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‘Lupin’ is an intelligent thriller French series

Arsene Lupin, written by Maurice Leblanc, is a character often considered the “Sherlock Holmes” of French literature. However, one major difference between Holmes and Arsene Lupin, which inspired the show “Lupin,” is the way that Lupin doesn’t work with the authorities, but instead works against them. The authorities are out to get him, but he can easily transform into another identity. Sherlock is a consulting detective—he solves crimes—but Lupin is like a shapeshifter: he is the criminal, he is the police, he is a janitor, he’s a rich investor, he’s himself, he’s whatever he needs to be. As a chameleon of characters, Lupin grasps a rare perspective that sets itself apart from other mystery and action series.

Assane Diop, played by the mesmerizing Omar Sy, takes on the persona of Arsene Lupin. As a child, he was passionate about this story, which was a book his father gave him as a child. Assane takes on the role of anyone he needs to be. He’s part geeky fanboy and part ruthless criminal. Sy gives a thrilling performance as he floats through smooth transitions between characters and never fails with his charming, unassuming smile that can get away with anything. Comparing this charismatic, ever-evolving anti-hero to the cold, tactical brilliance of Sherlock Holmes undercuts the ingenuity of “Lupin.”

Moreover, Assane is tech-savvy, and he’s got a motive: the murder of his father. In every form he embodies, Lupin is too cool to care, but all his actions are connected to an injustice his father faced. He always has another trick up his sleeve. Just when you think, “how is going to get out of this one?” you see him pull through in the most surprising ways. When the authorities are after him, he transforms, his previous identity dissipating into thin air, his new identity concrete and convincing.

Lupin is an icon in French literature, known by the moniker “the gentleman thief.” Assane is aware of his role as the “gentleman thief,” but his personal life is a mess. He’s on thin ice with his ex-wife that he’s trying to win back, and is trying to be there for his son, which is where the series gets complicated. Assane has the best intentions for the people he cares about: he wants justice for his father and cares for the happiness of his partner and the security and safety of his son. But things go awry when his plan for justice turns him into an avenger. In this sense, he is nothing like his British counterpart, Sherlock, who is known to be cold and emotionally detached.

Assane is a compelling main character, but he is not the only star of the show. A viewer’s journey to Paris is enough of a reason to press play on this action-packed mystery that keeps you thinking the whole way through. Although some moments may feel almost predictable, Lupin turns the tables in an unexpected way. The show is in French, and unless you are fluent in French, the act of reading subtitles lends itself to the literary themes in the show. Despite the novel being from an entirely different era, there is a very contemporary feel to the show. Not only is modern technology featured, but so are his plans. Some of the plans he implements, such as creating a fake website with fake photos of himself to front a false identity, would have not been possible in the era it was written. The way the show incorporates these modes of trickery and benign crimes within the realm of the modern-day is astute and plausible, which makes “Lupin” all the more convincing.

“Lupin” is an intelligent thriller that is unlike Sherlock Holmes, in the sense that this character is amorphous, unpredictable and yet concrete in his intentions toward justice for his loved ones. He’s a detective of his own case and plays judge and jury of what he deems necessary crimes to solve his own case. If you’re looking for your next pandemic escape that feels external to the Hollywood-made eye-candy we’ve been accustomed to watching, and in fact stays true to the French storytelling tradition connected to Leblanc’s “Lupin” novels, look no further.

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