Lupin and the fleeting allure of old flames
Omar Sy toes the line between rom-com hero and bad boy avenger
In this edition of Scene & Heard, a weekly newsletter where a guest contributor reflects on just one scene from a recent Netflix release, writer and Lupin lover Kristen Amiet explains how the French burglar’s rom-com moment is really just heartbreak masquerading as a reunion.
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Omar Sy is in his leading-man era, and nothing captures his unique ability to toe the line between mysterious action man (see: jewellery theft, fraud, driving very fast) and bona fide romantic interest (thoughtful gifts, fatherly dedication, broad shoulders) better than a scene from Lupin’s second season.
In episode three, Assane, played by Sy, whisks former flame Juliette away from a very expensive dinner (which they did not pay for) and onto a motorbike (which they also did not pay for) to go on a jaunt around Paris. It’s all set to Lizzo’s aching and deliberate ‘Cuz I Love You’.
There’s no dialogue, but, still, Assane and Juliette’s apparent connection is on full display, her arms wrapped around him as they coast, smiling and laughing, down Paris’ iconic cobbled streets. I’m honestly astounded someone would have the audacity to manhandle my boyfriend Omar Sy in this blatant manner, but I digress.
The scene perfectly captures the complexity of Assane Diop, thanks to Sy’s ability to toggle deftly between criminal mastermind and love interest. In this moment, even the most astute Lupin fan (me) is simultaneously seduced by the promise of an Assane-Juliette end game and terrified of the havoc it will undoubtedly wreak on her heart.
Of all the romantic comedy tropes, a rekindled romance is one of the most reliable.
And with Sy as the ex in question, it feels truly inspired. A vision. Every single one of my 21-year-old dreams come true.
That’s the age I was when my heart was first broken in that can’t-eat, can’t-sleep, earth-shattering. I had driven several hours to where the offending ex was living and studying; he broke up with me the night before I was due to return home. I remember waking up the next day and being able to breathe for about three seconds before remembering he didn’t love me anymore.
I cried as I paid for fuel at the service station on the way out of town, I cried for the entire drive home, and I cried as I picked up Pad Thai from my local joint, the sweet lady behind the counter doing her best to comfort me (she gave me free prawn chips, what a hero). I cried for days and days and days.
But yet I would have given anything for the ex who broke my heart to tell me he’d made a mistake and whisk me away on a preferably legally obtained motorcycle. You know the feeling: the way missing someone who hurt you consumes your entire being, as if you exist only to hope they text or call.
So while it feels jovial and wholesome — a brief reprieve from the tension and suspense Lupin thrives on — this scene is a reminder of the excruciating longing I felt as I pieced my shattered heart back together at 21.
It’s the inevitable heartbreak masquerading as romance. Twenty-one-year-old me wants to shout at the TV, warning her of the pain and longing waiting for her on the other side.
That’s a pretty dramatic interpretation of one of the series’ lightest scenes, but what am I if not dramatic (see: crying for days)? You see, this scene is rousing not because of what happens in it, but rather, what doesn’t. As any Lupin fan knows, everything Assane Diop does is part of a larger plan to avenge his father’s death, so a jaunt around Paris on a stolen bike is never just a jaunt around Paris, no matter how loud you crank that Lizzo track.
It’s loaded with history, too. While Juliette and Assane were never technically an item — we learn in one of this season’s many flashbacks that he chose baby mama Claire in their youth — the candle she’s always held for him is achingly obvious. It’s clear she believes he’s come back to choose her.
We learn later in the episode that Assane is exploiting Juliette’s affection for him — and her longing for their reunion — to manipulate her into ratting out her murdering dad.
It’s hard to watch her believe Assane has come back to her with pure intentions, to feel validated in knowing the connection they’ve always had was real. It’s the inevitable heartbreak masquerading as romance. Twenty-one-year-old me wants to shout at the TV, warning her of the pain and longing waiting for her on the other side.
Perhaps we should thank the exes who never came back for protecting us from the prolonged agony inevitably wrought by their return. But then maybe it’s worth it for Juliette, who’ll always have Lizzo, a stolen motorbike, and Paris at night.