Everybody loves a story about a bad guy. And while many would say he’s been over-portrayed in pop culture, no one can argue that Pablo Escobar’s “bad guy” story is one of the best of my generation.
So it should come as no surprise that Netflix has gotten in on our fascination with Escobar in the newly-released 10-part series Narcos.
Worthy of more than just a quick-binge, Narcos features strong acting, writing, and direction across the board. The first hour of the show felt a bit like a high-level view of Columbia in the 80’s, and a little out-of-place with the 9 episodes following — but, it was tantalizing enough to get me hooked (and I’m glad it did).
Brazilian actor Wagner Moura is quite impressive playing the (strangely enough) sometimes-likable Escobar, while Boyd Holbrook and Chilean actor Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) help director José Padhilla tell the story from the American DEA perspective.
One of the most compelling aspects of Narcosis that Padhilla tells the story of the rise of Columbian narcotics trafficking from a number of viewpoints, which shows just how connected many of the main players in the initial “war on drugs” truly were. The show, to its credit, stays far away from depicting the Americans as the “heroes” of the story — by not only showcasing some of the unfocused (and, often, deadly) decisions made by our country in Escobar’s time, but by also highlighting the various Columbians that were willing to put their lives on the line to find the cartel themselves.
The cinematography — with the show being shot mainly in Bogota — brings a quality of realism to Narcos that is often lost in Escobar-centric biopics. In addition, Padhilla splices in real footage from the 80’s & early 90’s to further convey to the audience that, despite the inclusion of fictional events, Narcos is a story based on factual history.
One complaint I’ve seen repeated by critics is the choice to have Holbrook’s Steve Murphy narrating the series. While the technique feels more natural in a show like Mr. Robot, I didn’t find it distracting to the experience; rather, I thought it tied-in well with the “documentary”-esque feel of the series.
Narcos makes a great addition to the Netflix original lineup; one that would also work on HBO, but would likely suffer from exaggerated watering-down if stretched out to a 13 or 16-episode run on another cable net. Given the mostly positive reviews, Netflix has already announced the series will be picked up for year 2