DR, the people who brought you Forbrydelsen
, now bring you The West Wing
. In Denmark.
"Borgen" is Danish for "The Castle", a nickname for the Christiansborg Palace, the centre of the Danish government. The actual Danish pronunciation is more like "Bauwen". DR market this with the overseas title Government
, but neither the BBC or Link TV chose to use that name when transmitting it in English) is a Danish Government Procedural
by Adam Price, running since 2010. It has been critically acclaimed for its realistic fictional parties
and its lack of strawman stereotypes
, getting very high ratings in Denmark. The main character is Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen
, recently divorced from her husband and now trying to balance politics, personal problems and her two kids.
Other characters are Katrine Fønsmark, a surprisingly intelligent journalist with a job at the newspaper Ekspressen
(think The Sun
) which she highly dislikes, her fellow journalist Hanne Holm, an equally bright, but alcoholic Team Mom
, Kasper Juul, Birgitte's brilliant media consultant and Katrine's ex-boyfriend, who still carries a torch for her, Bent Sejrø, Birgitte's mentor and Team Dad
, and Michael Laugesen, the former Labour Party leader turned Ekspressen
editor-in-chief and Manipulative Bastard
The third and final season was shown in Denmark in late 2012 and Britain in 2013. NBC is looking at a US remake.
- Abusive Parents: Kasper was sexually abused by his father.
- Against My Religion: Subverted. After successfully pulling off the peace treaty in Africa, Bent and Amir celebrate modestly with a bottle of fine brandy:
Bent: Does your god allow you to drink it?
- The Alcoholic: Hanne Holm, at least in the first two episodes of the first series and again in the first episode of the second.
- Alternate Universe: Not only does Borgen exist in a universe where Denmark's political parties are different, but its media catalogue and, in the case of Turgisia and Kharun, its international geography are alien to reality.
- Ambition Is Evil: Maybe not evil, but certainly not good. The show has a rogues gallery of careerist backstabbers, particularly Höxenhaven.
- And from the second series, Jakob Kruse.
- Armoured Closet Gay: Höxenhaven.
- Bad Boss: Laugesen.
- Break the Cutie: The job nearly does this to Nyborg on a few occassions.
- Breaking Speech: By Saltum, when Kasper and Nyborg are successively forced to come to his office and apologize for antagonizing him.
- Bulungi: Two Season 2 episodes deal with Birgitte negotiating a peace agreement between the central government and the separatist southern region of a fictitious East African nation called Kharun, which is definitely not Sudan.
- The Chessmaster: Kasper, in his role as Nyborg's spin doctor.
- Children Are Innocent: A firmly-held belief by Kasper. Not so with Saltum.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Laugesen is mostly absent in the third season, replaced by Alex as a more subtle evil media person.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: Amir.
- Clingy Jealous Prime Minister: Nyborg, when her ex starts seeing another woman that her children like.
- Condescending Compassion: Basically Saltum’s attitude towards delinquent Muslim teens living in poverty and Pernille Madsen’s towards sex workers in S03E05.
- Contemplative Boss: Birgitte at the end of the credit sequence.
- Creator Provincialism: Averted in Season 2 with the Afghanistan and Kharun storylines.
- The Cynic: Kasper.
- Dark Secret: Kasper's childhood. He was sexually abused by his father, who also let other pedophiles have their way with him. Kasper eventually snapped and stabbed his father, leading him to be sent in a juvenile institution with his identity changed. Kasper remains haunted by his past, and tries to keep it hidden from Katrine through pathological lies. It is also the reason why Kasper rips into Saltum when he moves to lower Denmark's legal age of criminal responsibility to 12.
- Denmark Saves the Day: Part of the reason Nyborg resolves the Kharun conflict is to improve upon Denmark's reputation as a xenophobic country.
- Driven to Suicide: Troels
- Drunk with Power: Averted. Nyborg keeps a good head on her shoulders where her job is concerned, despite the havoc it wreaks on her personal life.
- Episode Title Card
- European Brevity
- Fan Disservice: The actor playing him is handsome, but Kasper's ass isn't.
- Freudian Excuse: Kasper
- Fictional Political Party: There's the Moderates (who are social liberals, and slightly left-leaning economically), the Labour Party, the Liberals (who are right-wing) and the nationalist Freedom Party.
- The seven parties are not the real-life ones in Denmark, but some mirror the actual ones to a degree. They also seem to represent a simplified left-right "sliding scale" that's easier for the viewer to understand. Nyborg's centre-left coalition consists of:
- The Solidarity Party (hard-left with Muslims like Aicha Nagrawi, led by Anna-Sophie Linderkrone, resembling the real-life Red-Green Coalition)
- The Greens (left-wing & green like the Socialist People's Party, led by Amir Diwan)
- The Labour Party (centre-left, like the real-life Social Democrats, and modernising under Laugesen)
- The Moderate Party (centre-left/centre, like the Social Liberal Party in real-life).
- On the right, meanwhile, are:
- The Liberals (centre-right, clearly based on the real-life Venstre)
- The New Right Party (right-wing conservative, led by Yvonne Kjær, similar to the Conservative People's Party)
- The Freedom Party (hard-right and stated to be descended from Glistrup's Progress, just like the real-life Danish People's Party).
- Fiery Redhead: Nete, in the third series.
- Foot Dragging Divorcee: Nyborg.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Zig Zagged. In the first series, Katrine finds out she is pregnant as the result of an affair with a married (dead) man, but decides to keep the baby regardless. When her mother finds out, she puts Katrine under considerable pressure to have an abortion, and Katrine, hurt at her mother's lack of support, relents. Though she clearly didn't want to have the termination, she recovers and moves on with her life.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Kasper doesn't take Kristine's relationship with Benjamin well.
- Also Birgitte, who becomes suspicious of Phillip's (innocent) relationship with one of his female students.
- Happy Marriage Charade: The Hesselboes. And by the end of series 1, the Nyborgs. The latter narrowly avert it by divorcing.
- Happily Divorced: By season 3, the Nyborgs; by mid-season 3, Kasper and Katrine.
- Holding the Floor: Essentially what Saltum tries to do when he arranges to have Nyborg questioned before parliament over her government's approach to juvenile offenders.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Episodes 5 of season 3 revolves around the issue of protection and rights of sex workers, featuring the head of the Danish sex workers’ union, Helene, who is very pleased with her work. This trope is discussed in depth, and Helene says she is opposed to this term, as ‘you never hear about a happy real estate agent’.
- Hot Scoop: Kristine, who bears a noticeable resemblance to Billie Piper.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Amir's attitude when Nyborg's concessions to polluters causes him to resign from both the Ministry of the Environment and the Green Party.
- High Class Call Boy: The source of Höxenhaven's demise.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Bent's stroke in the second season.
- Hypocritical Humor: Courtesy of Birgitte: "I've never asked for a man's approval in my entire life! How do I look?"
- House Husband: Phillip. And of course no-one bats an eyelid. Because this is Denmark. And Denmark rocks.
- I Have No Justice Minister: Birgitte's reaction when she discovers that Höx leaked a recording of Anne Sophie contemplating abduction in order to save his job.
- Informed Flaw: Kasper has a reputation as a heart-breaker, but on-screen he shows interest in a grand total of three women, only one of whom he ever actually had a relationship with.
- Less so in series 2, when we start to see more of Kasper's dysfunctional dealings with women.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Birgitte and Bent.
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: What one minister basically says when it's revealed she was a lingerie model when younger.
- Jerk Ass: Laugesen. Saltum, too.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Alex Hjort, Torben’s boss in season 3. He’s pretty smug and seems to care about pretty much nothing but the ratings, but the fact of the matter is that Torben’s serious high standards are of little interest to the viewers, who are paying for TV 1 with their tax money, and his suggestion to liven up the first debate turns out to be a success. Subverted towards the end of the season when he goes too far with it in the third debate, asking to model the debate after a cheap game show, which Torben finally disobeys with impunity, and having the audacity to get Torben fired for it.
- Kick the Dog: Saltum does permanent damage to his own career by chopping off a piglet's tail during a live TV interview. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- Kick Them While They Are Down: In the first debate in season 3, Ulrich is made to do this to Birgitte, revealing that she had little understanding of her own political platform. What makes this extra harsh is that it’s due to her cancer treatments damaging her ability to stay alert and focused.
- Kicked Upstairs: Nyborg ejects Jacob Kruse from her inner circle and appoints him as Denmark's EU Commissioner when he betrays her and Bent.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Kaspar and Birgitte try to damage Amir by accusing him of hypocrisy for promoting environmentalism while owning a gas-guzzling classic car, and the resulting press persecution of him and his family drives him out of politics. By the end of the series, the same thing has (temporarily) happened to Birgitte and her family after the row over her daughter being sent to a private mental hospital.
- Late Arrival Spoiler: The Nyborgs are divorced by season 2.
- Life Imitates Art: Shortly after the series debuted on DR, Denmark elected its first female prime minister in real-life in the form of Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
- Lonely Funeral: The funeral of Kasper's abusive father is attended only by himself and Kristine.
- Love Triangle: Series 3 flirts with the idea with, on the one hand, Nyborg, her ex-husband Philip, and her new English boyfriend Jeremy, and, on the other hand, Katrine, her ex Kasper, and new lover Soren Ravn. For the most part it's averted though, and both women are still with their new partners by the time the series ends.
- Maiden Name Debate: Birgitte Nyborg Christensen reverts to her maiden name of Birgitte Nyborg at the end of the first season.
- Mandatory Unretirement: After giving up politics, Amir gets dragged in again when Birgitte picks him as her necessary Arabic-speaking and Islamic representative in the Kharun peace talks.
- Happens to Birgitte herself when she loses the general election announced at the end of Season 2, and subsequently leaves office. Two years later, Birgitte has no plans to resume a political career until she sees how Jacob Kruse is toeing the line to Hesselboe's agenda and making the Moderate Party increasingly right-wing.
- Manipulative Bastard: Laugesen is the most consistent example, though Kasper definitely has shades of this too. The entire Labour Party becomes a collective Manipulative Bastard when it tricks its own leader, Bjørn Marrot, into making a series of public gaffes in order to discredit and fire him. Jacob Kruse in the second series, until he badly over-reaches himself.
- Married to the Job: As Bent reveals at the end of series 1, virtually everyone in Christiansborg suffers from this to some extent. Divorces and open marriages are common among the politicians.
- Hanne Holm, which led to her ex-husband gaining sole custody of their daughter.
- Mentor: Bent to Nyborg; Friis and Hanne Holm to Katrine.
- Missing Mom: As stated above, Hanne Holm is herself one, having been absent for most of her daughter's childhood and all but loosing contact with her after her divorce, after which custody of the then five-year-old was granted to her ex-husband.
- Naïve Newcomer: Nyborg, to an extent. She didn't expect being elected prime minister prior to the election.
- New Media Are Evil: As the editor of the tabloid Ekspres, Laugesen uses vitriolic viral video editorials to constantly criticize Nyborg and her coalition allies. DR runs a fake website for Ekspres which features videos by both Laugesen and Saltum.
- In season 3, TV 1's Torben Friis is asked by his boss to sex up political coverage with reality-TV style political debates, etc.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Kasper's attempt to damage Amir's image to make the Greens more co-operative leads to Amir getting monstered by the press so badly that he gives up politics completely, the Greens leave the coalition, and Birgitte is left leading a minority government.
- Nyborg's idea to call a new general election leads to the end of her government; her resignation as prime minister; the return of Hesselboe to office; and the return of Kruse, who proceeds to make the Moderates as right-wing as Hesselboe's party.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Laugesen's attempt to discredit Hesselboe during a televised debate spectacularly backfires when the voters reject both him and Hesselboe in favor of Nyborg.
- No Bisexuals: The reaction to Troels Hoxenhaven's affair with a rent boy reeks of this.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Balding strong-man president of a former Soviet state with a questionable human rights record and significant clout on the future of Danish energy production, anyone?
- Not to mention the Danish captain of industry.
- Non-Indicative Name: The Liberals are right-wing, which makes them this trope for American viewers. However, note that in Denmark and most of the rest of Europe, the term is used exactly for the type of politics the Liberals stand for.
- Off The Wagon: Inevitably, Hanne Holm.
- Paparazzi: A particularly unspeakable case, persecuting mentally fragile psychiatric patients.
- Playing the Victim Card: Both Birgitte and Kaspar accuse Saltum of this, with good reason: his political tactics are usually based on saying digusting things in public and claiming to be the victim of Political Correctness Gone Mad when people get angry.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Saltum, who is incredibly racist, and quite redneck-ish. Also, Laugesen, who's homophobic (but left-wing, weirdly enough).
- Also, Islamophobic e-mails bring down Laugesen, and he's also shown to be fairly sexist towards Nyborg and perhaps bigoted towards immigrants. Laugesen isn't really portrayed as "left-wing" though, more just having no principles at all in the pursuit of power. He certainly becomes an anti-PC populist once he takes over as editor at the Ekspres.
- Power Hair: Averted with Birgitte, who has long hair.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Birgitte herself, and also Torben Friis (mostly).
- Right Behind Me: In the second episode, Birgitte is summoned to see the Queen of Denmark so she can be appointed "Royal Investigator" (which means she can start negotiating a coalition). There's a delay and Birgitte wonders how long the... certain word for a woman... is going to be, as a footman arrives to tell her that Her Majesty is ready.
- The Rival: Hesselboe to Nyborg.
- Ruritania: One episode revolves around the visit of the president of the former Soviet republic of Turgisia.
- The Ophelia: Laura.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kasper to Saltum.
- Rejected Apology: In the final season, Laugesen tries to apologise to Birgitte privately for his persecution of Laura when she was mentally ill, but Birgitte refuses to accept any apology unless it's in the paper as prominently as the original stories.
- She's Back: The tone of Season 2's end as Nyborg returns from leave and calls for a new general election...
- ...only to be averted when Season 3 reveals she was forced to resign after her government lost the election.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Kasper and Katrine.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Kind of in limbo between the two, actually.
- The show partly focuses on Nyborg's struggles to reach her goals and make her premiership a success without compromising her integrity.
- Bent slides towards idealism...
- ...while Kasper slides towards cynicism. So does Amir, eventually.
- Sorry That I'm Dying: So writes Jørgen Hedegård's son, serving in Afghanistan, in his last letter to his father.
- Star-Making Role: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Pilou Asbæk, and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen were already well-known in Denmark, but have earned international fame thanks to the series' exposure.
- Mikael Birkkjær, who plays Nyborg's ex-husband, reportedly became something of a sex symbol after Borgen premiered in Britain.
- Undying Loyalty: Kasper and Bent to Nyborg.
- Viewers Are Morons: Invoked in Alex's attempts to reshape TV 1's news broadcasts.
- Violence Really Is the Answer: After speaking with representatives of Afghan non-governmental organisations, who thank her for her country's aid in fighting the Taliban and urge her to keep the troops on the ground until the Afghans are ready to fend for themselves, Nyborg begins to rethink her position on Denmark's presence in Afghanistan.
Bent: I wanted the Taliban removed, yes, but through democratic means.
Nyborg: How, Bent? How can you remove a dictatorship democratically?
- The War Room: During the Somali hostage crisis.
- The War on Terror: A central plot point in two episodes of series 1, which concern the question of CIA rendition flights and expansion of the military budget, respectively.
- And continued somewhat at the start of Season 2, when Nyborg is forced to reconsider her earlier promise of withdrawing Danish troops from Afghanistan.
- When You Coming Home, Mor?: Birgitte and her kids constantly, and Katrine and her son in the final season.
- Wild Card: In the second debate, Birgitte reveals that her party will become this and refuse to declare anyone as their preferred candidate for Prime Minister.
- Will They or Won't They?: Kristine and Kasper. By season 2 they finally get back together, between season 2 and 3 they have a child and get divorced, and by mid-season 3 they are finally Happily Divorced.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: In Season 2, Nyborg, drunken and emotionally destitute, impulsively sleeps with her driver. When she wakes up the next morning and sees her clothes strewn on the floor, you can tell this is what she is asking herself in her head.
- What If the Baby Is Like Me?: Kaspar's extreme unwillingness to have children, due to not wanting to continue the line of his abusive father, and/or fearing that he'll become abusive once he has a child.
- Women Are Wiser: Played with.
- Workaholic: Birgitte morphs into one of these over the course of the series. In her defence, she is the Prime Minister. Also Kristine, although not to the same extent.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Saltum tries this when he is mugged by hoodlums, using his ordeal to force the issue of enacting tougher penalties for juvenile offenders.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- Phillip has a fling with one of his students when the pressure he’s under becomes too much for him. This is one of the reasons he things it’s best that he and Birgitte divorce by the end of season 1.
- Höxenhavn cheats on his wife with a young man sent as a trap in season 2. It has devestating results on him.
- Kasper cheats on his girlfriend with Katrine as part of the general deterioration of his relationship with her. They break up soon after.
- Torben cheats on his wife with director/editor Pia in season 3. When his wife learns, she tells him to fire or transfer her, and when he can’t, she reveals the affair to the staff at his work and kicks him out of the house. He gets her to take him back by the end of the season, leaving Pia heartbroken.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: According to Bayanov.