Lupin: Season One

This series, inspired by the stories of Arsène Lupin by Maurice LeBlanc, is a lot of fun.

Arsène Lupin is France’s riposte to Britain’s Sherlock Holmes. Lupin, although very clever, is not a detective. No, he is a gentleman-cambrioleur, or in English, a gentleman-thief. The French were sufficiently piqued by the success of Sherlock Holmes that there’s even a Herlock Sholmès in one of the stories.

The series Lupin, however, is not an updated version of Arsène Lupin, but the story of a man – Assane Diop – who is inspired by the original detective stories. Assane is originally from Senegal, having immigrated to France with his father (apparently his only relative) when he was a young teenager. Assane’s father worked as a chauffeur for a rich family: the Pellegrinis, who play important roles in the series.

Assane, being from Senegal, is a very dark black man. The injustices that have been done to Africans cast Assane as the underdog from the beginning. Injustices continue; Assane’s father is accused of a theft (which he apparently did not commit), and, after being sentenced to prison, is found dead in a cell. Assane is forced to grow up without parents, although a secret benefactor funds his education. Assane, with his very dark skin and his familiarity with the rich and the educated, is able to move between the lower classes (he does some work as a janitor) and the upper. Arsène Lupin is supposed to be a master of disguise, and Assane Diop imitates the character who inspires him.

The first episode was a little confusing, as characters were established, and the story ricocheted between the present day and twenty-five years ago, and as we're dealing with a "master of disguise." Sometimes the actors were changed; other times make-up was used to age or to de-age an actor. Part of my problem was that I was apprehensive when watching. How much fun was the story going to be? And how much would be gut-wrenching drama? A show needs some gut-wrenching drama, of course, or else there’s no story, but given current events I was longing for some escapism and some fun. Lupin provides a mix, just the right mix for me, anyway. I needed to watch the first episode a second time in order to be grounded. After that, the rest of the episodes were easy to follow.

If you are not familiar with Arsène Lupin – I was not – it doesn’t matter. The show, without engaging in heavy-handed exposition, educates the audience on LeBlanc’s novels and this particular character. We get enough background to enjoy the show; I expect those who are enthusiasts are treated to details to which I am unaware.

Lupin also showcases Paris, beginning with the Louvre. I’m old enough to remember it before the glass pyramid was inserted, but now that addition is as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. Because we’re in the Louvre, they show us da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, a necessary tribute. That painting, however, is not the star of the season. Instead, the artifact that matters in the first episode – throughout the first season – is a necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette (an homage, too, to LeBlanc’s stories). The necklace's individual diamonds also matter, as they are used for payment and for verification that a communication is legitimate.

The show, to keep us entertained, puts Assane in many tight jams. Here are two examples: in one of the gardens in Paris, the police are about to pick him up. He is dressed in the bright orange uniform of someone making deliveries using a bicycle, the neon orange making him impossible to lose. How he gets out of that jam is priceless. In the last episode, he is being threatened by a criminal on the train; this time he enlists the assistance of the police. The mechanics of both escapes are entertaining.

The bad guys are a mixed bunch – not totally good not totally bad (and Assane, who calls himself a gentleman-thief, is also a mix). Assane receives assistance, over the years, from some of those who nominally belong to his groups of adversaries, namely the Pellegrinis and some of the police. Not everyone is against him.

Assane also has a family – a son and a connection with the mother of that young man – which is a great addition. Too often characters have no parental responsibilities.

Title musings. "Lupin" is based on the main character of Maurice LeBlanc's novels. And the name, Arsène Lupin, itself is a clue throughout the first season.

Bits and pieces

This review has no quotes review as I watched all the episodes in the original (French). However, many languages were available.

Netflix is doing a fantastic job by setting stories in so many different countries.

Lupin's first season has only five episodes, so the time commitment is not too great.

A second season is coming soon, which is important, as the first season ends with a cliff-hanger. Apparently, due to the success of Lupin's first season, the second season is expected to drop in the summer of 2021. Originally it was scheduled for the fall of 2021.

Overall rating

Very entertaining! I highly recommend it. Three and a half diamonds from Marie Antoinette's stolen necklace.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I saw this first season a month or two ago and was very impressed with the lead actor, Omar Sy. He's terrific, and really the reason to watch.

Didn't like the cliffhanger at the end, though. I'd been hoping it would have an ending.

magritte said...

Thanks for this review. I saw this come up on my "recommended" list and I no idea what it was. The name reminded me of a Monty Python sketch where gunmen were holding up stores and demanding they hand over all their lupins. Maybe I'll give this one a try.

Billie Doux said...

magritte, this isn't a show I would have tried on my own, either. It was in a web magazine's article about the best shows on Netflix, so I put it on my list and gave it a try.

Diogo said...

I'm glad you guys did end up reviewing it!

Comparing it to Sherlock is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is a modern reimagining of an iconic victorian era novel character who is an icon of their respective country. On the other hand, the tone and style of the shows is remarkably different. On the other, other hand, they both ended their first season with a needlessly annoying cliffhanger! Well at least this time we don't have to wait a whole year or more. I hope Lupin learns from Sherlock's mistakes and ends the show before it jumps the shark. I will definetly be looking forward to the new season.

Victoria Grossack said...

Yes, Sherlock pushed well past the time the series should have ended. I imagine it's hard to end a successful series, when it's making money. A few have done it well - Star Trek DS9 ended when the story was over; there's also The Good Place.