A Narcos review

¿Plata o Plomo? Silver or lead? The mantra that simplistically describes the ruthless charisma of the infamous Pablo Escobar in the stunning new Netflix Original Series, Narcos.

I love a little bit of history mixed in with my television. That way I can label the hours I spend plugged into my computer’s screen as an intellectual activity, not just mindless procrastination. With this single appeal, the ten-part dramatic series directed by José Padiha caught my attention.

Little did I know I was committing to a story told primarily from the point of view of the Medellin drug cartel head honcho Pablo Escobar. Played by Waner Moura, Escobar leaves behind in every episode a wake of drugs, mass murder and mountains of money.

For those yet to watch the series, stop reading here. Sprinkled past this sentence may be the occasional spoiler.

The television series blends together modern and authentic footage, giving the stroy a documentary feel. The austere narration from the Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) Steve Murphy – played by Boyd Holbrook – also feeds into the historical sensation behind the show.

Not to mention the dialogue strings a perfect melody with the combination of both Spanish and English, which adds to the authenticity of the series. While I understand more acute language speakers have identified that Moura’s accent is actually incorrect for the region, it hardly detracts from his phenomenal efforts, which included him moving to the hometown of Escobar and putting on a hefty 40 pounds.

The plot is equally as impressive as the functional characteristics of the series. The ten episodes tell the story of how a once fair minded, ambitious and humble man turned into the greatest villain of Central America. Escobar by no means started off evil, and the series shows his transformation into a power hungry megalomanic who bombs airplanes to get even with the government.

Breaking Bad watchers can likely draw the comparison that at times, especially in the beginning of the series, you find yourself rooting for Escobar, the villain, a phenomenon that eventually matures as his character evolves. Like Walter White, Escobar blures the line of morality.

Don’t be fooled, though, as the story line captures so much more then just the life of Escobar and his savage sicarios – although at times you wish it only did. Narcos also depicts the “by any means necessary” attitude of the U.S government as they frequently bypass bureaucracy in order to even the score with the drug lords. At times the merciless nature of American foreign policy bleeds through the series. This, however, hardly compares to the shocking determination of the Search Bloc, which forces viewers to call into question the morality of societies chosen heroes.

The DEA certainly do come across as heroes in the series though, as the forces they are faced to reckon with, men who could build their own prisons, transcends the imagination of viewers. Many Colombian government officials too have their heroic qualities revealed in the show as they stick to their values when death lives around the corner.

The only drawback of the series is that it is fairly male dominated. The major female roles are Connie Murphy, played by Joanna Christie, who works as a nurse in a Columbian hospital and is the wife of Murphy. And Tata Escobar, the wife of Escobar, played by Paulina Gaitan. While both characters are conveyed as submissive to their husbands, it is likely an accurate representation of the situation, and perhaps beneath the facade of the compliant housewife that Tata plays so well, is a ruthless killer on par with her husband. Take for example Tata’s conversation with her mother-in-law about the plane crash: Tata acknowledges Pablo’s violent nature and supports him to do whatever it takes.

The opening scene of the first episode acuretly defines, “magical realism”. Magical realism is by far the best description for this series. The non-fictional story of Pablo Escobar rising to power seems like a show created from your imagination. If you have time and can handle a complex story line and a bit of Spanish, I highly recommend, Narcos.