With the world morphing around us at an unsettling pace, the release of part two of Netflix’s Lupin felt like respite from the questionable constructs of reality. The gloriously imperfect gentleman thief Assane Diop can be seen fist fighting and headbutting, evading the end of a spitting rifle, charming the two exasperated ladies in his life, reclaiming justice from the claws of Mr. Pellegrini and, naturally, outmanoeuvering everyone in the process.
All this spells tremendous fun. Moreover, the series’ layered intrigue and head-squeezing espionage easily outshine James Bond’s dependence on endless action sequences to draw gasps of delight from the audience. It’s a bold statement, but I stand by it. And while the last two episodes were worthy of the silver screen, the first one made sliding back into Assane’s world a task requiring some lubrication.
The obstacle appeared in the form of racial politics. Both Assane and his son’s kidnapper, whose naughty actions lead him to feature as the main nemesis at the start, are black. This fact seemed as natural and unnoticable in the first part of the series as the plot proved engrossing.
However, the first few minutes of part two questioned our obvious acceptance of Assane’s ancestry. Both he and the kidnapper are slowed down by hostile white men lounging in a pub they both pop into mid-car chase. We can practically hear the screech of brakes as action halts, allowing glares and snarls to take precedence.
Why? Well, the matter of racial injustice is one that has shaken the world of late, and rightly so. What’s more, the situation has been deteriorating at an increasing rate in Europe, where far-right governments are encouraging a discriminatory stance against all minorities. That’s not the surprising part.
Lupin has always held the promise of divergence between the serious and the distracting. Racism, an obviously serious matter, feels like a foreign concept in Assane’s idyllic world. However, some reflection and slow breathing allow our memories to dig up the fact that Assane’s father was used and discarded by Mr. Pellegrini, a rich white man.
The reason for his deplorable fate could have been race as much as his lowly status. And yet, the fact remains that Lupin has always woven resounding matters into the fabric of its plot with deft fingers, bypassing our consciousness to appeal to the psyche. Here, the matter clunked before us with all the subtlety of a slap to the face.
After that small hiccup, however, the action-packed drama resumed, and our minds were blissfully diverted once again. Personally, the third episode (“Chapter 8”) proved the most trying. Forty minutes of sentimental meanderings with no action to harden the mush proved more numbing than Bond’s tussles with a horde of Russian-accented baddies.
All in all, part two doesn’t appear nearly as smooth as the first one, nor as complex, but it still offers some noteworthy entertainment. The ending, with its righteous deliverance of justice, is almost reminiscent of a Batman film. The wail of police sirens contains a promise of more to come, and Assane’s bittersweet parting with a chunk of himself highlights the essence of the show’s appeal; it doesn’t necessarily pander to fans of happy endings.
Review of Part 1 here