A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Epigraph: “The prince knows that it is far safer to be feared than loved.” – Machiavelli
The nature of political power is a curious one, but its ability to transform the good soul into an inherently evil one has been assumed as a tenant of reality. A central question that Machiavelli poses in his classic The Prince is a question of what a leader ought to want. It is one thing to have ideals and to believe in the strength of those very ideals. It is quite another to put those ideals into practice. A leader simply can’t walk willy nilly and aspire to garner the practical means of transforming those ideals into law. A leader has to strategize, plan, throw his or her pawns onto the chess board while thinking immediately of the next maneuver. A significant portion of that maneuvering in the political area is what perception a leader wants to acquire, how they wished to be looked at by the people whom theoretically at least they are supposed to be representing. Some believe that love is the way to go, that the more kindness one shows their people, the more people will reciprocate that love through loyalty. Yet others find that fear is a true weapon worth wielding, one that causes mere mortals to tremble at your very presence. That fear would be so intimidating that no one would dare raise their voices in your presence. A prince, or in this case, a hopeful Prime Minister, could find solace in either case, regardless of if they take Machiavelli’s golden words as sacrosanct or sanctimonious.
Birgitte’s road, as one would expect, is a much bumpier one than the ending of the previous episode suggested with her broad smile. That announcement of a potential Prime Ministership being on her hands works well in that construct and certainly comes true by the end of the hour where that broad smile truly beams. But if the road to garnering the ninety votes necessary for a legislative majority was so overwrought with turbulence, the governance promises to only be significantly more so. The episode opens with Birgitte standing with Bent, waiting for Her Majesty, the Queen of Denmark, to receive her and give her the blessing to form a new government. With every passing second, Birgitte becomes more nervous. Every passing moment gives birth to a new state of paranoia, a new thread of thought that could explain in some fashion how she was going to lose all of the power that was seemingly just within her grasp. That paranoia that sets in is perfectly understandable, perfectly tenable from a position of complete and utter surprise. Having expected to lose the headship of the party and now standing at the precipice of forming a government, it is understandable that Birgitte is going through every possible tragedy scenario, just in case any of them actually give birth to a reality.
Birgitte gets the granting of the queen to form a new government and then the real task begins. If there is a flaw within this tense, densely-packed episode, it is that Birgitte is on the receiving end of far too many lectures from men in how she ought to run her political future. It’s clearly not meant to be an endorsement on behalf of the show and certainly to have the vast majority of politicians be men is unfortunately reflective of the male-dominated field that politics is. But collectively it felt like the show went too far in the telling but not showing needle, which deflated what I’m assuming was supposed to be an indictment of the sexism in the field. The question of the hour, posed by no less than the despicable Svend Åge, is why Birgitte doesn’t sound like a winner. By all accounts, that’s exactly what the audience would have expected as well. Hasselboe was disgraced on account of him using state funds to salvage his wife’s meltdown in a department store and Laugessen had shot himself in the foot during that debacle of a debate. But Birgitte isn’t a leader who on the onset grasps power the moment she sees an opportunity that presents itself. She sees a playing field littered with corruption and she sets her table apart from all the others. Yet that table only yields so many dividends when everyone else around it uses that corruption so thoroughly and deceptively. Climbing stairs with Bent, Birgitte sees all of Copenhagen laid out before her like a glittering jewel bathed in sunset and the two forge a path forward.
Birgitte takes mere moments to throw her cards in at the opportunities that come her way, deciding that if she needed to espouse bits of treachery and trickery to forge her path to victory, then so be it. The curious thing about Birgitte is her pursuing victory not necessarily for her own self, but the party as a whole. The voters responded to Birgitte’s sincerity and it was her responsibility to respond in kind. If that took some tricks to accomplish, then she was willing to do it. It certainly helps that her opponents are so slimy and Laugesen, much in the vein of Svend, is openly Islamophobic. The partnership and friendship with Bent being so strong and caring doesn’t hurt, either. But the strength of Birgitte’s character remains, for otherwise surviving in a political climate like that would simply be untenable. As the turbulent tenacities of Denmark’s politicians begins to reach a climax, Birgitte and Bent realize her opportunity to strike a negotiating chip to secure her own place as Prime Minister. Hasselboe needs her to have negotiating power and Laugessen’s coalition partners could be brought off just as easily as he had bought them, including that brilliant new Ministry of International Development. She strikes into the ground and hits gold, uncovering the groundwork to craft new coalition, the youngest ever in Danish history and the first to have half of its members be female. Audience, you may take your seats. The Prime Minister’s journey has just begun.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Bent, don’t swear in the palace!”
+“Look, we’ve got 91 seats. Can’t the bitch count?”
+“I am evil incarnate in your intellectual little world.”
+Somehow, Svend taking a pastry was a perfect little piece of hypocrisy
+Hanne’s rant of ratings and free tickets meaning more than critical journalism
+“Foreign Affairs, too.” Brigitte’s immediate confidence in this scene was wonderful
+“Caesar was murdered by his friends, too.”
+“…in an eerily controlled way.”
+The Hasselboe interview was fascinating in its indictments of the modern media culture and how politicians take advantage of it
+“The way I see it, you don’t have a choice.”
+“We want someone else as Prime Minister.”
“Who, may I ask?”
+“Today Denmark got its first female Prime Minister.”
Episode Title: Tæl til 90/Count to 90
Written by: Written by: Jeppe Gjervig Gram, Tobias Lindholm, Adam Price
Directed by: Søren Kragh-Jacobsen
Image Courtesy: SRJF Blogspot