Omar Sy in 'Lupin 2' (screen shot). The show released on Netflix on June 11, 2021.
Arsene Lupin was more suave than Simon Templar could be, and his daring escapades have been immortalised in books. The books translated into English (and available online), were last year turned into a Netflix show starring Omar Sy.
Season One showed us the immense likeability of Sy even though he stole a valuable necklace - the Pellegrinis had travelled the world to find the beautiful Napoleonic necklace. Season One ended when Assane Diop (Omar Sy) taking his son Raoul and wife, Claire, to celebrate Arsene Lupin’s birthday, and the boy getting kidnapped by the man who has had a scuffle with Assane on the train. What a cliffhanger to end the season with!
I watched Season Two which dropped on June 11, 2021, because all this while I have been worried for the curly haired boy who has been kidnapped. Yet as the second season begins, who should be a witness to the crime? The police officer Youssef Guedira (played brilliantly by Soufiane Guerrab), the only one among the police force who believes that Assane is actually playing Lupin, the gentleman thief, in real life, and the only way to catch him is by following the literary clues.
Assane steals a car and Guedira forces himself in saying he will be of help. The coolest driving of an Audi hatchback I have seen in recent times in a chase leads them through a town and to an old French villa that’s abandoned.
Speaking of small towns, the racism and the general surliness of Frenchmen is done so beautifully, you want to throw something at the screen. The racism is so prevalent, it reminds Assane of his childhood (actor Mamadou Hadara plays young schoolboy Assane).
Skip forward a bit, Raoul is safe but Assane has been arrested by the police. A game of cat and mouse ensues, and you chuckle as Assane gets away - again.
Yet, all is not well. This season, the super villain Mr Pellegrini is seething from the loss of that precious necklace and no matter how much he tries, Assane/Lupin manages to make him madder and madder. The murderous accomplices of old man Pellegrini (he is sure to give you the creeps) have become even more nasty. The plot gets murkier and murkier, and Lupin’s challenges become really tough. You barely have time to enjoy the beautiful city of love because the action is non-stop.
The only distraction if at all in the series is the time switch that they do, going into events of Assane’s childhood and then juxtaposing the learning from the event or the escape method the young Assane has adopted once. But not once do you want to push the forward by ten seconds button. The action is so taut. Only in the penultimate episode do you wish they wouldn’t offer so much explanation but when you look at the larger picture, there is not a single red herring moment that makes you feel despondent about the series. Not one.
As I write this I shiver in my shoes because the old man who looks helpless without his walking cane is plain horrid. His criminality may have a common enough goal: money, but his methods of achieving them are just horrific. We have grown up watching Bond villains and Bollywood movies where Ajit wants to escape with all the gold, but for some reason, the bald headed (yet long haired on the sides), cigar smoking old dad is so nasty, his wife cowers at the thought of angering him and his daughter remains completely under his thumb.
What Omar Sy has managed to do is take Maurice LeBlanc’s creation of a gentleman thief - he steals your painting and then sends you flowers - and add a whole lot of heart to it. Although Season One had more stealing and joy of tricking bad, mean rich people, this series has a personal touch. Assane is trying to clear his dad’s name and avenge his murder. The police see a trail of seriously awful crimes and everything points the finger at Assane, but there’s only one man who believes in the Lupin theory. And he perhaps saves the day.
The season ends with police cars chasing Lupin… I mean Assane all the way down the picturesque Seine river and you know you like Assane’s smile even more this time. Omar Sy is now Lupin in everyone’s head. And I clapped happily to see Lupin standing atop a building ledge a la Batman, the ever present Eiffel Tower looming in the background. He has promised his family (and us!) that he’ll be back. I have my fingers crossed!
What a wonderful encounter with Lupin, gentleman thief this has been!
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.