Borgen: “Battle Ready”
B+

Borgen: “Battle Ready”

B+

Borgen

“Battle Ready”

Season 2, Episode 4

To become a public figure is to give up on a private life entirely. We’ve all lived in the world of the media fishbowl long enough to know how true this is, yet we keep running into people who think they can keep some part of themselves hidden from the world at large while holding office. Particularly in this age of 24/7 news coverage, such an idea seems increasingly quaint, yet that’s what Troels Hoxenhaven is hoping for. After 16 years as a politician, his long-hidden homosexuality has never come to light, but within a week or two of taking the leadership position for Labour, it seems as if all his secrets will be exposed. “Battle Ready” has its problems—namely a weird tone that veers all over the map—but when it comes time for Troels to come clean and for the episode to deal with the fallout from that, it’s more than willing to go for the jugular.

This is yet another episode where Birgitte and Katrine are coming at opposing angles on the same issue without even knowing they are, but this one reverses the usual dynamic. Most of the time, Katrine is working as hard as she can to expose some government program that will tear Birgitte’s administration apart, while Birgitte is doing her best to cover up whatever dirt Katrine and/or her news organization has on the Nyborg administration. This episode, however, operates as a rough flipside of that. In this instance, Birgitte is working to bury a newly arisen political opponent, all the while unaware that Katrine is fighting to keep the news that would bury said opponent for her from seeing the light of day. The effect isn’t as thrilling as the other structure—since it seems obvious from the word go that it will come out that Troels is gay (it’s only episode four, after all)—but it provides a different enough experience to excuse going to this particular well again.

If nothing else, “Battle Ready” made me feel a little less impressed with myself for figuring out Laugesen’s schemes last week. This week, it’s so damned obvious that basically everybody sees through it. Hell, that “photographer” that accompanied Katrine last week was a male prostitute, hired by Laugesen with the express purpose of putting the moves on Troels. (This makes more sense than my assumption that Laugesen just happened to know a gay photographer who was Troels’ type.) This lends a certain air of over-the-top melodrama to the proceedings, particularly when, for example, Katrine and Hanne are hiding out in Hanne’s apartment having hired said gay prostitute, or when the music is whirring away and Birgitte is saying that she wants to crush Troels. It’s all a little bit much, and the first half of the episode made me chuckle a few times at just how damn overwrought everybody was being.

But the episode takes a turn around its midpoint—probably when Birgitte, having just been introduced to Cecilie and realized just how much she’s met her match, comes on to Kim, her driver, then has to have him fired—and it steadily descends into a pit of sadness that completely befits it. I don’t know why Phillip is so insistent that Birgitte meet Cecilie—other than he needs to so she can make the plot move forward—but the bits where the two are trying to work out their holiday plans are fairly heartbreaking for how they show us a Birgitte who’s utterly unable to move past her crumbled marriage and the role she played in the crumbling of said marriage. We like to see Birgitte self-assured and ready to take down her opposition at a moment’s notice. It’s hard to see her felled by personal bullshit, but there you have it.

Birgitte sleeping with Kim accomplishes another purpose, of course: It gives Laugesen ammunition to use against her that allows him to keep using the Express as a way to punch at her. Since Laugesen now knows that she slept with her driver and summarily had him fired, he has her trapped in a fairly significant political scandal just waiting to burst onto the front pages. And without Katrine there as someone to constantly beat the drum against the reporting of bullshit personal scandals elevated to the level of political scandals, he’ll be that much happier to pull the trigger. (One could argue that Hanne might stand in the way of this article, but a.) it is a legitimate scandal and much more of one than Troels’ homosexuality, and b.) Hanne has problems enough of her own.) Laugesen is such an enjoyably sneerable villain—what with his droopy, Danish Hugh Grant impression of a face—that he makes a much better foe for Birgitte to always have in her peripheral vision than Troels.

Right. There were Somali pirates in this episode as well. Which makes me think that one of the reasons this episode seemed to have tonal problems—emphasis on the seemed—was because it had a bunch of disparate storylines that didn’t really mesh clashing up against each other, at least in the first half. And, hell, so much of it was so yell-y, too. Like, why did Kasper start shouting at Katrine before kissing her? I mean, I get it. It’s how he’s going to show his love, and it’s all very dramatic. But it also created the sense of an episode that plunged into overdrive at the drop of a hat and never let up. That can obviously be thrilling, but I don’t know if it’s the best color for Borgen to wear.

That’s all beside the point, though, because those closing 20 minutes or so were harrowing and beautifully done. The gutted expression in Troels’ face when he came to turn in his resignation to Birgitte was one thing, but it was another thing altogether to see how quickly he rejected her entirely reasonable plan to let him keep his job by pivoting and taking control of the “I’m gay!” storyline. Instead, he did the one thing that he probably figured would let him keep his good name and killed himself by taking a bunch of sleeping pills he found in the Prime Minister’s office (another scandal waiting to break). His car is found in the middle of the woods, shortly before Christmastime, and to Borgen’s credit, it doesn’t lean on this too heavily. Maybe that’s why the first half of the episode was so filled with shouting: When the real emotions hit, it allowed the episode to go deathly quiet.

That’s the thing: People generally don’t speak ill of the dead. By killing himself, Troels gets to be the hero who helped with the Somali pirate rescue, but he doesn’t have to be a disgraced gay politician, dealing with the fallout that results in his family learning of this secret he’s kept from them oh so long. There are some messy parallels here with Birgitte—the woman trying to keep a firm lid on herself in every single situation even as you can see the pieces of herself that are beginning to shatter—but the overall feeling is of tragedy, of a person who was only honest with himself in the seconds before he drifted off to sleep and into impact.

Stray observations:

  • Sorry this is so late. This one flummoxed me for a good long while before I figured out a way to write about it.
  • Phillip’s desire to have his ex-wife meet his new girlfriend felt almost pathological at a certain point. I expected him to pop up from behind the extras in the middle of a random scene and say to Birgitte, “Haaaaaaaaave you met Cecilie?”
  • Katrine quits her job because she doesn’t want to be a gossip-monger. God, Katrine! Lower all your standards, would you?

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