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'Lilyhammer' Season 2 review: What's not to love?

Steven Van Zandt in

Steven Van Zandt in "Lilyhammer" Season 2. Credit: Netflix

THE SHOW "Lilyhammer"

WHEN | WHERE Second season begins streaming Thursday on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ah, Lillehammer (the Norwegian city where "Lilyhammer" is set). It's cold. And this time of year? Fuggedaboutit. But no problem for Frank Tagliano (Steven Van Zandt), boss of the town's underworld, who finds life near the Arctic Circle much to his liking. For one thing, the cops haven't yet figured out his M.O. -- extortion, "protection," bribery, the usual stuff.

For another, he's got friends. Frank -- whose new name is Giovanni "Johnny" Henriksen -- arrived here as part of a witness-protection bargain he sealed with the Feds back in New York after testifying against his "family's" new boss. (He had earned Frank's enmity by ordering a hit that got botched and ended up killing his beloved dog, Lilly.)

As the second season begins, he's got some pressing concerns -- notably the names his ex, Sigrid (Marian Saastad Ottesen), has chosen for their twins, who are about to be baptized by a priest more interested in skateboarding than in the big-city interloper. Meanwhile, Frank/Johnny has encouraged Jan (Fridtjov Såheim) to explore a new business opportunity, a refugee center run by Jan's former girlfriend. Also, an English gentleman has come to town to sell his Ferrari for cash.

MY SAY "Lilyhammer" arrived in February 2012 as one the year's early head-scratchers. First, Netflix was offering up all eight episodes at once.

(Though no one paid much attention at the time, "Lilyhammer" was about to make TV history -- as Netflix's first original production and binge project.)

Then, there was Van Zandt, seemingly reprising some of Silvio Dante's enduring and endearing "Sopranos" traits for this role: The jutting lower lip, that classic "whatareyagonnado?" shrug, and especially that Jersey wiseguy drawl, which instantly evoked 1,001 illicit nights at the Bada Bing! Added to this mix was the icebound Lillehammer locale, Norwegian cast (mostly charming) and dry sense of humor. For some, the taste was quickly acquired because what's best about "Lilyhammer" is obvious. Van Zandt is one of the world's great rockers and cherished character actors -- and what a character. What's not to love?

BOTTOM LINE "Johnny's" back to corrupt the locals, and if you liked last season, there's no apparent reason not to go along for this ride.


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