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January 5, 2023

Breaking Down Lupin Using Dan Harmon's Story Circle

One of Netflix’s most exciting series today we’re going to be breaking down Lupin, set in France and in the French language. Whilst foreign language dramas were once a specialized niche, Netflix has mainstreamed them. 

Today with dubbed and subtitled options, it hardly seems to matter what language Netflix uses for its shows. Squid Games was a massive success and had a cult following that unpicked the many motifs and rich symbolism that made the series so distinctive.  

An intriguing murder full of seduction and plot twists, let’s break down what makes the first episode of the Lupin TV series on Netflix so successful and how the first episode keeps you hooked. 

What is Lupin about? 

Lupin is a dark, gritty French Netflix original. It follows the life of Assane Dio who is inspired by Maurice Leblanc's famous literary character Arsene Lupin as he takes on some of the most dangerous criminals in Paris. 

Lupin is a master thief who steals from the rich and gives back to the poor, but he'll do anything for his family and friend. The series is set in modern-day France with flashbacks to Assane’s childhood. 

Assane played by Omar Sy is staring into a glass cabinet with jewels in.
Assane, the son of a falsely convicted jewel thief, is a kind of modern day Robin Hood

It draws heavily on French literary tradition without alienating the audience.

What are the main themes in Lupin?

The main themes in Lupin are the pursuit of justice and truth. Assane's father is accused of stealing an expensive necklace by his employer, the businessman Hubert Pellegrini.

Assane’s father kills himself in jail, supposedly out of shame when Assane is a small boy. Assane is therefore motivated to find out the truth of what happened to his father. He is also convinced his father did not steal the necklace. 

Who are the main characters in Lupin

Let’s dive into the main characters and their roles in the hit series. 

Assane Diop (Omar Sy) 

Assane Diop is the protagonist of the series. He is propelled into a life as an investigator after the murder of his father who first gave him the book about the gentleman burglar Arsene Lupin. 

Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) 

Pellegrini is the antagonist of the series. When a necklace goes missing from his collection, he blames Assane’s father who is working for him as a house servant and has him arrested for theft.  

The character Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) wearing a suit with a tie looking tense.
Hubert Pellegrini harbours dark secrets that Assane is determined to get to the bottom of

Juliette Pellegrini (Clotilde Hesme),

The daughter of Hubert and the one-time teenage love interest of Assane. In the present timeline of the series, she’s a glamorous heiress and socialite.

Claire Diop (Ludivine Sagnier),

Assane’s estranged wife. They are still on good speaking terms and they share a child who Assane frequently neglects due to his busy schedule trying to solve the crime of the necklace.

Inspector Dumont (Vincent Garanger)

The dark commissioner of the Paris police force was initially tasked with investigating the stolen necklace. 

Breaking down Lupin episode 1

Let’s break down Lupin using Dan Harmon’s Story Circle and then consider what lessons we can use in our own writing.

A circular diagram depicting Dan Harmon's story circle.
Dan Harmon's story circle is a great way of breaking down a narrative.

1. The character is in their comfort zone

Assane is meeting up with his ex-wife to give her money to support his son. Lupin offers to change to see his son more often. 

2. Character desires something

Assane wants to get the necklace belonging to Hubert Pellegrini. He conjures up a plan to steal it in conjunction with three minor criminals as revenge for his father’s death which occurred in prison after Pellegrini accused Assane’s father of stealing the necklace. 

3. Character enters an unfamiliar situation

The necklace is auctioned at the Louvre. Assane dresses up as a rich businessman and has a fake Wikipedia page written about himself claiming he is a multi-millionaire.

4. Character adapts to the situation

Assane bids for the necklace and is successful. But when he goes to collect it, he is betrayed by the criminal men who assisted him. However, he uses this to his advantage to pretend he knows nothing about the crime. 

5. Character gets what they want

We later see Assane working as a janitor at the Louvre, retrieving the real necklace. It is revealed that one of the criminals helped themselves to is a fake. The police have also established this. 

A detective in the Paris Police has also uncovered a link with Arsene Lupin, the Gentleman Burglar, thinking that the crime of the stolen necklace is similar. 

6. They pay a heavy price for it

In flashback, we see that Assane lost his father to suicide when he was imprisoned for stealing the necklace. The price was paid before the present-day narrative began. 

7. Character returns to their familiar situation

Assane returns to his son to spend time with him and hands him the same book that his father handed him, shortly before he was killed and imprisoned: The Gentleman Burglar by Arsene Lupin.

8. They have changed as a result of their journey

Assane has changed. He is no longer going to be a poor father, scrambling around to get funds for his son. He is stronger, happy to spend more time with his family but also more determined than ever to get the truth about how is father was killed. This sets up the rest of the series. 

What can we learn from Netflix’s Lupin TV series episode 1? 

Lupin episode 1 is a great first episode. It subverts our expectations by setting up a crime that appears unsuccessful when in fact Assane has managed to steal the necklace. 

It has a clear narrative arc as Assane’s wants and desires are fulfilled. By setting out on a mission to avenge his own father and finally get the truth, Assane is becoming more confident and able to connect more easily with his own son who he has somewhat neglected so far. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to plot your script be sure to check out our other plot breakdowns for some ideas.

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Breaking Down Lupin Using Dan Harmon's Story Circle
Harry Verity

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. In addition, he was a senior ghostwriter at Story Terrace from 2015- 2021, the private memoir firm.

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