No, no Netflix. Why are you like this? Lupin is a crime drama series comprising 10 episodes; there are five available to stream now. Each one ends on a suitably strong cliffhanger but the fifth is just cruel, especially since these are the only episodes available to stream until Part 2 arrives at an undisclosed future date.
First, let’s start with two disclaimers before going into how and why Lupin has been hailed as the “first great TV show of 2021”. One: Wikipedia calls it action comedy, and although it’s extremely clever, it’s not laugh-out-loud stuff, so manage your expectations. Two: it’s French dubbed into English, which I suspect is not the perfect way to enjoy the series. Use the original soundtrack with subtitles if you can.
Okay, now for the good stuff, which has to start with lead star Omar Sy (The Intouchables), who is so hot that Google searches are peppered with the question of his relationship status. He plays Senegalese immigrant Assane Diop, who has been obsessed with the adventures of the fictional Arsène Lupin, created by Maurice Leblanc.
Like Lupin, Assane is a gentleman thief. His methods are bold and brash, and by adopting different identities, with the help of make up and costumes, he steals great treasures right from under the noses of those who own them. (He is the embodiment of the word “chutzpah”.)
His first move is to remove a valuable necklace from the Louvre. It’s not a random heist; it is connected to his childhood and his father, who was accused of stealing the necklace from his employer, the mega-rich Hubert Pellegrini. Assane is driven not only by revenge but the quest to clear his father’s name, 25 years later. Taking Pellegrini down at the same time is a bonus.
The format of the series is present day and flashbacks to Assane’s childhood and earlier adult history. It’s interspersed with the perspective of the police investigating the Louvre robbery (and one cop’s realisation that there are links between crimes and names that are anagrams of Arsène Lupin, though his colleagues think he’s nuts), a journalist who wrote an exposé on Pellegrini, and Assane’s complicated relationship with Hubert’s daughter Juliette.
“A propulsive and cleverly made piece of work about one great heist and its ongoing aftermath” – Variety
Charming and confident, Assane is the kind of hero you want to win. (Yes, he’s a thief, but the definition of “antihero” is one who lacks idealism, courage, and morality, so that doesn’t really apply here.)
Respected critic Roger Ebert says “Lupin is not only totally addictive, it’s the first great television show of 2021,” and he’s not wrong, certainly the first part of that statement. As for the second part, we’ll let the stats speak for themselves: after premiering on January 8, 2021, Lupin quickly became the first French series to land on the streamer’s US Top 10 list, according to Deadline.
Heavyweight mainstream critics are loving it too. What makes Lupin such a captivating series is that it emulates Maurice Leblanc’s work, says Forbes: “Omar Sy’s charming charisma is also to blame here, as he perfectly captures this character.”
Chicago Tribune calls it sleek and stylish. “Richly envisioned (including a gorgeous shot of Assane escaping over the rooftops of Paris) the show is continually asking: Who is the real criminal, our Lupin-esque protagonist or all these less than honorable types he targets for wealth redistribution?”
Leblanc’s master thief-turned-detective Lupin is much-loved in France, often recreated in film and television, something which is likely beyond audiences outside that country. “It shouldn’t stop anyone from checking out a propulsive and cleverly made piece of work about one great heist and its ongoing aftermath,” says Variety.
If you need more convincing, the series is co-created by George Kay (Killing Eve). As annoyed, irritated and upset as you may be after episode 5, don’t waste your time with clickbait about Part 2. There is no date yet, but given the response and Netflix’s pattern of behaviour and the fact it has been greenlit, hopefully it won’t be too long.