Viewer's Discretion: Swedish thriller, Danish drama hit the spot
The words "Swedish financial world thriller" are not exactly the kind of thing that draws me in, but "Blinded" made me glad I took the chance. Centering on the crumbling of a bank in Sweden through the hands of a reckless financial reporter, "Blinded" revealed the devastation that can be held in numbers, where decimal points effect entire lives and creative bookkeeping ensure people in power keep their power.
At the start hotshot financial reporter Bea Farkas (Julia Ragnarsson) and bank executive superstar Peder Rooth (Matias Varela) are having an affair, with Peder planning to leave his wife and start again with Bea. Bea has never covered Peder's bank, so conflict of interest isn't a problem, and when she is assigned to interview her lover for a puff piece, they both go through the motions of what is required.
But something bigger unfolds in Bea's brain and she begins sniffing around, setting in motion a series of retaliatory actions on the part of the bank that she and Peder are not only put at odds, but she becomes compelled to dig deeper until the situation becomes very dangerous and a major scandal is on the verge of exploding into the public.
Part of the success of "Blinded" is its portrayal of the private society of male power brokers, which brings together a collection of unhinged hotshots, elitist patricians, fools who have had everything handed to them, calculating parasites and desperate egos looking to be lifted through the objectification of women, and showing how this collection of sociopaths are responsible for your money, as well as the economic well-being of a country. As Bea slithers through this maze, finding paths blocked constantly, she gains a power that makes the collection of alpha males seize more desperate means to hold onto their power, and that's where much of the drama and action of Blinded comes from. It's about marks on an accounting sheet, sure, but it follows through with the effect those marks have, building good suspense from it and never feeling too burdened to whitewash its heroine into some cliched purity. That she is human and flawed is enough as she goes after the power brokers.
The Danish political drama long ago caught the attention of people who seek out high-quality television, but it's cause to celebrate that it has now been made conveniently available on Netflix. Following the struggles of the first woman prime minister of Denmark, "Borgen"'s take on the subject matter predates "Veep" significantly and besides, in the battle of three-name leading ladies, I'd take "Borgen" star Sidse Babett Knudsen over Julia Louis-Dreyfus any day.
"Borgen" begins on the conceit of an unexpected political mishap that leads to the ascendancy of Birgitte Nyborg (Knudsen) to the office of prime minister. Nyborg finds plenty of challenges to her new role. Alongside skepticism having to do with the level of her experience and her gender, Nyborg is charged with creating alliances among the disparate parties and the personalities that steer them, each with their own agendas and quirks, all the while dodging an increasingly encroaching press. And even with all these challenges, she has to balance her personal life, including husband and kids, so that she doesn't lose sight of who she is, but with the understanding that the public is watching them.
The series features a great extended cast of characters scattered through the political landscape, including an excellent turn by Pilou Asb k (Euron Greyjoy on "Game of Thrones") as Nyborg's crafty Kasper Juul, and while packed with good political intrigue and engrossing adult drama, it's also got a lot of humor and personality that shapes a full and nuanced world that you want to enter. And you'll even learn some fascinating things about Danish politics.
John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me.
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