The obvious comparisons made about Netflix’s French language hit is with Sherlock: a modern day re-imagining of a turn-of-the-century character. The first episode suggests a slickness of form suggestive of Sherlock but Lupin as a show is less impressed with its own cleverness and more interested in the central character. The bold choice is that central character is not Arsène Lupin Gentleman Burglar but Assane Diop, the son of a Senegalese immigrant who has reshaped his life to emulate the famous (at least in France) character.
Omar Sy’s Lupin/Diop is at the heart of the show: clever and flawed, a master of disguise and cunning plans but struggling to maintain a relationship with his ex-wife and son. The first episode follows a classic heist movie plot, with extra revelations at the end. The other episodes each have their own cunning twists but the focus shifts more onto the surrounding characters and the backstory to Lupin/Diop’s long game for revenge and justice for his father.
Episodes 3 and 4 I thought were weaker and episode 5 ends on a cliff hanger with nothing in the main plot resolved. More episodes are on their way though and the show has reached that “surprise international hit” status that will mean we are likely to see a lot more.
Lupin plays cleverly into roles of race and class, using appearance to hide in plain sight. Vanishing from the police as menulog-style cycle food delivery man or creating an unassailable alibi by gatecrashing an auction as a brash IT entrepreneur. The mercurial shifts are given more character grounding by showing us more of Assane Diop as a character behind his Lupin persona. The contrast between both loyalty and duplicity as he juggles his twin lives moderates the portrait of Lupin as a criminal genius. He’s a man who makes mistakes and who has deeper issues with honesty than his life of clever of crimes.
Enjoyable and different.