"The End of Lupin III"
Synopsis: The greatest thief, Lupin III, has been captured! Under tight wraps and guarded by Inspector Zenigata, Lupin wastes away with nothing more to live for. Zenigata is at first confidence that his nemesis will make an escape attempt, but as time passes, it seems less likely, with his allies ignoring his plight. When Lupin begins to refuse to eat, Zenigata wonders if he really plans to die. Is this really the end of Lupin III, or will he break out of the little box he's being held in? Lupin knows why the caged bird sings in this confined episode!
The second chapter ever of the original Lupin III manga sees our favorite monkey-faced thief placed in prison, in wait for capital punishment. Before he's led to his death, however, he makes a narrow escape by switching places with a guard. Zenigata does end up catching on, but he has to let Lupin escape so he can prevent an innocent man from being executed. Lupin confidentally strolls out of the prison. Episode 4 of the original Lupin TV series, the Green Jacket series, is adapted from this story, adding elements like Zenigata's increasing nervousness at the prospect of Lupin's death, a stash of gold, Fujiko's foiled rescue attempts, and an ironic ending. It's one of the highlights of the first series, though it does raise some questions (like why would Lupin, a thief, be receiving the death penalty?) it never answers.
In this episode of Lupin, you have the same basic concept: Lupin is under lock and key, guarded by Zenigata, and as time runs out for him, the viewer can only wonder what last-second plan he plans to deploy to gain his freedom. Like that other episode, Zenigata is increasingly irritated, even depressed, about Lupin's pending demise (this time because it seems like he's wasting away). Old Pops can't understand why Lupin's allies have stayed still while he's rotting away. Months seems to pass, seasons passing into seasons, as Lupin is gradually losing his zest for life, and it seems like it may very well be the end of Lupin III. But as viewers, we all know he'll get out of this somehow. But how? And honestly, I think this episode is even better than the one in the Green Jacket series, because while the answer seems a tad farfetched, it's also kind of brilliant in its owh right, and not too absurd to be out of place or even too pat and simple. It's frankly right up there with Lupin's plan a couple of episodes ago to throw MI6 into chaos.
It's so rare these days that we actually get to see Lupin truly have inventive plans that aren't just reliant on disguises or gadgets, or much brute force. Like with taking control of MI6's communication, it's all about misdirection, and when the viewer finally sees what the answer is at the end, it feels natural for the situation and not like an asspull to magic himself out of the sitaution. The best thing is, it's Lupin alone with nobody else's help. He's going solo and it's working out swimmingly. This is what Lupin needs to be, not just some adventurer, or just a criminal, or master of disguise, or spy, or hero, or rascal. He needs to be clever. This is the sort of writing I like to see in my Lupin stories, where it's his wits alone that get him through.
I think what I like more about this new escape plan than the one in the Green Jacket episode was that Lupin manipulates Zenigata so utterly perfectly and yet leaves him amused.
We also get a little peek into the mindset of old Pops, and some rare insight that it seems he's just now stumbled onto. There's a scene where he basically spells this out, but it doesn't at all seem too expository, and that's the scene where he joins Lupin for a cigarette. He admits that perhaps what bothers him the most about Lupin's capture, and his impending demise isn't just the end of Lupin, but the end of him, the end of him having a worthy adversary. He's poured so much of his life in pursuing Lupin, and he knows Lupin has put in a lot evading him, and throwing it all away on account of Rebecca seems almost a crime in itself. But Lupin replies, "Stick to your art. That's what a man does, right?" When Pops discovers Lupin has once again pulled the wool over his eyes, he can't help but feel impressed, and probably relieved.
Of course, in the time it took the authorities to rescue Pops from the box, it seems like Zenigata's lost some of his enthusiasm for the ruse. Dude needs a mountain of hamburgers and coffee, like in Episode 0: First Contact. "Hambaaaga means hambaaga!" But I guess in Italy he could get some much better grub.
Then there's MI6 again. What are these guys up to, now? Whatever it is, apparently Nix is back to as normal as he can be, and is even himself amused by Lupin's escape. Dude was trying to straight up murder him just last episode. I guess he got over that. But we'll see him again.
Loooove this episode. Every Lupin series should have at least one escape gambit.
4.5 out of 5