Netflix hit the spot once again with their latest original series, Narcos. The series follows the rise of the “King of Cocaine” Pablo Escobar, and the DEA’s efforts to bring him to justice.
It traces the origins of Colombian “narcos” with a kilo or two of marijuana and corrupt policemen, right up to drug lords and an all-out war that would define the history of Colombia.
The series is played out mainly through the viewpoints of Escobar himself, played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura in a brutal and chilling performance, and DEA agent Steve Murphy, played by Boyd Holbrook, who leaves Miami to take on Colombia’s notorious Medellín Cartel.
Murphy narrates each episode and this adds to the sense of intensity that runs throughout. The use of protagonists on both sides of the divide makes the story engaging and highly engrossing.
One of the opening scenes immediately sets the tone for the fast paced drama. We start at the infancy of Escobar’s drug operation, even at this stage he is powerful enough to brazenly drive multiple trucks packed with drugs through police checkpoints.
One police chief decides to take a stand by stopping one of the kingpin’s convoys, and what follows is an example of Moura’s excellent portrayal of Escobar.
One by one, he talks in terrifying detail about the families of each guard at the checkpoint wishing them well on the surface, but the chilling message is received loud and clear and Pablo’s trucks are shortly back on their merry way.
What Moura succeeds so well in doing is something great actors have done before him in portraying cold blooded killers, putting in a performance that captures their loathsome character, but also giving almost likeable aspects to them at the same time, which you will see in scenes between Escobar and his family. This paradox is similar in ways to Tom Vaughan Lawlor’s Nidge in Love/Hate.
While Moura is the star turn in Narcos, Pedro Pascal who co-stars as Mexican DEA Agent Javier Peña, puts in another excellent performance.
This will come as no surprise to Game of Thrones fans who will remember Pascal as Prince Oberyn. Peña becomes Murphy’s partner and is just as instrumental in the quest to bring down Escobar and the Medellín Cartel.
There is a feeling of authenticity to the ten episodes of Narcos, one key factor in this lies in the fact that it is mostly in Spanish with subtitles rather than English with phony Spanish accents.The only exception to this is Murphy’s narration and his exchanges with different characters.
Another nice touch is the intermittent use of real archival footage (often of Escobar himself) which gives the show an almost documentary-like feeling.
At its peak, Escobar’s cocaine trafficking operation was worth $50 billion a year, but the toll on his country was immeasurable with thousands upon thousands killed in drug wars.
Narcos gives the viewer an insight into the lavish lifestyle this afforded those in the cartels as well as the devastating effect it had on normal people. The show is extremely addictive so enjoy it before you’re waiting eagerly for season two.