27th September 2015

TV Binge: Narcos

Narcos is the essential drug lord drama to watch in the post-Breaking Bad TV age

Netflix is the primary way to engage in any TV binge, especially when what you’re watching is a Netflix Original TV Series. Despite having seen a trailer for Narcos go viral on YouTube, I hadn’t come across anyone declaring this show a must-watch. Having now waded halfway through Season One, I still don’t understand why I haven’t found anyone with whom I can share my passion for this incredible show.

Narcos is a take on Pablo Escobar and the efforts of the Colombian authorities and US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents to stop him. A notorious Colombian drug lord, regarded as the wealthiest criminal in history with an estimated known worth of $30 billion, the ‘King of Cocaine’ is often regarded as the reason why life in Colombia was, and is, so bloody.

The series’ violence reflects this brilliantly. Each episode is filled with dramatic, tension-filled stand offs where friends will be talking menially, before pulling guns on each other; DEA agents are continuously raiding cocaine labs; drive-bys are frequent (leaving you nervous every time a conversation takes place in a car); and assassination attempts come out of nowhere, leaving the series with a kill-count that puts Game of Thrones to shame.

The truth behind each of these scenes of violence also makes the series stand out. Archival footage is mixed into the plot to emphasise this and it is refreshing to see an actual photo of Pablo Escobar instead of the man who is portraying him (something that is unfortunately not done in almost any other form of entertainment based on a true story nowadays). This footage, as well as the use of the main DEA agent’s narration, played by Boyd Holbrook, are both extremely well-woven into the series threads, taking time to inform viewers of the specific details, instead of throwing them away.

The characters, too, are well integrated into the series. Drug lord José Rodriguez Gacha, played by Luis Guzmán, and another DEA agent, Javier Peña, played by Pedro Pascal, are both to be lauded. Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar, as well, is fantastic. It is difficult not to like this man, and the show does well to test whether you’re comfortable with this or not.

All of this fits into a different narrative in regards to the drugs scene of the 1970s and 80s. One far away from the cocaine-filled streets of Miami and instead closer to the cocaine labs of Colombia. Here, macho men drug lords reminiscent of Al Pacino’s Scarface, as well as some of the characters from Breaking Bad, rule both the day and the night, and they always speak in their native language, leaving the series littered with extremely satisfying scenes full of Spanish (don’t worry, there are subtitles).

Luckily, viewers are slowly catching on to this fantastic series and the fact that Season Two has already been confirmed for next year assures me that Netflix is committed to producing great content.

All ten episodes of Narcos are available to stream on Netflix. The release date for the show’s second season is yet to be revealed.

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