Television began as a drip-feed— one episode per day or per week. With streaming platforms that are “competing with sleep”, we began to have the binge, where an entire season’s worth of episodes are dropped in one go for the viewer to chug and burp through.
Lupin cuts through this, by bringing another format into Netflix’s experiment with human attention. The first season of Lupin is divided into two “parts”, the first part, 5 hour-long episodes, released on 8th January (70 million views in the first 4 weeks). The series is inspired by Arsène Lupin the “Gentleman Burglar”, a character created by Maurice Leblanc. Lupin is the French spiritual companion to Sherlock Holmes. Leblanc even wrote an encounter between Lupin and Sherlock Holmes, but after Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Holmes, rejected this, he changed the character to “Herlock Sholmes”.
The first part follows Assane Diop, who is established as a master of disguise (like Omar Sy playing him, Diop too is a Senegalese immigrant). He sets out to avenge his father, Babakar, wrongfully accused of stealing Marie Antoinette’s necklace, housed in a wealthy family he once worked for.
The second part of the first season releases “Summer” this year; the date isn’t confirmed. This divided season releasing across months is not new. Last year, Aashram on MX Player, one of the most viewed shows in India, too, released its first season in two parts, with a two-month gap in between. One of the biggest reasons for this is to create prolonged conversation around the show, instead of it being relegated to the week of its release. On the flip-side, the cliffhanger at which the first part ends is not nearly as satisfying as a good season ending cliffhanger should be. The viewing experience is thus incised, leaving the viewer with more burning questions than satisfying answers. Here is a list of some questions I had after burning through the show in two sittings.
1) The Fall Of Pellegrini
The whole first part has set up how Pellegrini is an evil man, who faked the loss of Marie Antoinette’s necklace, putting an innocent black man behind bars, to get insurance money to stay afloat. His involvement in other sinister attacks is also referenced. But he comes out unscathed in this part of the first season. He is merely poked at, enough for him to set loose an assassin who hangs everyone who would uncover the truth.
Assane has video evidence of Pellegrini’s association with sinister elements. But it is not clear if the evidence has been entirely destroyed. We know that a cassette with the evidence was tampered, but we are not told if Lupin made a copy of it. He must have, being the tech maven that he’s shown to be. The question looms: How will Pellegrini fall? How will the Lupin be recompensed for a lost childhood and an adulthood spent trying to track down his father’s sinner.
2) Sherlock Holmes But Not Robotic
One of the refreshing things about this show is how it humanizes the witty Sherlock character. That even if he is intellectually invulnerable, emotionally he is dented. He has a past— Claire, an ex who left him but with affection intact, and Raoul, a child who is holding onto tethers of affection. They co-parent with Raoul living with Claire.
Assane’s quest for revenge has consumed his life, and it is only he and his best friend who know what’s up. His wife, Claire is not looped in, and this is one of the reasons she leaves him. (“When he holds me tight in his arms, yes, I believe in soulmates. But when I’ve made dinner, and he’s three hours late, it’s more complicated,” she tells her therapist.) Assane promises to tell her the truth when it’s all done, “I need to see it through. After that, I’ll tell you everything”
But will he also tell her that he cheated on her when they were together? It is hinted that Claire is already pursuing another man, a doctor. It is also hinted that Assane might have shadows of affection for Pellegrini’s daughter. Love, like a detective thriller, is circuitous in its path.
3) The Kidnapping Of Raul
Raoul is kidnapped at the end of the first part. Assane took the train with Raoul and Claire to the Château de Fréfossé to celebrate Raoul’s birthday. As Assane and Claire walk the promenade, they realize they have lost Raoul. The first part ends with him being shoved into a car by a kidnapper who is hired to kill Assane.
What happens to Raoul? Will he be hanged too, passed off as suicide, like the other murders in the series, or be used to barter for Assane’s life? And how, in the midst of such chaos, does someone kidnap a very intelligent child?
4) Officer Youssef Guedira
Officer Guedira is the first one to crack the relationship between the Louvre burglary, the whistleblower Salvator, and the detective novels of Maurice Leblanc, tying them all back to Assane Diop. He’s also the last person Assane sees before the blackout. He too, like Diop, is a big fan of Arsène Lupin, knowing that Assane would be there at the Château de Fréfossé to celebrate the birthday of Maurice Leblanc. But he has been removed from the case.
How is he going to get him back to the station? Will he be moved by Assane’s motives? Whose team will he play on?