Film & TV Muse

Review: Lupin

Kristina Wemyss reviews the modern twist and thrilling turns of the hit Netflix detective series

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9/10

Lupin has become an international sensation, seemingly out of nowhere. Created by François Uzan and George Kay, one of the creators of the hit British TV show Killing Eve, Lupin cleverly brings a modern twist to the classic character of the French gentleman thief. It is the first French TV series to crack Netflix’s Top 10 list and quickly overtook the viewing numbers of shows such as The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton within the first month of release. The protagonist, Assane Diop, takes his inspiration from the French Sherlock-Holmes style literary character, Arsène Lupin. Omar Sy is sensational in this role, bringing boundless charisma and slickness in alignment with his character’s sleuth idol. Assane takes on many different disguises and personas, effortlessly slipping into places where he shouldn’t be, just under peoples’ noses. With his towering height and muscular frame, Assane should not be someone who blends into his surroundings; however, as a Senegalese immigrant living in predominantly white Paris, he does.

Racial injustice is a prevalent undercurrent throughout Lupin’s narrative, from the flashbacks to his childhood of speculations as to whether a black boy can swim, to the racism that he faced at school, to the framing of his Black immigrant father, who was accused of stealing an antique necklace which belonged to Marie Antoinette. Through these many experiences and his father’s later death in prison, we piece together the character of Assane, who has suffered immensely because of how often Black immigrants are overlooked. Using his remarkable intelligence, he turns this fact around and uses it to his own advantage. For Assane slips under the radar, carrying out daring heists under cover of white people’s racial blind spots.

There are many far-fetched parts to the plot and yes, the show is faintly ridiculous, but it's also fantastically fun. The very nature of the show’s improbability, if anything, gives Lupin a more literary feel— as if we are following the escapades of the extravagant and old-fashioned detective-cum-showman who provided the very inspiration for the show. While Lupin is set in a very different time-period to the Arsène Lupin novels, they are central to the series. To Assane, these stories are his Bible, passed down to him by his father. The theatricality of Assane’s search for the truth and vengeful crimes are carried out with style, just like his idol.

Assane'srelationships with both his ex-wife / long term friend and their son convincingly reveal a more human side to the deceptive mastermind, which provides the show with another dimension. With so many flashbacks and sudden switches to the present, this story could easily become painfully confusing. However, the subplots which these scenes explore are neatly interwoven into the overarching narrative. The more intimate everyday scenes between these characters do not take away from the excitement; they feel essential, revealing different sides to Assane which only make him more likeable.

While the show is fantastic as a whole, the final two episodes are arguably less well-written and a little slower; much of the enjoyment of earlier episodes comes from the tension created by Assane’s daring and secretive activities, whereas by the end of the series things start to close in. Furthermore, the series ends in a frustratingly unusual place with an unexpected cliffhanger. To clarify, this is not the end - part two has been confirmed for release later this year. I fail to see how the show could be stretched across another series as it seemed that all of the loose ends were on their way to being tied up by the final episode. However, with such brilliant writers, I am certain that the next instalments of Lupin will not disappoint.

This is the best TV show to have been released since lockdown began in March 2020. Shows such as Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit have gained immense popularity at a time when not much else has been released, which begs the question of whether they are truly worth the hype. With Lupin though, there can be no such doubt. This is a fantastic TV show regardless of the circumstances of its release, and it is a very promising development for French television.

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