Lupin the Third: Part 5
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Lupin the Third: Part 5 ?
Last week, I said this new arc of Lupin the Third: Part 5 fit into a familiar pattern for the franchise: "Lupin's plans to steal something get interrupted by a scheme much bigger than his own." That turned out to be an understatement; there's way more going on than just one terrorist plot. In fact, the terrorists are a decoy for something even bigger. I also saw another prediction come true as Lupin uses this arc to get political, going even further there than its last arc based on an attempted coup d'état.
In the previous episode, the CIA just seemed like a signifier for the fact that other countries were invested in the welfare of Padar's government. We had no idea exactly what was going on with them, but I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that the CIA would be used to comment on America's foreign policy. You could also interpret them as a stand-in for intelligence agencies as a broader global force, but I think this episode of Lupin III is aiming a pointed criticism of America specifically. The country has a long history of using the CIA to destabilize foreign governments in its favor, especially in the "global south" (Asia, Africa and Latin America). During the Cold War, democratically elected leaders who were seen as too sympathetic to communism were removed from office in service of helping a more capitalist dictator or monarch take over. So there are simply too many parallels to discount an attempt at commentary here. Lupin's speech at the end of the episode makes a distinction between himself as an honest thief vs. McGuire as a dishonest thief, which could apply to the whole intelligence profession, and the episode is even titled "How to Steal a Country."
This makes the choice of Not-India as a location interesting. (Along with the cultural signifiers like sitars and samosas, Padar's national flag is a slightly altered version of the Indian flag.) U.S.-India relations have always been complicated, so the series may have chosen this alignment to discuss a more historically recurring phenomenon and avoid direct criticism of current events. The ideological alignment of the situation is also flipped from current expectations; the "traditionalists" supported by the U.S. criticize the king's "reformist" government as "capitalist misers." And it does seem like Padar needs a serious change when it comes to class inequality.
In what also seems like a pointed commentary on contemporary South Asia's similar issues, the "rich" parts of Padar are so futuristic that they basically have robots catering to citizens' every need. A self-driving car that knows Jigen's name picks them up, then summons a police car when he's about to smoke since it's against the law. The other side of town is a different story, dressing in traditional clothing and seemingly living in another century. Maybe the "traditionalists" are on to something? So it doesn't make sense why McGuire would support them, especially if the show is going to condemn the CIA while also suggesting the country should overthrow the "reformist" corporations. Perhaps the real point being made is that foreigners don't always know what they're doing when they meddle in another country's affairs? I'm sure future episodes will bear out the full truth.
I also found it interesting how these scenes used music. The sitar and other instruments stood out as obvious musical indicators of India, but only in the scenes that took place in the older part of the city, suggesting a closer connection to "traditional" Padar culture. The only other time we hear these sounds is when Dolma is alone and dancing in her traditional costume. This makes sense as a clear connection, but it also could be foreshadowing what happens at the end of the episode.
Dolma makes it clear from the beginning that she's on her father's side and supports his "reformist" approach. Later on, she bemoans the fact that even though she'll soon be queen, it will be as a puppet to the high priests, not doing what she wants. But then she turns on Lupin and Ami at the last second, even though they're there to rescue her. She looks as shocked at her actions as anyone else, but surely she had some reason for deciding to shoot Lupin, right? It could have been as easy as realizing they were there to steal her necklace, but maybe she also came to sympathize with her captors, in a sort of Patty Hearst situation. Or maybe some kind of futuristic mind control is involved? Regardless, this makes the third time that Lupin has been threatened with serious injury or death as a cliffhanger in this series, at least once per multi-episode arc so far.
Despite falling back on that plot device, this episode Lupin III leaves so many fascinating questions and issues dangling for me to worry about it. It also promises the return of yet another familiar character, because it looks like Albert was in that next-episode preview. This arc seems to be taking its political messages seriously, not just as a last-minute twist to make its caper feel more realistic. I'm sure that going forward, the chases and thrills will turn out to be more and more important, and Lupin's main loyalty remains to his partners and the McGuffin he plans to steal. Still, this wouldn't be the first time the franchise has tried to be thoughtful, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it decides to push itself.
Lupin the Third: Part 5 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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