Borgen is back like it never went away, and this fresh-faced reboot is the rare revival that feels right on time.
This review of Borgen — Power & Glory Season 1 is spoiler-free.
Back in the halcyon days of 2013, Borgen quietly became the crown jewel of the Scandi Noir subgenre. It has been years since, and audiences have never quite gotten tired of bleak, wintry murder mysteries, especially on platforms like Netflix that can churn them out every other day. But even amongst that densely-populated crowd, Borgen – Power and Glory, an eight-episode quasi-reboot that sees Sidse Babett Knudsen reprising her role as ruthless Copenhagen politician Birgitte Nyborg, feels right on time.
That feeling stems from a few things. For one, it’s a very contemporary drama, built around climate anxiety, geopolitical tensions, and the carefully balanced moral ledgers of career politicians for whom progress of any kind demands sacrifice of another. It’s also a grown-up show that doesn’t patronize to satiate the binge-watching crowd, instead relying on depth, characterization, and a sharply observed portrait of corridors of power.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though – Borgen is still full of twists and turns and sits atop a great reservoir of tension in the same way that, in its plot, Greenland apparently sits on a great reservoir of oil. This discovery, though, is incompatible with Denmark’s proposed carbon-neutral future, so Birgitte, as the foreign affairs minister in a coalition government, has to navigate the implications of the find while keeping a close eye on scheming Prime Minister Signe Kragh (Johanne Louise Schmidt), who spies a career opportunity.
Nobody likes politicians of any kind, except I suppose those who endeavor to be politicians, so it’s hard to make a compelling show around them. By the same token, climate change, fossil fuels, the unending trade-offs between environment and economy, and geopolitical relationships between major superpowered neighbors like Russia and China, all have a profound effect on our daily lives but aren’t necessarily our first choice when it comes to what we want on our televisions.
And yet! The chilly ruthlessness of Borgen was always compelling, and remains so here even now, with several of the show’s old players and ideas having changed dramatically with the passage of time. Birgitte is going through a midlife crisis, her ex-husband Mikael (Birkkjær) has moved on without her, and their son Magnus (Lucas Lynggaard Tønnesen) has become politically active in a less-than-ideal way. The world has changed, both on-screen and in reality, and still Borgen feels like as much a part of both landscapes as it did back in 2013.
For once, I’m willing to be charitable and assume that more of us appreciate a meticulous and grounded story than impressions suggest. Borgen is nothing if not careful about its characters, gradual development of tension, and overarching political ideas, and now that I think about it, a lot more popular entertainment could stand to be more careful in respect to all these things. It won’t go viral on TikTok, but perhaps that’s entirely the point. It’s about time something didn’t.