Thursday, 1 March 2012
Borgen: The Silly Season
"Don't you wash your hands?"
"It doesn't make the smell go away."
This is an extraordinary episode. It makes us completely reinterpret so much of what we've seen in earlier episodes. Suddenly it makes sense that Kasper is the way he is, cold, repressed, horribly damaged and in denial about his past.
After my comments about last episode, thinking I had the format of Borgen sorted as an issue-of-the-week political drama with added character arcs, this episode goes and breaks that template, if there was one, completely. It's the Summer. Parliament isn't sitting and there's no news, only gossip. It is, to use a very British phrase, the Silly Season. (I'd be interested to know whether that was a direct translation- I suspect not.) So that means we can drop the issues of the week (Laugesen's memoirs aren't really that) and really focus on character. Even the opening quote is not from Machiavelli or Lenin but James Joyce, of all people, and is about the past coming back to bite you. Lots of threads come to a head here.
Incidentally, isn't Laugesen odious? He's like a cross between Tony Blair and Kelvin McKenzie. Urrrgh.
Kasper's past might not be all that unexpected- I was expecting child abuse as soon as we got the first flashback- but that doesn't make the actual revelation and less huge. These flashbacks are quietly devastating. And Pilou Asbæk is an extraordinary actor- so many scenes are made by his facial acting. In fact, this gives us a wonderful piece of misdirection as he's apparently nervous just before his interview. Of course, he nails it, but looks no less uncomfortable. It's really been his father, not Laugesen's revelations, that have been bothering him.
The fact that he went so far as to change his first name speaks volumes, and his stilted relationship with his mother (does she know?) is so awkward to watch. His refusal to take any of his father's shirts becomes very understandable once you've seen the flashback, and his insistence on a minimal funeral and an unmarked grave is horribly revealing of his desire to bury these feelings away and forget about them.
Ironically, all this is what brings him and Katrine together. Even her disgust at how he came across the receipts that incriminated Hesselboe is leavened by the fact that for once he's being honest. And she has real feelings for him. ("If you just told me the truth, I'd do anything for you." I knew it was her entering the room at the end, despite the blurred focus, but the scene is so deeply cathartic and, yes, lovely. What happens between them now?
Birgitte and Philip's storyline is less dramatic and, given that it could hardly compete with child abuse, less upsetting, but it's quietly upsetting to see their relationship continue to deteriorate. Philip's a nice guy, but he's emasculated, and doesn't even want sex. Society is fine with a woman being Prime Minister (although of course things are still fine from equal; let's not kid ourselves), but the role of her "consort" is awkward, given the way gender roles work culturally. Philip is adopting a traditionally feminine role, and is therefore emasculated. He's as much a victim of cultural misogyny as his wife. And although he may temporarily solve things at the end by asserting his masculinity, this can only be storing up conflict for the future...