Back in January, when the world was very grim, a chap strode into the TV landscape, all self-assurance, poise and charm. Such was his charisma and so appealing the Paris setting, that everyone saw him as an instant way of escaping reality. That was Assane Diop, but known to all as Lupin.
Lupin Part 2 (streams on Netflix from Friday) brings him back at last. The first batch of episodes was always meant to startle, end in a cliffhanger and return later. Now, some viewers could barely handle it, that abrupt ending, but it was no ending. For those who need a refresher – it’s a busy, busy world – Omar Sy (The Intouchables) plays Assane, a master criminal influenced in style and methodology by author Maurice Leblanc’s “gentleman thief” Arsène Lupin. We saw him pull off a breathtaking jewel heist at the Louvre, a piece in his revenge plot against the diabolical plutocrat Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre), the man who had Assane’s father sent to prison, where he killed himself.
The 21 best TV series to stream so far in 2021
A sublimely executed cat-and-mouse game ensued and now picks up where the first batch ended – with Assane and his ex-girlfriend Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), who has always been mystified by her boyfriend’s activities, in a seaside town where, it seems, their son Raoul has been kidnapped by one of Pellegrini’s goons. Oh, and there’s a cop who might have figured out Assane’s tactics and modus operandi.
Buckle up for beautifully constructed set-pieces in the French countryside, as well as Paris, while Assane and his crew of sidekicks stay one step ahead of the no-goodnik’s henchmen and the police. It’s as elaborate as before, all cleverness, style and propulsion, with the viewer never quite sure how the central character is going to pull off another disguise and recede into anonymity while being so charismatic. It retains its blissful lightness while never letting go of its simmering theme about this Black figure being both feared and invisible in France.
Blood and Water: Fire & Ice (Sunday, OMNI, 10:30 p.m.) began life a few years back as the Vancouver-set Blood and Water and was Canada’s first trilingual (English, Cantonese, Mandarin) crime drama. The current version is a spinoff featuring some of the main characters and, as a pared-down, slow-burning underworld drama it’s niftily tense and unpretentious. The episodes are 30 minutes long, giving it just enough tension. Set in contemporary Toronto, it’s rooted in the saga of the billionaire Xie family, and it’s very much about family, old enemies and ancient weaknesses.
Anna Xie (Elfina Luk) the ultra-aspiring daughter, is running a branch of the family empire, a casino. She wants to build a condo tower, too, but the family doesn’t approve and investors aren’t interested. Already thwarted, she realizes the casino is being used to launder money that comes from very dubious sources. She hires private eye Michelle Chang (Selena Lee), who used to be a cop in Vancouver, to look into the nastiness. Chang – Selena Lee is terrific in the role – has her own agenda, because she figures the mob boss orchestrating things, Norris Pang (Sean Baek), is also responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. As a crime drama that’s about pretence, hypocrisy and ruthlessness, it’s condensed and nicely emotion-charged. It’s good that starting Sunday, June 20, episodes will rerun at 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., as half-hour dramas are best watched in bunches.
Also note that annual cutes-heavy favourite the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is unfolding (Saturday, Fox, 5 p.m. and a best-of roundup airs Sunday, Sportsnet, 8 p.m.) Postponed from February it won’t have an in-person audience and it’s not at Madison Square Garden (it’s outdoors at an estate in Tarrytown, N.Y.) but the traditional pomp and circumstance about dogs is promised.
Chaakapesh (Sunday, documentary channel 9 p.m.) is a beautiful and moving documentary.
In 2018, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra toured Quebec’s North, and not for the first time. But this time something unique was being unveiled – the orchestra had commissioned an original work, a chamber opera called Chaakapesh, written by playwright Tomson Highway and composed by Matthew Ricketts. Led by music director Kent Nagano, the orchestra went to small, remote communities where both children and elders became part of the story. A wonderful chronicle of an endeavour to find reconciliation through creation and performance.
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