Posts Tagged ‘Pilou Asbaek’

Sidse Babett Knudsen, Pilou Asbaek


If like me you are inclined to view contemporary American politics as a terrifying shitstorm, there’s some comfort to be had in the excellent Danish series “Borgen,” a sort of “West Wing” for a multi-party society.

Take comfort in the knowledge that things could be even crazier.

The central character of this 2010-2013 series (its two seasons are now streaming on Netflix; a third reportedly is on the way)  is Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen…she played “Westworld’s” top exec in that series’ first season).

Birgitte is a forty something politician, wife and mother whose centrist party grabs enough parliamentary seats in an election to form a new government. That means she is poised to become her country’s first female prime minister.

Thing is, Denmark (like most European nations) relies on coalition governments made up of representatives of two or more parties.  Whereas Americans have only to choose between Democrats and Republicans, Danish voters have a slew of ideologies to select from.

If you’re going to rule in Denmark, you’ll spend much of your time compromising with smaller fringe parties — like the Greens —  in exchange for their support. This is achieved by handing out plum assignments in the various ministries.

And while performing these in-house acrobatics, a leader like Birgitte must fend off the advances  of far right-wing parties currently out of favor.

Complicated? Yeah, but show runner Adam Price and his writers are so good at setting up the lay of the land that it’s easy to pick up on the subtleties of Danish politics.

Just as important, “Borgen” (that roughly translates as “the Castle,” the Danes’ nickname for the building in Copenhagen holding the country’s executive, legislative and judicial branches) is packed with terrific characters to whom we get mightily attached.

Knusden’s Birgitte is a fantastically compelling figure, a whip-smart politician struggling — not always successfully — to balance her duties at the Castle with her family life. Not to mention the near-constant pressure to stuff her ideals and act out of sheer convenience.

Cracks soon appear in her seemingly rock-solid marriage to Phillip, a professor of economics (Michael Birkkjaer). Equally frustrating is the toll her job is taking on the couple’s children, a teenage daughter (Freja Riemann) who slips into depression and an angelic tweener son (Emil Poulsen) who inexplicably begins bed wetting.

Essentially “Borgen” asks if it is possible to hold positions of great power without compromising one’s principles or doing irreparable damage to those you love.


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