Run, don’t walk, to view “Lilyhammer” the original series on Netflix. Well, in the spirit of the thing, you should shush not snowshoe since it takes place in the little town of Lillehammer, Norway site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. And there is a whole lot of snow there, you betcha. And every conceivable kind of character from tree huggers to ice skating Muslim immigrants.
Steven Van Zandt (of the E Street Band and “The Sopranos”) stars in this dramedy about a mob guy, Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, who goes into witness protection and asks to be relocated to Norway. Figures no one will find him there. But as the series continues, a series of flukes and flukey characters like a cop who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator may test that theory. His theory that this is a peaceful idyllic place is also tested from the get go as he has to “fix” a situation on the train ride from Oslo to Lillehammer.
But the real fun begins when his new persona, Giovanni (“Call me Johnnie”) Hendriksen, starts clashing with the state. This is better than just a “fish out of water” saga about a New Yorker in a small Scandanavian country town who now has to drive an electric car. This pits the freedom of the rebel up against the rules of the authorities. It asks over and over of the viewer, ” When and for what reason do you break rules? ” He meets up with other small time rebels who are quite thrilled at having this American among them to push their freedom buttons. For example, in the first episode, a wolf kills a pet sheep? But it is more serious, Johnnie is told, to kill a wolf than a person. What should they do? What should you do when punk kids spray graffiti on your shop windows and punch an old lady? What do you have to do to get a stroller for your girlfriend?
Yes, there is quite a bit of violence and a bunch of blackmail. So far (I’ve watched 5 of the 8 episodes) no one is whacked, but there’s some bloody animals, bloody noses, and broken bones, so it’s not for the faint of heart. And it does test what you think are solutions to living communally.
When you scratch the surface, there really seems to be no real cultural divides at all between humans. There are good folks, out right villains, plenty of weasels, and a few fixers. Frank aka Johnnie comes to this place and takes on the role of some sort of no-nonsense guardian angel. The series tests your ideas of what a criminal is and what is punishment. Who gets to mete out this punishment, the state or the individual? Don’t want to get too political, but then all mob shows are really anti-authoritarian, aren’t they? Come to think of it, when there is a breakdown in society, who comes to our aid? Sometimes it’s a guy in a bat suit and sometimes it’s a mobster in a fur hat with a good left hook.
I’ve watched five episodes so far out of the eight total. This new approach of Netflix to offer exclusive programing to its subscribers allows you to watch one a night or three or all eight 50 minute episodes in a row. So check it out. It’s an offer you can’t refuse.
Note: Created by Anne Bjørnstad and Eilif Skodvin. Also starring Trond Fausa Aurvåg, Marian Saastad Ottesen, Sven Nordin, Kyrre Hellum. Anne Krigsvoll.