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Borgen: “The Election”

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“The Election” is an adequate end to this confused season of Borgen, in that it provides Birgitte with a suitably muted ending and gives Torben the Entourage ending he’s always deserved, apparently. As a series finale for the whole show, I’m a little less certain, though I definitely don’t have a strong idea of what the series would look like if it came back for a fourth year. By episode’s end, Birgitte has gotten everything she ever wanted—except she’s also thrown away a far bigger gift because it’s the right thing to do for the country. As much as a fourth season that dealt with foreign policy while Birgitte had to maneuver against the disliked Hesselboe could be fun, I kind of like ending the series here, almost in spite of myself. (In my heart of hearts, I want the series to end with Birgitte reclaiming her job as prime minister while riding in on a lion, but I can understand while that’s unlikely and would make for a poor ending in a narrative sense.) Birgitte is so close to her ultimate dream, but she’s still so far away. We end on the precipice, not on resounding victory.

One of my favorite things about this show has been watching the jockeying for power within a multi-party system, so the final half-hour, in which Birgitte and the New Democrats tried to use the fact that no one could form a government without them (most likely) to win major concessions from either Hesselboe or Thorsen, was riveting stuff. To a degree, this was all hampered by the fact that the season’s politics were left a little vague (as these sorts of centrist fantasies about how things should really run), but it was worth it all for the scenes where Birgitte inspects the offers other make her and finds them wanting, as well as that long section where you’re pretty certain she’s going to take Thorsen’s offer to be prime minister, even if it means being in government with the Freedom Party (albeit sans Svend Åge, whose downfall takes place around the episode’s edges) and betraying some of the party’s core principles. But we know Birgitte too well by now, and we know that she will ultimately do what’s right. And what’s right involves working with Hesselboe, much as she might not like to.


Truth be told, this episode might be a little too rushed. Birgitte’s cancer scare from last week turns out to be—almost literally—nothing, and the stuff about how she doesn’t want Jeremy at her side until she decides she does feels completely unnecessary. There’s a similar arc with Katrine and Søren deciding that their age difference doesn’t matter and her learning to enjoy hanging out with his kids that’s similarly dispatched with in a couple of scenes. The interpersonal stuff this season has largely not worked, and that’s no different in the finale, where both of these storylines feel like extreme adjuncts to everything else that’s going on. If we had a history with Søren or Jeremy like we do with Kasper or Phillip, that might have been okay, because we could read that history into all of the scenes. But we don’t, so the whole thing ends up feeling more frustrating than it needs to. Jeremy and Søren are just sort of boring, all things considered. At least Søren is an economic rock star. I don’t know what we know about Jeremy beyond him existing as Birgitte’s boyfriend. (This, of course, is a nice gender flip of the “girlfriend” characters in a lot of male-driven shows, so.) At least that moment when Phillip and Jeremy finally met was nicely bittersweet.

On the other hand, all of that would probably be okay if this episode solely focused on the election and how that plays havoc on everything in Birgitte’s life. But, instead, we have to deal with all the TV1 nonsense, with the conflict between Torben and Alex coming to a head. Torben is fired, but then the staff throws a very polite, Danish rebellion in his honor, and for whatever reason, the suits side with Torben over Alex, which means Alex heads off to something else (probably TV2 or programming reality shows for Fox). I think this was all meant to be some serious, hard-hitting media commentary—and it turns out that the ridiculous debate I complained about last week was based on something that really aired—but it fell flat because Torben just wasn’t that compelling of a character, while Alex was too much of an obvious buffoon, chasing ratings above all else. Do people like that exist in real life? Sure. But Borgen has always prided itself on its nuance, and it was hard to find any in Alex. Meanwhile, Torben gets back together with his wife, and he gets everything he’s ever wanted. He even gets to give Alex a memorable kiss-off line. Is it wrong that I kinda hate Torben now?


The Torben stuff is, admittedly, a pretty big demerit to this episode (and the season as a whole), but the political stuff keeps chugging along just like it always has. There’s a scene where Kasper is asked just how much he misses the circus (that wouldn’t be hard to read as the actor being asked how much he misses being a major part of the show), and if there’s one thing about Borgen I’ll miss—assuming this truly is the end—it’s that portrayal of the world of parliament as a never-ending whirlwind of controversy and excitement. Borgen was better than most shows at depiction a world where there were plenty of bad things happening at any given moment, yes, but the news cycle was ever fluctuating and someone with the courage of their convictions—and a willingness to compromise—would be able to ride out the storm. It’s a deeply feminist series, and it’s also one that truly believes in politics, not just in the sense of the politics of the show’s creator but in the sense that politics is a worthwhile pursuit, a way that we humans can try to give our lives a little meaning.

That will ultimately be the thing I remember about Borgen, no matter how messy its plotting could be. The episode ends with Katrine and Birgitte approaching Christiansborg and Borgen itself, and Katrine talks about how it’s a great job she’s found herself in. Birgitte nods and smiles and thinks for a long while, and you think maybe she’s going to say something deep and profound or come up with a monologue about how much she’s given to that place and how much it gave back to her. Instead, though, she just says, “It’s my second home,” and that feels like a fitting way to wrap up the series. Borgen has looked at government from all angles and has treated it with all manner of tones, but it always comes back to that sincere, earnest idea that people working together to better their countrymen will usually stumble toward something better than the status quo. Borgen was a political show almost entirely devoid of cynicism, and for that, I’ll always remember it fondly.


Season grade: B
Series grade: B+

Stray observations:

  • I really enjoyed watching the New Democrats’ victory party. For introducing the vast majority of those characters in this season, I really came to like and care about all of them, and that’s no small feat. If nothing else, season three managed to build up an entirely different show on the foundation built for it by the first two seasons. That’s difficult to do, and I’d wager that if a fourth season happened, it would feel much more solid than this one did in many ways because it would have that new foundation to work with.
  • I’m genuinely surprised Laura isn’t old enough to vote yet. I guess I was pegging her as 18 or 19 or maybe even 20 at her oldest. But what do I know? The timeline of this show has always been a little confusing.
  • Magnus releasing that orange balloon into the sky as voting closed was a lovely image. It was also doubly hilarious because Birgitte being told polling places had closed immediately followed her telling people to make sure they got out and voted. You’d think she would know!
  • TV1 reports on the exit polls throughout the day, trying to predict who will hold how many seats. That’s kind of crazy to me, but I guess the U.S. media does a bit of that as well. I just can’t imagine what would happen to sway the New Democrats all the way to 13 seats over the course of that day. Also: All of the major party leaders convene on stage to be asked questions by journalists about how things have gone after the votes are tallied? That’s awesome!
  • Minor complaint: For as important as she was to the season, Katrine sure went to the background here.
  • I really enjoyed Hanne and Ulrik throughout this episode, particularly when Hanne fell into breathless gossip reporter mode at seeing Birgitte out with Jeremy at the victory party.
  • Thank you for reading these reviews, you small but loyal audience! Discovering things like Borgen is why I do this job, and I hope these reviews are found by more and more people as LinkTV spreads ever further through the U.S.