So what’s the show about?
Why is Borgen in Greenland?
Episode 1 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
My name is Aaja Chemnitz Larsen and I have been serving Greenland as MP at the Danish Parliament for almost seven years. My work place is Christiansborg Palace, which is also referred to as Borgen, hence the name of the popular Danish TV series. The new season is centrered around a huge oil find in North Greenland, which is disturbing the relationship between Greenland and Denmark and the geopolitical balance. Every week, I will give a short review of each episode.
As a real-life member of Parliament at Borgen, it’s always interesting to see fiction imitate real life when the theme is politics. I have seen all previous seasons of Borgen (more than once ☺ ) and I am very excited to watch the new season, not least because the ongoing theme seems to be a lot about Greenland.
The opening scene sets the stage at a whale hunting situation in North Greenland, and I think it is the first time I have ever seen a Danish TV show where Greenlandic was the first language spoken. For me that was a proud moment. In the scene, the hunters cuts whale blubber, which is considered a Greenlandic delicacy, and it honestly got my mouth running a bit. As the following scenes conveyed, the traditional hunting life and a modern lifestyle goes side by side in today’s life in Greenland, however, the culture is blossoming more than ever. Inuit tattoos on hands and face are now mainstream and popped up in a scene to give an authentic description of today’s Greenland.
Proud of the beautiful scenes from my home country
It’s been ten years since we saw the character Birgitte Nyborg playing a Danish politician and in this season it is evident that things are stirring up in the Arctic geopolitical scene. While playing the role as prime minister for most of the previous seasons, Birgitte is now a foreign affairs minister fighting for an environmentally sustainable development of the realm, including Greenland. The overall question the first episode raises is if and how it is a matter for Denmark if Greenland finds oil and which political jurisdiction it goes under.
It is quite evident, that the production team behind “Borgen” did their research thoroughly, because the show is very true to real life. When I saw the first episode, I thought a lot about the uranium debate that has been in Greenland the past 50 years. Many of the questions raised in the first episode has been raised in real life in Greenland when it comes to uranium. Is Greenland entitled to have their own say without interference from Denmark? Is it a matter of natural resource extraction or is it a matter of foreign policy and national security? As realistic as the first episode was, the new IA-led Government in Greenland, however, decided to stop the search for oil and are in the process of signing the Paris agreement. Nevertheless, the political drama is still exciting and the plot is trustworthy.
Overall, I give it 5 out of 6 stars, and I’m waiting in excitement to see the story unfold.
Episode 2 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
For hardcore fans of political series, Borgen is about as good you can get. Last year, the BBC made a list of the 100 best TV series and Borgen ended up in 40th place. Not bad for a Danish TV series. This year, Borgen features not only Greenland as the focal point, but also more Greenlandic actors and a whole team of Greenlandic filmmakers. As a representative of Greenland, you can’t help but be proud, and especially so when it is as riveting and well-produced a series as Borgen is.
It is no secret that I think that the character of Hans Eliassen is an underplayed figure who wants to play Denmark off against Greenland. Efforts towards more independence are important and valuable, but it must be done on a realistic foundation. This becomes clearer in the second episode, and it was, therefore, a breath of fresh air to see a professional political official in the form of Emmy Rasmussen, who came from the top spot, namely the Prime Minister’s cabinet, and, in a similarly underplayed way, puts Hans Eliassen in his place.
It’s great to see Ilulissat as the backdrop for the first couple of episodes. I hope Greenland’s diversity continues unfold in future episodes. But you cannot escape the fact that the beautiful nature and the amazing backdrops of Ilulissat are woven into the story. Not least “the Old Woman’s Gorge”, of which many of us know the story. In the old days, people would sacrifice themselves here when they were old, in order to save the local community when there was not enough food for everyone.
Malik was also sacrificed here “in the service of a greater cause” in a struggle for power and money. In this way, the drama and suspense have been turned up as we head towards the third episode.
I can’t wait!
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Episode 3 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
Morality’s guardians are falling
In the third episode, Denmark’s foreign minister, Birgitte Nyborg, risks having a majority against her, as the Greenlandic Member of Parliament Jens Enok Berthelsen chooses to declare a lack of confidence in Birgitte Nyborg. This could have been me in 2015, when I stood as a candidate for Greenland’s Free Vote in the Danish parliament. Unfortunately, it is a rather unlikely scenario that a foreign minister comes by the office of a Greenlandic member of parliament. But why is this the case? We are elected on equal footing with our colleagues from Denmark and the Faroe Islands – and should therefore be treated equally.
Birgitte is the guardian of morality, and has withheld information from the Foreign Policy Board. This is against the Ministerial Responsibility Act and deeply problematic. The influence of power on us as human beings is the foundational theme throughout the series, and its influence on a person like Birgitte Nyborg – who is virtuous to the core, a guardian of morality and an idealist – is interesting to follow. Therefore, it was a welcome reunion with Bent Sejrø, her mentor and the former leader of her party in previous seasons. We all need people who are smarter and more experienced than ourselves, in order to make sense of it all.
High north – low tension
The third episode has the Greenlandic title Inuit Nunaat – The Land of the People. I have always thought it was so beautiful. We do call Greenland Kalaallit Nunaat ourselves, or more unofficially Inuit Nunaat, which mean more or less the same. The beautiful thing is the devotion to the people who live in and constitute the country.
In a country with such overwhelming beauty in nature, it has an extra significance that it is the people that we highlight. When people visit from abroad, it is typically also warmth and consideration that they highlight about Greenlanders, compared to people from elsewhere in the world. This was well incorporated in the episode, and was emphasised by Knud Rasmussen‘s quote “The nature is great – the people are greater”.
It became quite clear that Birgitte’s “Greenland roll” was not for the Land of the People, but for her own gain. It became a crossroads, at which she was forced to compromise her own values (or at least the climate values she went public with) in order to maintain her position. You can think what you want about this, but I wonder if karma will catch up with her in the coming episodes? Only time will tell.
Episode 4 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
In this episode, Birgitte Nyborg is held responsible for withholding information and working for her own gain. Her actions are inappropriate and are contrary to her ministerial responsibilities. The media hunts her, but she tries to dodge them, until the press cleverly forces the Prime Minister to demand that Nyborg show up for an interview. The mouse is playing with the cat, but the cat wins. Politics is a battle over which narrative and account gets told. Reality can be twisted and outmanoeuvred.
The fast pace of the media is increasing and increasing. And the demands put on us politicians are getting bigger and bigger. How much of ourselves do we give to the traditional media, to quick clickbaits and selfies? The boundary is constantly being shifted. I myself have no doubt – we as politicians are deeply dependent on the press. You have to react at the pace at which the press is working – things move fast, and it has to be easy for the press to get a comment. These are the rules, if you want to be a part of the game, but in this process, reflection, thoroughness and credibility are increasingly challenged.
In my eyes, credibility itself is the strongest currency of a politician. But it requires decency, and not least that one is true to oneself. Laugesen’s political analysis at the end of the episode is thought-provoking. We want politicians who lie on the floor in the boxing ring covered in blood, sweat and tears, but who also get up again and take another round in the brutal political boxing match. It is these kinds of politicians we want and admire. But what is the human price for this? Sometimes I have the impression that those who behave most tactically, and are cunning for their own gain, are those who get the furthest in politics. But are they the ones who serve society best? I doubt it.
Episode 5 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
A Near-Arctic State
Interest in the Arctic and Greenland has increased in recent years due to climate change. Many of us remember when former President Trump wanted to buy Greenland and Visit Greenland’s website went down because so many people wanted to see what Greenland was like.
For many years, China has shown interest in Greenland in a more understated way than the United States. With the increasing interest in the Arctic and Greenland, there are many examples of the two superpowers flexing their muscles. The power struggle between the United States and China over the Arctic became clear when then US Secretary of State Pompeo denied that China was a near-Arctic state. However, from reality to fiction, it’s apparent that the superpower is bullying the little one in this episode. Birgitte Nyborg is trying to do this with Greenland, but so are the United States and China with Denmark. Greenland does not put up with being bullied and tactically plays Denmark off by allying with China. There is no doubt the United States won’t tolerate this, and they are telling, as in the real world, Denmark to sort out the situation with China.
Borgen is an extremely exciting series because we follow both private life and working life. Nyborg loses everything in that episode. Her credibility and her last vestige of family slip away, but she still stands up and believes that her dedication to politics trumps all immoral decisions. I can’t wait for the next episode …!
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Episode 6 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
China, the United States and Russia are the superpowers that show interest in Greenland
both in the series and reality. In the real world, interest is more subtle than in fiction, but
that’s always the case, especially in Borgen.
In this episode, we get an insight into the work of the Sirius Patrol in North Greenland. Although the scene is fictional, the scenario is not unrealistic. The Sirius Patrol, a very small Danish military unit patrolling Northeast Greenland by dog sledge and cutter, monitors a 16,000 km of coastline. It was established in 1941 to monitor German activity in Northeast Greenland, maintain Danish sovereignty, and fulfil its responsibilities in security and defence.
Therefore, it’s quite realistic that something may be happening in the vast area that is not detected immediately. It’s a small detail, but one can easily imagine many TV series taking place based on that plot alone.
Although you should save your sorrows, I get sad at the thought that we have seen more episodes than are left to watch. I love watching Borgen and will miss it when it’s over. However, we will just have to switch over to Netflix and watch it all over again when it hits Nordic Netflix on 14 April and the rest of the world on 2 June. I look forward to hearing what international fans think.
The Danish Parliament, Christiansborg, will negotiate a future media settlement in the spring, which is also discussed in the series. Can TV1 exercise critical journalism about the government, which gives or takes money to the editorial staff of TV1? A problematic and topical dilemma of how to preserve the “free” press.
Personally, I love the parallel love romance between Asger and Emmy. It’s bad they go behind the back of Emmy’s husband, but the chemistry between them is good and exciting to follow. Could Asger’s days as an Arctic ambassador be numbered, and can Nyborg manage without Asger in Greenland? If I didn’t know better, Nyborg seems almost jealous and not just an annoyed minister that her civil servant is incompetent.
I hope we learn more in the next episode.
Episode 7 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
There are quite a few crucial answers that the series owes the viewer in the very last episode, coming next week. Has Birgitte gone entirely over to the dark side? I find myself wishing that she would suddenly change course and find her way back to the politician and, perhaps even more importantly, the personality that most of us probably fell in love with in previous seasons. But that ship may have sailed a long time ago. Nyborg’s poisonous checkmate play on party colleagues internally, and the dubious alliance with Michael Laugesen, pushes her further and further out, and with only one episode left, I can only guess how far she ends up going to retain power.
The last episode also revolves around the oil found in Greenland, nothing is decided yet concerning who will end up getting the most out of it, and the big question is probably whether the oil find will end happily for us in Greenland – will Greenland win the arms race and what will it mean for the relationship between Greenland and Denmark? These are questions that will be exciting to answer, but also questions that would be real to ask if they happened in real life.
No TV drama would be complete without the hopeless romance that we would somehow want there to be. Emmy and Asger are clearly in love, and I would be very surprised if they don’t succumb to that love in the final episode. You can argue that it is not professional and, in fact, a foolhardy and dangerous game that a civil servant should refrain from altogether, but perhaps a small part of me hopes they find love together. I don’t think the last episode will give us all the answers, which would be surprising.
Episode 8 review by Aaja Chemnitz Larsen (Member of parliament in Denmark)
The show must go on… (please?)
So, Borgen is over, and I can’t help but feel a little sad because I’ve enjoyed following it every week. In my last review, I wrote that I had hoped to see Birgitte Nyborg return to the personality that we probably all fell in love with in previous seasons, and so it was almost with relief that the final episode was dedicated to taking her back to the woman she was when she stepped into the role of Prime Minister.
Nyborg finally realises that her actions have derailed her as a human being, both in the way she has thrown her son under the bus and made political decisions driven mainly by power. Her self-examination takes place when she is in Ilulissat to sign a controversial agreement, and here she goes on a sailing trip that makes her realise how off the rails she has gone.
The question of what she has really gained from her political derailment hits her, and she finally realises that all she has achieved is to stay in power while everything else around her is in chaos. It’s a hard realisation, but it’s so necessary.
The romance between Asger and Emmy also reaches a new place. We never find out if they get together, but they reconcile, and a small window of opportunity opens, leaving the viewer with a small and perhaps slightly hopeful smile on their face.
The episode ends with a glimmer of hope for a new season in the future with Nyborg as an EU Commissioner. There is no telling if we will see another season in a few years, but I hope so. I have looked forward to it every week, and I think Adam Price conveys a relatively realistic picture of what politics is like, for better or worse. I would like to say a big congratulations to the entire Greenlandic team that participated in this season. I think they have done incredibly well, and I am extremely proud of them! All in all, I would give the season 5 out of 6 stars.
Inspired by reality
Continues further down the page…