Lilyhammer is a hybrid that mixes Nordic noir with the US gangster genre, underlined by the opening credits that show a car driving over a bridge in New York then cutting to a train speeding through the Norwegian countryside. At the same time the theme music changes pace and style to bring you to this new setting.
Its star, Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt) is a mobster who chooses to relocate to Lillehammer, Norway when he enters the FBI protection programme, after testifying against his former buddies. His unusual selection was inspired by the fact that he enjoyed watching the TV coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics when it was held in Lillehammer, Norway. And that is the least quirky aspect of this series.
Frank, going under the new name of Giovanni Henriksen, soon gets back into his old mobster way of life and establishes himself as the owner of the Flamingo club, which is run by his hapless business partner and friend Torgeir Lien.
The third season takes some of the action beyond Norway to New York City and Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, Torgeir’s brother (Roar Lien) gets set up in a drug deal and, in New York, Frank’s old mates discover where he’s hiding and decide to whack him.
Lilyhammer is a fast-paced comedy drama with a string of quirky characters and subplots. Most of the dialogue is in Norwegian with English subtitles, though Franks speaks in English and understands Norwegian and most of the foreign gangsters speak English peppered with plenty of swear words!
Besides Frank, who bulldozes his way through what he would call the commie bullshit of Norwegian society, nearly every other character stands out. Torquier is a bug-eyed loyal servant for Frank, but he does have moral standards if pushed too far by Frank. Even when he takes up knitting it leads to the murder of a very unsavoury British gangster and a series of ghostly encounters that sends him to the edge. Another regular character is Jan Johansen (Fridtjov Såheim), who is a hypocritical self-serving ‘right on’ citizen who gets sucked into Frank’s orbit.
The whole mixture takes us from the familiar to the wildest and most surreal places on television. Many of the loose ends of the story strands are completed in Season 3 and since Netflix has stopped funding it, so it seems unlikely it will return to our screens. Shame, since this is a brave project that deserves repeated viewings and transcends the boundaries of different genres and expectations.
LILYHAMMER: SEASON 3 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: ANNE BJORNSTAD, EILIF SKODVIN, STEVEN VAN ZANDT / STARRING: STEVEN VAN ZANDT, TROND FAUSA AURVAG, MARIAN SAASTAD OTTESEN, ANNE KRIGSVOLL, STEINAR SAGEN, PAUL KAYE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW