Lupin, season two review: Bravo! The glorious, gleeful, goofy Robin Hood of France does it again
“Un moment de suspense” is the French term for a cliffhanger. And – mon dieu! – did season one of the French thriller Lupin (Netflix) leave us on one. The teenage son of the show’s con man-hero had been kidnapped by one of the villain’s henchmen, leaving his frantic parents screaming his name across a crowded beach full of kids all dressed alike. And the first episode of season two cranks up that suspense until the tension becomes almost insupportable.
For those not yet snared in the Lupin loop, this superslick crime caper is the smash-and-grab hit of 2021. Created by the British showrunner George Kay (Criminal) and starring the ridiculously charismatic Omar Sy, this French-language Netflix Original is currently the streamer’s most-watched global programme.
Like 2010’s Cumberbatch-fronted Sherlock, the show transports the vintage delights of intricate plotting and a charismatic-brainiac hero into the high speed, high-tech 21st century. But, unlike Sherlock, the show doesn’t attempt to reincarnate the old literary character from whom it takes its name. Instead Sy plays a modern con man called Assane Diop whose theatrical, Oceans 11-esque heists are inspired by Maurice LeBlanc’s much-beloved tales of Arsene Lupin: Gentleman Thief.
Series one showed us how Diop turned to crime after his doting, widowed dad, Babakar (a Senegalese immigrant), was framed for a jewel theft by his employer, the powerful Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre). Babakar was soon found dead in his jail cell, leaving 14-year-old Assane an orphan determined to avenge his father’s death.
In LeBlanc’s stories (originally commissioned in 1905 by a French magazine hoping for the same sales boost the British Strand magazine got from Sherlock Holmes) Lupin was “a man of a thousand disguises: in turn a chauffer, detective, bookmaker, Russian physician, Spanish bull-fighter, commercial traveler, robust youth, or decrepit old man”.