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“Sins Of The Past”

Illustration for article titled “Sins Of The Past”
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There’s a moment toward the end of “Sins Of The Past” (the actual English translation is “Sons,” but “Sins Of The Past” sounds better, probably because that’s a phrase we’re more immediately familiar with) that made me enormously sympathetic to the problem of the immense fishbowl Birgitte and her colleagues live in. That fishbowl is maybe 10 percent of the size of the one celebrities and politicians are subjected to in the U.S., but it’s still horrifying to see the scope of, even at that size. Søren Ravn, Denmark’s foremost economist, has signed up to run for a seat as a New Democrat, and Birgitte counts it as a coup to have him on her side, even if Jon’s a bit irritated at being shoved aside from his seat at the head of finance. However, as the episode wears on, it’s less about the steadily building conflict between Birgitte and Jon and more about the fact that when he was a young man, Ravn was a Communist who may or may not have been considered for a job as a Soviet spy. (The KGB ultimately decided to pass on him, out of fear that it would compromise their foremost Scandinavian man on the ground.)

By the time that information comes to light, however, it’s almost no matter. The story of Ravn’s association with the Soviets has taken on such momentum and such certainty that it’s become a self-perpetuating machine, and there need only be new angles to look at, even if their connection to his past as a Communist is tangential at best. The narrative about Ravn has been written; now the press need only find the facts to support it. Like, what if Ravn slept with some of the young women he met in those days, and what if one of them ended up killing herself under circumstances that might look mysterious if one squinted enough? Would that be enough to kick off the next media firestorm?


It’s in the midst of this that the moment I found so sympathetic occurs. Ravn comes over to Katrine’s apartment, so she can yell at him about all he’s kept from the New Democrats. At one point, she has to head off, and he finds himself alone in the main room, where he’s confronted with a giant wall of facts about his own life, everything that Katrine has used her journalism skills to dig up. And she’s ostensibly on his side. Being confronted with everything he’s done—bad and good—ultimately causes Ravn to talk to her about some of the saddest moments of his life, and the next morning, when he comes in to party headquarters, it’s to tell Birgitte that he’s not going to run for Parliament. Ravn may be smart, and he may be great on TV (if, let’s be honest, a little dry), but he’s someone who once associated with the wrong kind of people, and that association will never leave a person, so far as the press is concerned.

The story of Ravn is a solid center for an episode that feels, once again, like it’s not quite sure where it or the season as a whole wants to go. The show has examined what it’s like to be at the center of a media firestorm before—most notably when Laura had to be hospitalized (a story the show revisits briefly here)—and this doesn’t offer any remarkable new shades on that storyline. But it does feel more comfortable to have the show back in a wheelhouse where it knows what it’s doing, rather than focusing on 100 close-ups of Torben touching Pia’s butt then smirking like a schoolboy who’s getting away with something. (Enough with this storyline, I say! Enough!) The political storylines continue to be the best thing about this season, because the personal storylines all feel stuck in park, revving their engines.

This week’s big twist on things is that Birgitte has some abnormal cell growth that might not be cancer but also might be cancer, and just to be safe, she’s going to have to have radiation treatments every weekday for weeks. I get that the theme of this season is whether Birgitte and Katrine can really have it all, but this just feels like way too much to pile on top of the already overstuffed Birgitte storyline. She’s starting a political party and navigating a serious relationship and raising her kids and dealing with potential cancer, now? I feel like no matter how much of a superwoman she was, she would probably scale back at least one aspect of her life—probably the professional one—to take care of her own health, but I’m also someone who once reviewed a bunch of TV the day I had my wisdom teeth out and could barely see straight, so clearly, I’m not taking my own advice. Still, this is just one step too many and feels like yet another ball tossed into the air, particularly when the doctor asks Birgitte at the end if she has anyone coming to pick her up when she’s done with her treatments and she looks all pensive about that. (One element I liked of this story: Bent getting a little look when Birgitte said she was meeting her father. He knows something’s up with his old friend.)

Still, here we are, heading into the back half of what’s likely the final season of this show ever, and I’m not entirely sure I know what the stakes are. I’m gathering that Birgitte and the New Democrats want to have a good showing in the upcoming election, but right now, that looks to be that they’ll win a maximum of eight seats. I know the show—and television—well enough to know that’s not where things are going to stop, but I’m wondering what the ultimate end game is here. Birgitte as Prime Minister again? Katrine unexpectedly elected to a seat in Parliament somehow? Kasper and Bent starting up a mystery-solving agency? The stakes of the season feel far too nebulous now that the New Democrats are a going concern, and it would be good to know exactly what their ultimate aim is beyond merely continuing to exist. (Yes, I get that a new party would see the continuation of its existence as a major victory, but this is television, not reality.)


At least “Sins Of The Past” made me feel vaguely invigorated by the TV1 storyline again, outside of all of the close-ups of Torben lovingly caressing Pia’s butt. The staff’s arguments about what to do with the information they were leaked about Ravn’s potential standing as a spy made for good scenes, and I liked how the journalists were actually integral to the plot, instead of wandering around in their own storyline that didn’t make a lot of sense. I still don’t entirely buy the Torben vs. Alex dynamic, and I find the return of Laugesen to appear magically whenever or wherever he will be most irritating and/or needed transparently convenient for the show, and I don’t know why Kasper has hair again (okay, it just grew back). But Borgen has always shown us both the media and political sides of issues, and this was the first time this season I felt it really gave us a media storyline that was somewhat on the same level as the political one. Baby steps, I guess.

Stray observations:

  • Laugesen apologizes to Birgitte about the pictures of Laura in the Express. She, ice cold, tells him she won’t accept his apology until it’s on the front page of his paper, then cuts the conversation short.
  • It’s always fun to hear the various cast members speak English—well, it’s fun for me—and the scene where Hanne Holm interviews the former KGB guy to get proof Ravn was never a secret agent was her moment to shine.
  • So Ravn goes on TV to debate the Liberals’ economic policy with the woman who’s apparently the economic advisor for the Liberals, and while he’s calmly and collectedly refuting every one of her points and making some great arguments, I can’t help but think of how poorly this would play on American 24-hour news networks full of screaming heads. But everybody seems thrilled with how good he was (and Laura seems rather taken with him, oddly), so maybe the Danes like dry economics discussions on their evening news.
  • The hints of attraction between Ravn and Katrine seem like they’re going to head somewhere, don’t they? Unless he’s gone forever, which also might be the case.
  • Birgitte’s look of worry at the end is totally unnecessary because you know if she called, Phillip or Jeremy or Bent or Magnus (on his bike) would come. And Laura has to be driving by now, right?

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