Most people wouldn’t dare steal a necklace from the Louvre that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. But Assane Diop, the protagonist in Netflix’s new French series “Lupin”, is not like most people. Played by Omar Sy, Assane may blend in with a crowd when walking around the streets of France, but he’s actually a thief skilled in deception, and he learned from the best.
Netflix’s Lupin Reimagines a Classic Trope
Set in modern-day Paris, “Lupin” is named after Arsène Lupin, the fictional detective and gentleman thief created by French writer Maurice Leblanc in 1905. A culturally significant figure in France, Lupin is known as a master of disguise, and he commits crimes for the thrill. While it’s not an adaptation, the series takes inspiration from the books through its characters and plot.
25 years ago, Assane’s father Babakar Diop (Fargass Assandé) was working as a chauffeur for the wealthy Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre), who owned the aforementioned necklace. After the necklace disappears, Hubert accuses Babakar of stealing the necklace and sends him to prison, where he ultimately committs suicide. Now, Assane is determined to prove his father’s innocence and avenge his death. Inspired by a Lupin book that his father got for him, Assane orchestrates several elaborate schemes to uncover the truth behind the events that led to his father’s death.
The execution and pacing of the storytelling brings the story to life. Scenes of Assane’s present-day investigation are sprinkled with flashbacks, giving viewers a deeper understanding of his histories with the people around him. These jumps back and forth in time are placed in a way that doesn’t confuse viewers as they follow along. The show does not drag out the mystery for too long, yet it still takes several unexpected turns and leaves you wanting to find out more.
Assane’s schemes are thrilling and suspenseful, constantly leaving viewers wondering how he will get out of a situation or what he will do next. However, if you’re hoping to be blown away by his tactics, you may be disappointed. While the execution of some of his plans seem realistic enough, others seem to fall short. Understandably, most movies and shows involving elaborate crimes are usually never perfect in terms of how believable they would be if they were actually done in real life, but, in some instances, the way that Assane is able to get away with his actions does not seem realistic at all, to the point where it feels almost a little ridiculous.
Amid all the action, the show also brings depth to the story through its themes of fatherhood, friendship, and compassion. We see the raw honesty in Assane’s attempts to be a better father to his teenage son Raoul and his attempts to show empathy for others, even those who might not deserve it. More than simply being about the action or the thrills of crime, “Lupin” explores the deeper lessons and struggles that Assane faces as well.
When it comes to the characters, “Lupin” is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the show has proven that it can come up with amazing characters that have unique personalities and backgrounds, such as Assane’s childhood love Claire (Ludivine Sagnier) or the journalist Fabienne Bériot (Anne Benoît).
On the other hand, most of the other characters, like Assane’s childhood friend Benjamin Ferel (Antoine Gouy), come off as one-dimensional and a little forgettable. It was also a bit disappointing to see that they chose one of the most cliché storylines for officer Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab)—the one who figures out an important piece of information, but no one wants to believe him at first since it’s a seemingly crazy idea.
We already know that trope and can predict how that part of the story is going to go. Thankfully, it seems like we might get to learn more about Youssef outside of that storyline in the near future, which will be interesting to see.
With a Black male lead, “Lupin” also addresses racism throughout the series. Rather than addressing it in ways that feel too forced or preachy, this topic is naturally woven into various parts of the storyline. We see the way that Anne Pellegrini (Nicole Garcia), Hubert’s wife, locks her car from the inside when Babakar approaches it, not realizing that he was Hubert’s new chauffeur.
Or there’s the disposable treatment of Babakar as he is blamed for the disappearance of the necklace and pays the price by going to prison. It’s not all bad, though. We also see Assane using racial biases against himself to put himself at an advantage when weaving his way out of certain situations, knowing that, as a Black person, he will be overlooked.
Captivating from start to finish, Lupin beautifully combines action and suspense with a rich and powerful storyline. While the believability of the schemes and some of the characters are areas for improvement, the show is still well worth the watch. We can expect to see more of our modern-day gentleman thief, as five more episodes will be released this summer on Netflix.