Narcos follows the rise of notorious Colombian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) from a handful of jungle based labs to full blown war against the Colombian government. Exploring Escobar’s story from his perspective as well as the Colombian government and the US DEA, the series highlights the pervasiveness of the drug war and how it took over the whole country.
Narcos gives a really interesting insight into Colombian society, the US war on drugs and Escobar’s psychology.
It delves into a systemic legacy of corruption as well as vast differences between rich and poor that make it easy to understand why Escobar was a hero in Medellin and throughout impoverished parts of Colombia. It also shows why tackling the issue became such a challenge for even the bravest and most honourable of politicians and law enforcement. With almost unlimited resources to bribe, murder and manipulate anyone who got in his way Escobar was bordering on all powerful. There are notable performances from Maurice Compte as the incorruptible Colonel Carillo and Raúl Méndez as César Gaviria, a president backed into a corner.
The US DEA’s involvement through agents Peña (Pedro Pascal) and Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) looks at how far good men will go to achieve their objective. It is a classic theme but always one that is exciting to watch play out. Pascal does a great job with the slick, womanising Peña but it is Holbrook’s delivery of the super arrogant Murphy that really gripped me. Murphy is so sure of his own abilities that he steps into danger with no regard for his wife (Joanna Christie) who he has dragged to Colombia or the daughter they adopt. He won’t even learn Spanish despite being stationed in a wholly Spanish speaking country.
Of course the most powerful performance is that of Wagner Moura, playing Escobar himself. He is such an interesting character. Having grown up with nothing it is impressive how shrewd Escobar is as businessman and how easily he charms his fellow Narcos to join his cartel. He is also absolutely ruthless and will stop and nothing to achieve what he wants. It doesn’t matter how many people have to die. Moura is able to switch between the genial man of the people and the ruthless warlord, aptly demonstrating that underneath Escobar’s lust for power is a desperate desire to be accepted by the high society oligarchs he hates.
While Narcos is an engaging series about an intriguing topic it does suffer from lulls in pace. I started out really excited, then lost interest a bit in the middle before eventually getting drawn in again at the end. Maybe its because a lot of the series is focused on men posturing and warring and scheming. I guess it all depends on how into the gangster genre you are.
I am planning on continuing watching further seasons and trying to resisting Googling Escobar so as not to find out in advance what happens.