile, her press secretary and closest aide, Kasper Juul, finds himself living with a girlfriend he doesn’t love, all the while carrying a torch for ex-love Katrine Fonsmark, the deposed national news anchor now slumming in the world of print journalism (the horror!). These two characters get almost as much screen time as Nyborg, and while their relationship dynamics are a key component of that screen time, they each remain career-driven as well. Juul excels at his media advisory role, frequently exploiting his relationships with Fonsmark and politicians to mold public perception of Nyborg and her policies. For her part, Fonsmark gets into some deep investigative reporting that puts her at odds with her sleazy tabloid boss.

This season the stories once again occasionally extend beyond Denmark’s borders. The season premiere finds Nyborg visiting Danish troops in Afghanistan as she grapples with the decision to pull them out or expand their presence. Later in the season, she curries international goodwill in a two-part episode by brokering peace between the heads of two warring sides of an African nation. While I found those plots to be too trite and not nearly as involving as the constant backbiting in the Danish Parliament, the recurring subplots of Nyborg’s family strife and Juul and Fonsmark’s will-they-or-won’t-they-again make even those subpar outings worth viewing.

The acting continues to be a strength of the show, especially Sidse Babett Knudsen as Nyborg. It’s a real treat to watch her character’s steely new confidence in her abilities as she crushes political opposition, but Knudsen also captures the fragility of a character grappling with her inability to let go of her husband while also trying to understand and assist her seriously damaged daughter. While the sometimes predictable writing doesn’t always lend great support to the show, the lead actors carve out consistently memorable and highly rewarding roles.

The DVD set includes all 10 episodes of Season 2, but is sorely lacking bonus features.

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Steve Geise

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