by Jeff Fountain |
While the story of Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar is not exactly new territory, Netflix approaches it in a smart, meticulous way, making Narcos one of those binge-worthy shows the streaming site is now becoming famous for.
The rise of Escobar and the narrative of how his cocaine empire made its way into the United States in the mid-to-late eighties gets tied together with real flashbacks of the chaos of the time, to give Narcos a sense of realism that others have lacked when tackling this subject.
When Escobar discovered the wonderful, powdery world of cocaine, he was already a very good smuggler. However, being the entrepreneurial genius that he was he put together the possibilities for this growth market in his mind very quickly and soon had the drug flooding the streets of his native Columbia. The turning point came when he realized that this was just the tip of the iceberg, as far as profits were concerned, and turned his eyes towards the United States. The U.S.A of course was not impressed with Escobar’s business spilling across their borders and that’s where the DEA comes in.
The show itself is intermittently narrated by DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), who gives the viewer a sort of step-by-step/blow-by-blow account of how things slowly became very complicated before they went entirely out of control.
No one is painted as innocent here and that is one of the Narcos’ strengths, showing how not just Escobar, but crooked politicians too, bought the favors of police and soldiers, if not governments themselves.
In fact, all of these people and institutions had a hand in what transpired in Columbia in the eighties. Only one man made his name for it.
Of course, Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) is the centerpiece of the show and to the creators’ credit, they go beyond a biopic about just the man himself and dive headfirst into the political landscape surrounding him. Escobar rose to power by taking advantage of the system he knew very well and could manipulate in his favor with a frightening efficiency and coldness that for a while he was able to keep hidden from the people of Columbia.
There were many horrific truths behind Narcos, including the vast amounts of money that Escobar had at his disposal and the bloody presidential campaign he was a part of. The locations, the character development of the people involved, and the wonderful attention to detail make this a great series that is as entertaining as it is a scary history lesson.