One of the striking things about Lilyhammer, something it shares with the scandi-crime novels of Henning Mankell, is its sophisticated worldview, its sense of the interconnectedness of things – must be something about those long white winters that brings on a sense of perspective. It’s a quality that’s particularly apparent in this third season, which branches out in all kinds of bold new directions. So, rather than one overarching storyline, we get a string of eventful episodes bringing together a whole rich smorgasbord of international ingredients – Tony (Steve Van Zandt), has a run-in with some Lithuanian pimps, Norway gets a visit from an ex-mafioso who’s written a cookbook, Roar( Steiner Sagen) lands a job as the star of a Brazilian telenovela, and here’s a question: what does that have to do with the plight of a distressed Blue Whale? There’s even room for a touch of the supernatural as Torgeir (Trond Fausa) finds himself possessed by the ghost of dead East End thug Duncan Hammer (Paul Kaye). Oh, and just to stir the pot even more, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, turns up in a provocative cameo.
But as much as the show seems to be morphing into something bigger and more colourful, it also stays true to its original theme, the contrast between the brand of bracing individualism that Tony imports into Lillehammer and the stifling grey straitjacket of the Norwegian nanny state. It’s a theme expressed in the parallel rise of the ex-gangster and the inexorable social slide of Jan Johansen (Fridtjov Saheim), his one-time immigration officer – something that explains why the showrunners are still prepared to give so much time to this fascinatingly appalling character when you’d think they’d be tempted to just throw in a few more nightclub scenes with topless dancers instead.
Some might quibble at the lack of a strong dramatic focus, but minute by minute Season 3 is great value, and by now the show’s ability to balance Tony’s loud, brash persona with naturalistic performances from his Norwegian co-stars has reached the level of a fine art. Unmissable, even if you’re not usually a fan of lots of snow. 8/10