Why Is Lupin the Most Watched TV Series Ever on Netflix?
The best thing about Lupin, the French series on Netflix, is that it features the slickest kinds of escapes and there’s no time for the viewer to get bored. The show, created by George Kay, is inspired by the French literary character Arsène Lupin. Written by Maurice Leblanc, this story dates back to 1905.
Lupin‘s leading man, French actor Omar Sy, towers over his fellow actors. He plays Assane Diop, a con man with a heart of gold capable of disappearing his enormous self at the drop of a hat. Indeed, he’s a tireless master of deception.
The first season of the series consisted of five episodes of approximately 43 minutes each. It was the second most-watched series on Netflix just a week after its release. It’s also the most-watched French series in the platform’s history.
Lupin reached 70 million households in its first month, surpassing The Bridgertons and Lady Gambit.
Why is Lupin so popular outside of France?
The series was always likely to be a hit in France where the main character is a cultural figure who bears certain resemblances to Sherlock Holmes. In addition, a popular television series by the same name ran from 1971 to 1974. There’s also a 2004 film starring Romain Duris.
Lupin is a largely unknown character in the USA and yet the program’s success is unprecedented there – despite the general reluctance of Americans to watch subtitled footage. It followed in the footsteps of major non-English speaking global hits such as Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) already watched in 65 million households by its fourth season in April 2020.
However, how did it become the most-watched TV series in the history of Netflix? How did such a strange story manage to attract more than 70 million people in the first month alone? Let’s take a closer look.
Omar Sy, the protagonist
One of the main reasons why the series is such a success is the worldwide desire to see Omar Sy. In fact, his huge success in The Intouchables made him a phenomenon, not only in France, his home country but worldwide. Until then, Omar led a quiet life with his sweetheart and their four children.
He had participated in other successful series in France, but nothing could compare to the international success of The Intouchables. From then on, he began to work in both French and international productions. He was already famous but people wanted to see more of him.
The character of Assane Diop can slip in and out, unnoticed, just about anywhere. He dresses immaculately which tends to divert the attention of any witnesses to his misdemeanors. However, he can’t hide because he’s over six feet tall. He also has a great smile, intense and broad.
Lupin: a story of revenge and justice
There’s no limit to Sy’s natural charm and the fact that he’s playing a thief seeking justice only adds to his appeal. He’s a master of disguise and can perform trick after trick. Arsène Lupin is a fascinating literary character for Assane Diop (Sy). He says his father gave him the first book when he was a teenager.
As an adult, he uses anagrams of Arsène Lupin as pseudonyms – Paul Sernine, for example – while doing job after job. His main objective is to steal a necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette. The Pellegrini family auctioned this necklace and its alleged theft put Assane’s father in jail. The imprisonment led him to kill himself shortly thereafter.
However, it’s not just about the necklace, it’s about uncovering the truth. Furthermore, making the real criminal pay for his father’s death by getting him to finally confront justice.
Lupin: a Senegalese interpreting a French literary classic
Assane is a Senegalese immigrant and his race plays an important role in the story. His father was a black man, “fresh off the boat,” according to the police. This makes it difficult for him to argue his innocence against a wealthy white man (who refers to him as a “monkey”).
All this made his case seemingly impossible. However, Assane takes advantage of the fact that the (mostly) white people he’s cheating could be accused of racism if they incriminate him in his quest for justice. The series is ingenious in continuing to twist the plot.
The world (or at least, those in power) have always let Assane down and the idea of being a classy thief appeals to him. This is because he believes he’s justified in resorting to illegal methods to get things done and obtain justice.
Lupin, an elegant thief with Paris as a backdrop
The stylish series, created by George Kay in collaboration with François Uzan has Louis Leterrier in the director’s seat. Everything has a designer touch. For instance, Assane sits in a chair shaped like a giant mask in his hideout in one of the scenes.
The landscape is breathtaking, especially the City of Light in the background. Also quite charming is the café where Assane meets his wife Claire (Ludivine Sagnier ) in the first episode. Its real name is L’Appartement Saint-Martin and it overlooks the 17th century Porte Saint-Martin.
The flea market where Assane’s best friend has an antique store is also an attractive setting. In reality, it’s in Marché Biron, north of Paris. The fifth episode takes the viewer from Paris to Le Havre, a city on the Normandy coast where there’s actually an annual festival dedicated to Arsène Lupin when everyone dresses up like him.
The kind of intrigue that keeps you guessing
The creator of the series, George Kay, is no stranger to intrigue. As a matter of fact, he’s worked on many crime thriller series such as Criminal: UK, Criminal: France. He’s also a writer for the series, The Tunnel and Killing Eve.
Kay takes the source material as the basis for the main character, but then subverts and updates it to make it suitable for the modern audience. He maintains the idea of creative and adventurous criminals dodging the system. However, he knew it was equally important to take everything he loved about the books, subvert it, update it and create a truly edgy story. His skill brought freshness to the plot.
A parallel story runs alongside the main plot involving Assane and the detective team, particularly Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab), which culminates in the fifth episode of this first season. It adds to the overall mix and makes this series both easy and fun to watch.