TV

An Important Discussion About ‘Lupin,’ Netflix’s Fancy French Heist Show

The thing I like about Lupin is that someone steals Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace from The Louvre in the first episode. I suppose this is a spoiler in the most technical definition of the term, as it is a thing that happens in the show, but also, come on. The word “heist” is right there in the episode description, and the promotional images for the show — including the one at the top of this page — feature a man in a custodial-type uniform staring at a diamond necklace with mischief in his eyes. I think we all knew that the necklace was getting stolen at some point. I’m just saying I appreciated that they got right to it. The spoiler would be me telling you how the necklace was stolen, or why, although I suspect you’ve already deduced that there was misdirection and misadventure involved. And men in tuxedos. And a creepy evil rich dude who deserves some amount of comeuppance.

And you’d be correct, for the record, about all of it. But that’s what makes Lupin so fun. The show doesn’t break the mold of the Gentleman Thief genre in any substantive way. In fact, it does the opposite. It leans all the way into the mold, winking at the audience throughout, with disguises and twists and, at one point, I swear to God, a drone navigating a building outfitted with the kind of crisscrossing-laser-based security system you see Catherine Zeta-Jones dipping under in Entrapment and the Night Fox dancing through in Ocean’s Twelve. This is all fine — great, even — because that mold rules. Always has, probably always will. We all know this. So does Lupin. There’s no need to get especially cute about it. Hence, the immediate diamond heist. There is business to attend to and business is good.

But you still have some questions, I imagine. Please, fire away.

Who or what exactly is Lupin?

Excellent place to start. There are two answers to this question.

Oh, God.

No, no, it’s fine. I promise. There’s Lupin, the show, and Lupin, a famous character from French novels. Let’s start with the former.

Lupin is a French Netflix series about a thief named Assane Diop, played by Omar Sy. Assane is a master of disguise and deception, the kind of guy who is always one step ahead even when it looks like he’s two steps behind. He’s the one who steals the necklace in the first episode — also not a spoiler, come on. What we find out as the series progresses, though, is that he’s doing it for Reasons. Good reasons, borderline understandable ones, involving revenge and justice and clearing the name of a loved one. He is very suave and he wears a lot of hats and he has a very cool office that is full of computer monitors and costumes. It looks like this.

Netflix

Lupin, the literary character, is also a fancy French thief. He appeared in over a dozen real books by an author named Maurice Leblanc. Lupin the character is not in Lupin the show. But Assane is borderline obsessed with the books, to the degree that at some point in his adolescence he decided to live his entire life like their main character, and so that’s where all this comes from and is headed. It’s a little confusing, especially if you were already familiar with the character, kind of like if Sherlock had been about a dude named Jeff who was just really freaking into Arthur Conan Doyle books. But you’ll figure it out.

Uh, I keep seeing the word “French” in here. How French are we talking?

Oh, very French. The whole series is in French and you have to decide pretty quickly if you want to listen to it dubbed into English or read the subtitles. (Or, like, learn French, although this option is somewhat more time-intensive.) Please do not let this dissuade you. The show is too fun and enjoyable to let a silly thing like a language barrier get in the way. Expand your horizons a bit. Try new things. Learn French cuss words by accident. What are we doing here if we’re not doing a little of that every day, you know?

Hmm. Fair.

Thank you.

So, if the heist happens right at the jump, how does the show fill the other… wait. How many episodes are in this show?

The first part of Season 1, which was released earlier this month, contains five episodes, each about 45 minutes long.

Oh, nice.

Exactly. Lupin is not a slog, not even a little.

So then what does it do for the other four episodes?

A lot. There are multiple timelines and multiple flashbacks to various points in Assane’s life that explain how he became a gentleman thief inspired by another gentleman thief. There’s a conspiracy that unfolds layer by layer and goes — again, not a spoiler because you know this already in your heart — all the way to the top. He has a wife who left him and a son he neglects because being a gentleman thief consumes his mind every second of every day. There are detectives trying to catch him and at least one of them knows much more than he’s letting on.

Does one of the detectives have a super-intricate conspiracy wall with lots of pictures and printouts and theories connected by pieces of string or wild streaks of marker, and does it cause his coworkers to look at him like he’s crazy even though he is on the right track all along?

Oh, baby, you know it. Also, one of the detectives shows up in the flashbacks wearing an outfit that appears to be about 85 percent denim and leather and I gasped when I saw it. Here, look.

Netflix

Good heavens.

Again, very French.

So this all seems terrific, what with the heists and disguises and brilliant criminals attempting to right historical wrongs via jewel thievery. I guess my only other question is, like, what kind of general vibe does it have? It doesn’t get all dark and gritty in the middle, does it?

Nah. There are some darker elements (a murder here, an alleged suicide there, a sprinkling of menace), I guess, but none that drag the show in that direction. The vibe is… hmm. You know how Bosch is kind of like every “loose cannon detective who gets results” show but also the best possible version of those shows? That’s what Lupin is, but with fancy crimes, and therefore inherently more fun. So yes, things get a little dicey here and there, mostly in the flashbacks, but also, the man does his own elaborate makeup and knows the names of all his makeup brushes, and, again, he pilots a drone through a laser-laden room to get information about an adversary.

You keep mentioning this drone. I think it would help me to see wh-

Done.

Netflix

That was fast.

I had been waiting for you to ask. I was getting impatient.

Okay, fine. I’m in. I will watch the first five episodes of Lupin.

You know, now that I think about it, I probably should have just posted that drone GIF at the top of this page and saved us both a bunch of time.

I mean, I think it would have been enough for me.

Lesson learned.

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