Viewers of modern television have a soft spot for the morally grey characters. Be it the ladies in prison on Orange is the New Black, a lawyer taking justice into his own hands in Daredevil, or the morally bankrupt hilarity of the Bluths in Arrested Development, Netflix has been able to consistently deliver audiences exactly what they want from television.
Narcos is a Netflix original series which follows the drug culture associated with Colombian cartels of the 1980’s. The historical fiction follows the very real head of the drug trade Pablo Escobar.
The series takes some license with the details but keeps the feel and larger narrative of the drug lord and the government’s attempt to try and stop him.
The show follows the life of Escobar as he runs the drug trade and keeps himself out of the hands of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The show focuses on Escobar as well as an agent with the DEA named Steve Murphy as he takes down the regime from Colombia.
The show differentiates itself with its dual language technique in delivering the story. Those who are portraying characters from Colombia speak only in Spanish while the American agents unfamiliar with the language speak English.
By doing this, the show separates the Americans working for the U.S. government from the native Colombians who could all be on the take from Escobar or his men. By having the characters speak in their native tongues it gives the audience the appearance that the show is more real and authentic.
Narcos does a good job of taking a look at the circumstances that allowed Colombia to become a global leader in drug production and smuggling during the 1980’s. Characters give backstory to bring the audience in and familiarize them with as many of the intricate details that led to Escobar’s rise and U.S. involvement.
For those who are unfamiliar with the time period or the material itself, Narcos does a great job of easing viewers into its world without overwhelming them.
Most importantly, the show feels real. Whether the people existed exactly how they are portrayed or not doesn’t ultimately make a difference in how enjoyable the show is.
There is a basis for each character in a real person who lived during that time, and because of that it makes the actions and reactions of each character believable. The characters fit the world and seem like they really could have existed exactly how they are portrayed.
Pablo is the bad guy in the show, make no mistake. He is given a pretty fair shake in terms of presentation and it is clear that he has some good intentions.
In one scene he may be giving out money to the poor and then immediately ordering a hit on a member of his gang who is an informant. Pablo is clearly the villain, and the show never really tries to make him an anti-hero despite the fact that he steals the show.
The actor, Wagner Moura, does an incredible job portraying the man and out acts whoever he is put on screen with. His ability to deliver the euphoric excitement of getting what he wants or the crushing sadness after his dream is ripped away from him makes him the standout of the cast.
Narcos is a fictional look at the historical drug trade in Colombia. It may not have been released to much fanfare but it is well worth the time investment.