Some Thoughts on Lupin Part 2 [SEASON REVIEW]
Minor Spoilers Ahead
When I first came across Lupin (2021-) on Netflix I was drawn in by Omar Sy who I had previously seen in the acclaimed role of Driss in 2011’s French hit Intouchables. Ever since then, Sy has been an actor I instantly recognise from his minor role in Jurassic World in 2015 to Lupin this year. Maybe his merge of comedic charm and dramatic seriousness stuck with me but I’m glad to have stumbled across this show which has a unique twist on the overcrowded ‘based on a book’ genre.
For those unfamiliar Lupin, in essence, without giving too much away, it involves burglar/con artist Assane Diop, played by Sy. Diop is inspired by the iconic French book character Arsene Lupin, ‘the gentleman burglar’ to commit elaborate, fool-proof crimes. Diop is a crook, but he does so with finesse often taking direct inspiration from Lupin’s exploits and implementing them into his own capers. As he deals with the trauma and ambiguity of his dark family past he must maintain ties with his own son, Raoul and estranged wife, Claire while going about his business in relative secrecy.
Moving on to the focus of this review, Lupin Part Two picks up immediately after Part One’s conclusion and provides a thrilling sequel which ups the ante and pushes the characters to their very limit. With a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score (96%) the show delivers in buckets even without the immense buzz of its debut. Our cunning protagonist, Assane is faced with even more gruelling decisions and scrutiny at the hands of the authorities and corrupt, power-driven businessman Pellegrini.
Nevertheless, he finds his footing and delivers a fearsome comeback in typical “Arsene Lupin” style. He outsmarts and runs from his pursuers and succeeds to a great extent as is expected of the genre. Even though it follows this trope, Part Two is by no means simple and formulaic as it carries the same grit and nuance of Part One. This style uses elements of crime/espionage thriller to enthral us whilst being distinct through character, story, and its twist on book-inspired dramas.
One theme throughout the show which is mentioned in the content warning is racism and discrimination. Assane’s character has been marred by racial injustices since his childhood just like his father, from refusals of service from shop attendants to awkward glances. This childhood storyline is set in 1995 and rings true in the present 26 years later as the older Assane faces awry glances in cafes and other establishments.
This racial commentary highlights a persistent issue stemming from arduous racial oppression. There is no escape and times do not change due to a historical entrenchment of discrimination. A pretty dark side of Lupin is clear and present here and stereotypes of Afro-Caribbean men as criminals are evident in Assane’s character. I feel the writers intentionally allude to this and play into the perceptions of race to further their commentary.
Assane’s complex relationship with the Pellegrini family exposes class structure and racism. The Pellegrini patriarch, a typical figure of corruption with the power to cover it up, wrongly accused Assane’s father, Boubakar, of stealing a book from his home. As things are blown out of proportion, the scapegoat, a black man is decidedly deemed guilty due to institutionalised racism. This is apparent through corrupt authorities willingly taking bribes to prosecute him. Evidently and as history has proven, Western judicial systems favour the white man as non-whites are immediately judged guilty. This is what causes Boubakar’s mysterious fate and represents lower-classes populated by minority ethnic groups being stomped upon by the ruling upper class. The latter is a largely white congregation with superior power and social influence.
This incredible miscarriage of justice and its toll upon Assane is survived poignantly by the books and stories of Arsene Lupin which his father introduced him to. This is a brilliant character detail which motivates and provides reason for Assane’s mischievous actions and sums up the show. There is depth and a burning trauma which fuels Assane’s yearning for finding truth about his father. This is one of many aspects which makes Lupin an amazing show and one of the very best of the year.
The show quickly became a phenomenon in the US and UK in early 2021 which is quite rare for a foreign show but is fully warranted. This is its initial crowning achievement, and the hype is real – the show is incredibly entertaining, and I strongly recommend you give it a whirl. From mystery to suspense to sorrow to comedy, Lupin is for everyone and Omar Sy’s magnetic performance and the gripping story will leave you glued your screens. The only niggling downside is its short 5-episode length which leaves us yearning for more. Thankfully, a Part Three is in the works, which is a long way off, but something you will not want to miss.