Created by George Kay (“Killing Eve”) in collaboration with François Uzan (“Family Business”), “Lupin” is an addictive, clever puzzle that combines elements from “Luther,” Sherlock Holmes,” and “Inside Man” for an engrossing experience.
For every answer Kay and Uzan offer in this ten-episode French crime drama, more questions arise. Take the premiere, wherein Assane concocts a plan to steal Marie Antoinette’s aforementioned necklace from an auction at the Louvre. To furnish his scheme, he enlists a trio of loan sharks he owes serious money to as a way to cancel his debt. He’s also behind in his alimony payments to his ex-wife Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), and missing his visitations with his teenage son Raoul (Etan Simon). Through flashbacks, Kay and Uzan further reveal Assane’s once close relationship to Mr. Pelligrini’s daughter Juliette (Clotilde Hesme) and her mother Anne (Nicole Garcia). We wonder how Assane, who’s working as a simple janitor, can now craft a near-foolproof ploy to rob the former Queen’s crown jewels. Where did he find the means to bankroll this job? Why does he trust these abhorrent loan sharks?
“Lupin” is as patient as it is smart, and its plot twists like melted railroad tracks. And yet the narrative train, through some tight savvy editing, always exits on the other side of the tunnel. But we’re left wondering how it didn’t skip its twisted tracks.
See, Assane is as wily as the show’s writing. He’s a silver tongue snake charmer who relies on convincing acting, disguises, quick-thinking, and his race. When so often questioned by white law enforcement, he implies his accusers’ racism to his advantage.
Kay and Uzan are also intrigued by other people often ignored. In later episodes, a trio of detectives work to solve the Louvre heist. And though Youssef (Soufiane Guerrab)—who we’re led to believe is of Middle Eastern descent—could crack the case, his white colleagues on the police force ignore his sound theories. There’s also a French journalist (Anne Benoit, a vivid lightning bolt), long dismissed for her age and sex, who plays a pivotal role, too. All of these characters are shadows in an alley blotched by white street lights. Christophe Nuyens and Martial Schmeltz’s photography, which uses lens flares and foregrounded shadows to obscure Assane’s identity, furthers the series’ enigmatic quality.