A would-be Mob boss is passed over for promotion, and turns rat on his rival after an attempt on his life ends up taking out his dog, Lily. The Feds relocate Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano to a Norwegian city he's been dreaming about since the 1994 Winter Olympics. That’s the premise of SBS On Demand's Lilyhammer, a fish-out-of-water series starring Steven Van Zandt.
As the third season launches, here’s an essential primer to get you up to speed...
The premise has evolved
You’ve already heard the basic pitch up there in the intro, but since the pilot, things have changed in Frank’s life (well, in Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen’s life, since the FBI gave him a new identity). In a show that wastes no time drawing out narrative beats, the previous 16 episodes have seen him open a club, father twins, split up with the twins’ mother, tangle with the British Mob, set up a criminal operation in his new hometown and wear some truly hideous jumpers.
Most of us are familiar with the tropes of organised crime narratives, from The Godfather through to The Sopranos. But Norway is another matter. Lilyhammer plays up the alienness of the Norwegian setting in an exaggerated way, painting the locals as racist, insular, overly reserved and straitlaced. These stereotypes clash beautifully with Frank’s over-the-top Mob persona, especially when he’s solving problems the New Jersey way. Lilyhammer was a big hit in Norway, so they’re obviously not too offended by their portrayal.
Van Zandt doesn’t just act
Building on the role of Silvio Dante would have been a doddle for Van Zandt – he played the guy for six seasons of The Sopranos. But for Lilyhammer, he also acts as a co-writer, director, executive producer and is in charge of the music. In fact, he wrote the score for season two himself, free of charge, so the tight music budget could be better spent on grabbing the rights to as many great songs as possible.
Johnny is back in Lillehammer
Last season, when papers revealing his true identity were stolen in a heist and he had to team up with a Homeland Security operative to get them back, Frank had the chance to return to his old life in New York. But after spending some time bumping off rivals in the Big Apple, he decided the roots he had laid in Norway were too deep to abandon. Between the twins, his friends, the reindeer-racing operation and club The Flamingo, he has it too good.
Episode one begins with a bang
As season three opens, we find a different world to the one we left at the S2 finale. It’s New Year’s Eve in Lillehammer, and Frank’s attempt to help a young lady who appears to be in trouble takes a turn for the complicated...
All 3 seasons of Lilyhammer are available on SBS On Demand. Watch the first episode of season 3 right here:
Or start from the very beginning with the first episode of season 1: