All the Twists and Turns of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Series


Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Copenhagen Cowboy.


Nicolas Winding Refn is unquestionably one of the most divisive filmmakers working today; while some may claim that Refn’s hyper-violent, stylized crime stories are works of brilliance, others have criticized him for what they perceive as self-indulgence and regressive gender dynamics. Drive may have been a breakthrough film with mainstream audiences, but Refn’s subsequent work on the metaphorical revenge odyssey Only God Forgives, the satirical horror film The Neon Demon, and his crime miniseries Too Old To Die Young signified that he wasn’t interested in diluting his style in the slightest. Refn’s latest project Copenhagen Cowboy is yet another obtuse, haunting work of surrealism that is sure to divide audiences down the middle.

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While Copenhagen Cowboy first debuted at the Venice International Film Festival back in September, Netflix held its release until the first week of December. Refn’s first Danish language project since Pusher 2 follows a young woman named Miu (Angela Bundalovic) who has devoted her life to a mysterious secret society. Miu’s goal is to bring her nemesis Rakel (Lola Corfixen) to justice, but to do so she must venture into the murky, supernatural underworld of Copenhagen. As Miu’s journey continues, the lines between reality and dreams become unclear as Refn intertwines flashbacks that detail Miu’s previous experiences with Rakel.

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While on a first place Copenhagen Cowboy may seem like something designed only to appease art house film fans, Refn himself has described the series as a “modern female superhero” adventure. He stated that he wanted “to add a fairy tale element to it,” so it’s possible that many of Miu’s experiences in the Copenhagen underworld are more metaphorical than literal. Copenhagen Cowboy is certainly worthy of analysis for its deeper connotations, but it may be helpful to recognize what’s actually going on in the series’ narrative.


Why Is Miu Brought to Rosella?

Angela Bundalovic as Miu in Copenhagen Cowboy
Image via Netflix

Initially, a young Miu is set to be sold by her mother to the wealthy woman Rosella (Dragana Milutinović), who has been unable to conceive a daughter of her own. Rosella is desperate to get pregnant with her husband, Sven (Per Thiim Thim), so she forces Miu to observe their sexual interactions; she believes Miu is a “lucky charm” that will help her conceive. Miu becomes uneasy due to the probing glances from Rosella’s brother, Andre (Ramadan Huseini), who is in league with his sister to control his brother-in-law.

Although Rosella initially believes that the charm is working, she becomes infuriated when she wakes up covered in blood, and determines that Miu is actually an evil witch. Miu is given over to Andre, who detains her in an area reserved only for the other girls that work for him in his seedy brothel. It’s here that Miu meets her new ally Cimona (Valentina Dejanovic), who informs her that the other girls are planning a breakout to escape the abuse that they’ve endured under Andre.

Amidst the breakout, Cimona is abducted by the mysterious man Nicklas (Andreas Lykke Jørgensen), who murders her in a slaughterhouse. Miu, unaware of her friend’s death, has remained at the brothel to burn down Rosella’s house and kill her. She goes out in search for Cimona in the Copenhagen underworld, unaware that she is now marked as an enemy by Nicklas and his family.

What Happens in Copenhagen?

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Image via Netflix 

Miu has a temporary job at a Chinese restaurant, and even uses her magical charms to help her boss, Mother Hulda (Li Ii Zhang), become pregnant. Hulda takes this as a sign that she can trust Miu, and reveals that their restaurant is under the control of the ruthless Chinese gangster Mr. Chiang (Jason Hendil-Forssell). Hulda hopes to use Miu’s powers to heal Chiang of his headaches as a means to barter for the life of her daughter, Ai (Emilie Xin Tong Han). Although Chiang is initially willing to pay for his healing sessions with Miu, he demands a considerable amount of money and additional sessions with Miu if he were to consider returning Ai to her mother.

While Miu’s attempt to save Ai was successful, she’s left in debt, so she connects with the lawyer Miroslav (Zlatko Burić). It’s implied that Miroslav had helped Miu get into Denmark illegally in the first place. Miroslav is able to introduce Miu to his team of crime associates, and she begins helping him on a series of missions. While Miu’s powers give her an advantage in these early conflicts, a gang war breaks out, and she steals a considerable amount of cocaine. Miu hopes to barter the cocaine in exchange for Ai, but Chiang isn’t interested in peddling drugs. However, he agrees to follow through with his world and return Ai to her mother if Miu can murder one of his enemies.

Miu follows through with the crime, and it’s revealed that Chiang is actually Ai’s biological father, as he had been romantically involved with Hulda. Chiang casts his eyes on Miu, who turns down his advances. The furious, embarrassed Chinese mobster attempts to kill Miu, but she easily slaughters him in combat. It’s not the only fight she’s forced to engage in; Miu and Hulda return to Nicklas’ slaughterhouse, and Miu becomes convinced that they are shrouded by evil (as this is where Cimona was murdered). Miu and Nicklas get into a brawl, but once again, Miu’s incredible combat abilities easily leave Nicklas with critical injuries.

What Happens During the Ending Battle?

Angela Bundalovic in Copenhagen Cowboy
Image via Netflix

During the final section of the series, Refn pushes the supernatural elements to the extreme as he constructs a metaphorical battle between the forces of good and evil. Miu ventures into the woods, where she becomes allies with a group of female warriors; whether these are her fellow super-powered individuals or other refugees who entered Denmark illegally as well is unclear, but they’re keen to assist Miu in her final battle against Nicklas and his family. Nicklas has summoned his dead sister Rakel as an evil spirit, as he’s been too gravely injured by his battle with Miu to face her again.

Miu and Rakel’s final battle ends on an ambiguous note; it’s evident that Rakel’s powers are far more advanced than her brother’s, and Miu’s tears seemingly suggest that she may have reached her fate. Rakel’s eyes light up with a laser beam and the screen fades to black, so we don’t know for sure whether either she or Miu survives. However, the final scene where Miroslav talks with Hideo Kojima suggests that Miu may have survived.

Will There Be a Second Season?

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Image via Netflix

During their video chat, Kojima tells Miroslav that he will have to enlist the help of the giants in order to defeat Miu. This seemingly confirms Miu’s survival, but it’s also possible that they are just misinformed. There isn’t any other information we’re given on the giants themselves; this could be a code word for another criminal or supernatural syndicate, or they could in fact be literal Giants.

This seemingly sets up Copenhagen Cowboy for another installment or spinoff series of some sort, but Netflix has yet to make any official confirmation regarding the future of the project.



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