With Netflix constantly churning out binge-worthy series, it is no surprise that their new drama Narcos entices the audience with its thorough look at Pablo Escobar and the drug lord’s horrific career. From humble beginnings to being labeled the “King of Cocaine,” his lasting legacy is notable in popular culture, including the Netflix miniseries Pablo Escobar, el patrón del mal and the film Escobar: Paradise Lost (Josh Hutcherson, Benicio del Toro). Narcos spins the tale of the DEA agents after Escobar, while also depicting the unraveling mindset of this Colombian kingpin.
Like Bloodline, Narcos shows the audience a defining moment that is to come in a later part of the series, yet does not seem to spoil what it takes to get to that point. The audience is also aided in understanding the history and politics of the series with the help of a voiceover by Boyd Holbrook, who plays DEA agent Steve Murphy in the series. His partner, Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal), accompanies Murphy in his journey to catching Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the Medellin Cartel.
Narcos makes it a point to show the different sides of Escobar, sometimes a respected and esteemed community leader, but other times an intimidating criminal that asks, “Plata or plomo?” For those who don’t speak Spanish, or haven’t Googled the phrase already, it is literally translated as “silver or lead” or “money or a bullet.” Escobar often uses this tactic to scare his opposition into submission, citing personal details about one’s family and life. It is also worth noting that this series is spoken mainly in Spanish, so subtitles are kind of a requirement. Still, none of the show’s nuances are lost in translation, and the grounding in this foreign culture give the series a certain authenticity that just can’t be matched by Benicio Del Toro’s English-speaking Escobar in Escobar: Paradise Lost.
What makes Narcos great? As boring as it may sound, the series serves as a history lesson for those unaware of Escobar’s drug empire. Personally, I had never learned of his crimes, but it was all pretty unbelievable. Narcos actually forced me to research the drug lord online, and the series takes major cues from the events that unfolded in Colombia, including the assassination of presidential candidates, families, and competitors. They also use the real pictures and media event coverage to add another layer of authenticity to the series.
However, I was surprised to find that, by the end of the series, the story wasn’t over. For some reason, the team behind Narcos want to milk this for what it’s worth, and leave the story on a sort of “cliffhanger.” It was confirmed that Narcos has been renewed for a second season, which is great to hear.
Of course, as expected, the criminal enterprises of Escobar in Narcos are unapologetic and often depict nudity, violent situations, and pervasive drug use.