I’ve been watching Narcos on and off since late last year. I’ve managed to get to the middle of the third and final season. The series is notable for canvasing the war on drugs. Focus is on Colombian narco operations, specifically Pablo Escobar and later, the Cali cartel. The former was the subject of the first two seasons; the latter headlined the last season. The show was largely presented in Spanish, and had a slew of talented, bilingual actors, including Wagner Moura as the kingpin, and Pedro Pascal as DEA agent Pena. However, in spite of all this firepower, the show concluded without being nominated for any Primetime Emmy’s. This is a real shame, with other netizens concurring that Moura deserved a trophy for his gritty portrayal of the Medellin maestro.
Rise of Escobar
Narcos chronicles the rise and rise of Mr Escobar and details how he built his empire. At first, he had company at the top. By the end of season 1, he was the don, the sole proprietor. I guess it was a pretty good view at the top: lots of henchmen, an attractive family, money by the tons, servants at his beck and call. Amidst this, he manages to outsmart the DEA while leaving a trail of death and destruction. He always seems one step ahead of the opposition, even though the technology back then was light years behind the present. Moura was very convincing as Pablo and spoke Spanish like a local. His immersion into the role was admirable and he looked and felt like the real deal. If you are hiding money behind his back, he will catch you: whether you’re his compadre or dog walker.
‘Where dreams happen’
There was a popular slogan in the past which could be paraphrased to ‘Pablo Escobar, where dreams happen’. Not only does he donate American dolares to the masses, he is also elected in the House. He would soon realise, however, that he is not welcome there. Their Miami foothold became the backbone of their illicit trade. He openly challenges administrations both at home and abroad. At one point, Escobar was relegated behind bars BUT lived like a monarch. Food and contraband was trucked in daily, and the government had to turn a blind eye. However, Escobar overplayed his hand and soon became a fugitive.
Agents Pena and Murphy likewise feature in the action. They head to Bogota with the intention of bringing Escobar to justice. Their relationships with their families take a backseat as they go after the biggest shark of all. They are faced with constant bureaucracy and corruption, and have seen a few politicians fall asleep along the way. The partners would glean that whole institutions are caught up in this. Agent Pena had to dance with the devil, teaming up with the baddies in a last-ditch effort to nab the maestro. This would set off a Pandora’s box that would linger well into season 3.
Escobar managed to evade the authorities for months, living with his father and milking cows. He tells his dad that he was adjudged one of the richest men on earth. His father made it clear that he couldn’t care less. He only had Ramon left. He sends his last guy to unearth money hidden beneath a tree, money that turned out to be unusable. For a guy who had everything, he had to live like a commoner. Towards the end, he got a dose of his own medicine, losing close ones just as he dished out to others. The toughest part was trying to contact his wife over satellite, knowing full well that the end was nigh. When it was all over, the kingpin’s bad luck followed him from the grave. His family were unable to find safe haven and his wife resorted to pleading Cali kingpin, Gilberto Rodriguez, for help.
Upon Escobar’s demise, the DEA grasped that the situation in Colombia was far from over. Agent Murphy was there to bring down Escobar, but returned to his family in Miami. That leaves Pena and company to deal with the Cali cartel, whose meal ticket was the Big Apple. Escobar’s undertakings paled in comparison to the Cali hombres. The latter, like Escobar, had their own lawyers and accountants, but their money laundering was far more sophisticated. They did not take kindly to people who crossed them and, like Pablo, had eyes and ears.
Mighty as they were, Gilberto was finally apprehended and his temple began to crumble. Instead of going about their business, the entire cartel was in a holding pattern. They ended up weighing their options and huddling rather than retaining the status quo. Pena did his best to make this happen, even going against the wishes of his own bosses. They were not happy with the arrest of Gilberto, and the cartel had their plant – even in the DEA. Pena did his work while always facing a cloud of suspicion. With Murphy gone, his allies ran thin. There were a few surprises in season 3, including an eye candy.
Narcos provided a visceral dissection of the lives of past drug cartels. The programme showcased vivid imagery, captivating dialogue, and full characters. There was even the occasional wit. The proliferation of retro touches is what’s easily overlooked. The show does a fine job of bringing 80s culture to life. I was surprised that the original show didn’t go past the third series. However, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised as the drama had peaked with Escobar. The law of averages would hold that it would only go downhill from there. I side with the others: this show was good enough for a few Emmy’s. Moreover, from an audience perspective, they’ve won quite a few of us. Salud!