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Lupin: Season Two

Assane: “Non. La police, ils sont soit incompetents, soit corrumpus. Ou les deux.” No. The police, they are either incompetent or corrupted. Or both.
Guédira (an undercover policeman): “Ne dites pas ça.” Don’t say that.
Assane: “Je vous le dis.” I’m saying that.

Five episodes in which Assane Diop retrieves his son and does what he can to get justice for his father’s memory while still following the precepts of the fictional character, the gentleman-thief known as Arsène Lupin. Beware: gentle spoilers below!

OK, I admit I gave a spoiler by saying that Assane retrieves his son, whose kidnapping at a Lupin day at the beach served as the cliffhanger for the end of season one. However, I don’t consider this a spoiler as the show would simply be too awful if Raoul were not rescued. Instead, the season achieves what is the right mood for me: enough tension to keep me watching and enough cleverness to entertain me.

The five episodes concentrate mostly on Assane’s continued conflict with Hervé Pelligrini. Hervé was behind Raoul’s kidnapping and is a terrible man in many other ways (although he does, in a limited way, love his daughter). Although Assane knows Hervé is a criminal, proving it is another matter, especially as some members of the police force are corrupt.

In many ways the storyline is formulaic, but it is a lot of fun, as it shows how Assane mostly stays ahead of Hervé, but not always. We also enjoy Assane’s own offensive maneuvers. In a show such as this, much of the entertainment comes from the “how did they pull that off?” rather than the emotional investment of why something was done. So, more than once, we first experience a scene from the point of view of one character, while later the show backs up with a “twenty-four hours earlier” announcement and lets us know how Assane was involved.

Some of the caper aspects are better than others. All the car chasing in the beginning and how Assane escapes from the police are not especially interesting, as this is material that has appeared, in one form or another, in so many other shows. The last episode of the season, Chapter (Chapître) 10, with the concert playing as background music, is more original. Still, all of it is fun.

Assane’s relationships with women in his life are problematic. Claire doesn’t quite trust him, and she certainly doesn’t feel as if she can rely on him. Juliette is not only Hervé Pelligrini’s daughter – a serious conflict of interest for Assane – but she is jealous of Claire. Alas, Omar Sy does not seem to have much chemistry with either actress. On the other hand, this show is not trying to be romantic, so I didn’t really miss it. The women are pleasant and they serve to further the plot.

Our hero’s relationship with the police is also complicated. Assane has good reason for not trusting them, as some of them are corrupt. However, he does develop an alliance with one of them who proves himself by knowing the Lupin series.

The relationship that really works – and it's important that a character can let down his hair (OK, Assane has no hair) with someone – is Assane’s friendship with Ben. I really liked how they set up marks for a literal shell game when they were young, and how they played others later in life as well. The fact that one is black and one is white makes their partnership less obvious, and helps them get away with things later in life.

I felt that these five episodes underline the issues of racism more than the five episodes in the first season. Hervé chooses darker men as his fall guys. Also, when the bad guy with the light brown skin goes into a café full of white men, he gets the silent treatment; the same thing happens when Assane appears, a little while later. The flashbacks – how odd to have flashbacks to 1995 – show Assane being subjected to much worse bits of racism.

One great bit, in Chapter 10 (the last and best episode of the season), is how Assane and Ben recruit a third person to join them (who I always suspected was team Diop). As they need someone who is previously unconnected to them, they need a perfect stranger, but how do you find a perfect stranger with the right character and attitudes to engage in some righteous revenge? They do it by staking out the section of a library that contains volumes of Lupin and eventually find the right addition to their cabal. (Of course, Lupin devotees would probably own their own volumes of his works, or simply download them, since the copyright on them has expired and you can find them online. But I enjoyed it a lot.) Anyway, the procedure takes a while because most of the browsers are not suitable.

Season two ends, not with the sort of cliffhanger that finished season one, but at a solution that is more satisfactory if not final. The bad guys appear to be stopped, but they’re not dead, so they could always return. Assane hugs his son and his son’s mother but says he is not sure it’s yet safe to have him around (I bet he’s hooked on the adrenaline of conducting capers). So, season three – which we have been promised – is wide open in the direction it may take.

Bits and pieces

I watched this in French, which is the original, with subtitles also in French. The subtitles are good in that they mostly match the actual vocabulary being used, which isn’t always the case. The French is not especially difficult.

With respect to potential scams: it’s always important to see if those who are confirming are truly independent or not. And never, ever participate in a shell game!

There’s a scene in which Assane is driving around with his son Raoul, having a conversation. Given that they are driving in Paris, the lack of red lights, other traffic and roundabouts is highly improbable.

Although they do a great job changing Omar Sy’s looks, I am still surprised the police did not pull aside any guy of the right color and approximate height.

I am sure they chose the name Assane because of its similarity to Arsène (at least in French), the first name of the gentleman-thief, Arsène Lupin.

I am sure there are plenty of Easter eggs in the show for those who are familiar with the Lupin novels. Alas, I am too lazy busy to read the books to report on them, but the show itself hints at mapping various characters in the television show to various characters in the novels.


Claire (young): Tout ne tourne pas autour de toi, Assane.
Not everything is about you, Assane.

Ben (to Assane): Calme et méthodique, comme d’habitude.
Calm and methodical, like usual. (Note he is speaking of Assane.)

Assane: Chacun à son tour, mon gars. La roue tourne.
Everyone has his turn, old friend. The wheel turns.

Overall rating

Entertaining and satisfying, in that this is a romp in which the good guys seem to come out ahead. Three out of four diamonds.

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

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