French TV fans have waited more than two years for the return of the most-watched French show on Netflix. Lupin, which dropped its first and second parts in 2021, was the first French show to break Netflix’s U.S. Top Ten, and quickly became Netflix’s most-watched non-English language show. (Though it has since been topped by Squid Game and Money Heist, it still ranks at #3 in this category.) The show is now back for a 7-episode Part 3, released on October 5.
What is ‘Lupin’ About?
Lupin, which stars the wildly charismatic French movie star Omar Sy, is inspired by the early 20th century Arsène Lupin books about a “gentleman burglar,” which are about as widespread in France as Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter would be in the English-speaking world. The show quickly won over viewers worldwide with its adrenaline-pumping capers, clever schemes, and gorgeous Parisian settings. (And I’m sure Sy’s magnetism didn’t hurt.) In the show, Sy plays Assane Diop, a banlieusard from Paris’s undesirable outskirts who grows into a master con man. Modeling himself after the Arsène Lupin character, Assane steals from Paris’s ungodly rich using elaborate disguises and brilliant strategies.
Parts 1 and 2 revolved around a revenge plot, with present-day Assane out to get payback for his father’s wrongful imprisonment and death during his childhood. Hubert Pellegrini, one of the richest men in France, is Assane’s primary antagonist in Parts 1 and 2. Pellegrini is a major Bad Guy, who frames Assane’s father, and later kidnaps Assane’s son, Raoul. But as Part 2 ends with Pellegrini’s long-awaited arrest, and Raoul returned to safety, Part 3 had the hard task of providing a new worthy opponent to the scrappy magician Assane.
‘Lupin’ Part 3 Review
Part 3 opens with Assane on the run, after his identity is revealed and he becomes both Public Enemy Number One, and an unlikely folk hero. Somewhere between Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes, Assane now has hordes of fans all over France, even as the police are pulling out all the stops to track him down. He uses his fame to his advantage in the opening episode of the new season by alerting the police to his upcoming heist. He tells them exactly when and where it will happen, then leaks the information to the press so that wild crowds of fans will show up at the scene of the crime and provide a distraction.
The opening episode is really strong, with a heartracing pace that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Sure, you might see some of the twists coming, but half the fun is waiting to find out how exactly Assane will pull them off. There are wonderful little moments, like when Assane, undisguised, walks straight into a jewelry store he plans to rob; when the woman working there tells him he looks like the famous criminal, Assane Diop, he laughs and says people tell him that all the time. Luckily, he says, his eyes are brown, unlike those of the famous criminal. She is so charmed, she doesn’t realize until later that, of course, Assane’s eyes are, in fact, brown.
The charms and heat of the first episode get a bit muddy as the season goes on, however. Assane discovers that a woman who may or may not be his long-lost mother has been taken captive by his enemies. We learn that his mother abandoned Assane and his father when he was a child, and wound up incarcerated in a Senegalese prison. When, in a flashback, a teenaged Assane finally heard from her, she told him to forget about her.
We don’t get much information about Assane’s childhood relationship with his mother, no flashbacks to them having tender moments, or any indication about what she was like as a person. So her appearance in Paris thirty years after they last saw each other seems suspicious to begin with. But what’s really hard to justify is Assane’s willingness to immediately drop everything to become the patsy of the criminal team that is holding her captive. He steals precious items for them, risks his life, and betrays those closest to him in order to try and save this woman. Who, again, he has little reason to believe is actually his mother.
While Hubert Pellegrini was a bit of a ham-fisted villain, we don’t get enough information about this new mysterious crew of enemies to really care about them. And we have no reason to care about their hostage, either, except in the basic way of, “Maybe let’s not kill this old lady.” It makes Assane’s actions feel alternatively stupid and cruel, lacking good motive and, more importantly, the trademark of the series, which is his hugely empathetic heart.
There’s also another part of Assane’s backstory that gets a weird amount of screentime. We learn that in high school, after his father’s death leaves him an orphan, he is more or less taken in by the “godfather” of a friend of his, who runs a boxing studio which seems, inexplicably, to be a kind of gathering place for abandoned youth. It’s unclear whether or not the kids who go there live at the studio, or just hang out there all the time, but there’s a lot of talk about “loyalty” and “family” and “belonging.” (It’s giving Fast & Furious vibes.) They also have to pay several thousand euros each to go there, but again, it’s not explained what they’re getting out of it aside from boxing lessons. The only thing it seems to add to the plot is that we now understand that Assane is willing to go as far as is necessary to win… which we probably could have gathered anyway. Someone explain to me this boxing studio for orphans, please.
Where Lupin Part 3 shines is surprisingly not in the flashiest moments, but in some of the more personal ones. Our side characters, like Assane’s best friend Benjamin, and the cop Guédira, have started to feel like old friends, and Assane’s relationships with them have developed an easy conviviality. (There’s a truly adorable scene when Assane and Guédira team up, and they have a full makeover montage as Assane finds the cop a disguise to wear.) Even Assane’s relationship with his ex-wife, Claire, progresses in unexpected and heartfelt ways.
All things considered, Part 3 of Lupin is just as glossy and satisfying as we’ve come to expect. Sure, the sleek car chases and dramatic camera panning occasionally make the show feel like a high-end car commercial, but I’ve chosen to lean in. I’d recommend you grab your popcorn and a nice bottle of wine, and do the same this weekend.