Lupin is a thrilling roller coaster ride of clever heists, mystery, and intrigue. Its twists and turns are savvy and engaging, with the plot zigging when you assume it will be zagging. The series blends the best of Sherlock Holmes without maintaining the silliness of recent adaptations and plays to Omar Sy’s buoyant portrayal. While Lupin isn’t actually about the master of disguise from Maurice Leblanc’s novels, the character’s adventures inspire the story, though the series gets to explore and engage with its own original narrative. Going that route instantly detangles Lupin from the books themselves, allowing for its leading man and his backstory to drive the series. The combination of compelling storytelling, proper character development, and a fascinating mystery, style, and spectacle make for a memorable watch.
The series begins like any typical heist film would, but it quickly veers away from the surface-level story because Assane Diop (a charismatic Omar Sy) is no average thief. He steals with a deeper purpose beyond making a quick buck to pay off the loan sharks he’s indebted to. At first glance, Assane is merely a janitor working at the Louvre, eyeing the necklace once worn by Marie Antoinette (which is now worth millions) and the cameras surrounding him with the eyes of a man with clear and ulterior motives. Inspired by the fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, Assane is actually on a mission to avenge his father Babakar Diop (Fargass Assandé), a Senegalese immigrant, after he is accused of stealing the necklace while in the employ of the rich and powerful Mr. Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) 25 years prior.
He swindles, schemes, and lies his way out of everything with a hearty amount of finesse and charm. It is beguiling and effective due to Sy’s suave, endearing performance. The combination of swagger and audacious deceptions make Lupin all the more exciting. The series also establishes and delves into his relationship with his father, his ex Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) and their son Raoul (Etan Simon), as well as his friend Benjamin (Antoine Gouy), who sells the things Assane steals in his shop, and the fiery journalist Fabienne Beriot (Anne Benoît).
Lupin establishes Assane’s connections with Pellegrini and his family — namely, his not-so-innocent wife Anne (Nicole Garcia) and daughter Juliette (Clotilde Hesme), whom he was once close to. The series seamlessly weaves between flashbacks and the present to offer backstory and motive. Meanwhile, the editing creatively showcases the ways in which Assane pulls off his deceptions and is able to get away with it all with a big smile on his face. The character is so lovable that it’s quite easy to root for him, all the while hoping that he’s able to pull one over on the police and Pellegrini as Assane gets closer and closer to the truth.
Despite the darkness that overshadows Assane’s youth and the devastation of losing the only parent he had left, Lupin is a lighthearted show and Assane its brightest, most optimistic star. He isn’t brooding or downtrodden and, while he stumbles occasionally because no plan isn’t going to be punctured by a couple of unexpected holes, Assane is always confident that he will come out the other side a winner. That’s a big part of what makes it so enthralling and invigorating, with Lupin hinging on the idea that such trickery can actually be achieved and Assane is a magician playing his audience like a fiddle.
Lupin’s strengths lie in its exploration of race and how Assane often leans into his identity as Black man to pull off some of his deceptions when in the company of white people. At one point he even uses it to replace another Black man in a bid to infiltrate a prison. Race and wealth are also important factors in the series’ dissection of what kinds of crimes are overlooked and even permissible when a white family is committing them. Makeup, costumes, and body language also play big roles in Assane’s plans, tripping people up in ways that are believable as he enters various spaces that society has deemed exclusive to the white, wealthy and powerful.
The series is undoubtedly one of the most savvy and clever to be released in a while, combining the entertainment value of a mystery and heist plot with that of multilayered and thought-provoking storytelling and characterizations. There is a feeling of great satisfaction that arises while watching the cops come up empty-handed at almost every turn while in the midst of chasing Assane. With a great cast and a compelling leading character, swift pacing, and a winning plot, Lupin is a fantastic binge and a winning series that will surely captivate the masses.
Lupin Part 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.
Header Image Source: Netflix