NAR­COS S2

The death of Pablo

Empire (Australasia) - - Review -

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2016 / RATED MA15+ / CRE­ATED BY CHRIS BRAN­CATO, CARLO BERNARD, DOUG MIRO / CAST WAG­NER MOURA,

BOYD HOLBROOK, PE­DRO PAS­CAL, JOANNA CHRISTIE, JUAN PABLO RABA, DIEGO CATAÑO, PAULINA GAITÁN

THE EVENTS OF Pablo Es­co­bar’s life are well doc­u­mented. Net­flix hasn’t tried to hide them, ei­ther — splash­ing the events at the de­noue­ment of this se­ries all over its ad­ver­tis­ing. But if you con­sider his­tor­i­cal events — and fre­quently drama­tised his­tor­i­cal events at that — to be spoil­ers, now is the time to stop read­ing.

Pablo Es­co­bar dies at the end of Nar­cos’ sec­ond sea­son. This is set in stone, sim­ply be­cause if the first 10 episodes took us from his not-so-hum­ble be­gin­nings as a smug­gler-turned-co­caine tracker in the late ’70s to his es­cape from the out­ra­geous lux­ury of La Cat­e­dral prison in 1992, then that leaves just 15 months to play with un­til his death. It’s never been 100 per cent con­firmed ex­actly who fired the bul­let that killed him — some of those clos­est to him in­sist that it was sui­cide — so there is at least that to keep us in sus­pense. But it does lend an air of fi­nal­ity to every­thing that hap­pens this time around.

Net­flix and the show’s cre­ators have al­ready forged ahead with a third sea­son of the show due this year — cit­ing a Damian Lewis-less Home­land as an ex­am­ple of how this could be vi­able. And for sure, the world’s ap­petite for Colom­bia’s most lu­cra­tive ex­port did not cease in the mid-’90s.

But even if you over­look the fact that the nar­cos who took over con­trol of the drug trade were far less in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters — in­her­it­ing only the ruth­less­ness and none of the phil­an­thropic pos­tur­ing or in­ge­nu­ity in ma­nip­u­lat­ing peo­ple — it seems un­likely, on the ev­i­dence of the lat­est episodes, that Nar­cos the show would be as com­pelling with­out Wag­ner Moura as

Pablo Es­co­bar.

Right from the sec­ond sea­son’s open­ing mo­ments when, deep in the jun­gle, he wanders slowly up to and then through a heav­ily armed con­tin­gent of the Colom­bian na­tional army who’ve been or­dered to take him in — “I can­not al­low that to hap­pen. Ex­cuse me,” they are sim­ply told — he owns ev­ery scene he is in. Time and again, saun­ter­ing out of hiding and silently into shot, ev­ery look, whether to a close as­so­ciate or arch en­emy, he ex­hibits an un­der­stated air of me­nace. Moura’s po­tency as Es­co­bar has ob­vi­ously been recog­nised by the show’s cre­ators as their main strength: he now gets sub­stan­tially more screen time than DEA agents Steve Mur­phy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Peña (Pe­dro Pas­cal), both of whom are re­duced to what are essen­tially sup­port­ing roles, re­plete with trou­bled per­sonal lives and other cop show clichés. Via a voiceover that in­creas­ingly feels su­per­flu­ous, the for­mer — it comes as no sur­prise what­so­ever to learn — con­fides he is se­cretly pleased his tar­get has eluded cap­ture, and that, “The fox is out of the cage,” for him to chase af­ter once more.

The re-in­tro­duc­tion, three episodes in, of Colonel Ho­ra­tio Car­rillo (Mau­rice Compte) and his un­hinged, ul­tra-vi­o­lent meth­ods of fight­ing back against Es­co­bar — ini­tially feels like it might be an ex­cit­ing coun­ter­point to Moura’s per­for­mance, but it is not al­lowed to de­velop. Sim­i­larly, the nar­ra­tive arcs of new char­ac­ters of­ten feel un­der­nour­ished and pre­dictable. Quite soon in, an in­no­cent young woman plays a key role in Es­co­bar’s new method of get­ting around Medel­lín with­out de­tec­tion. She is as­sured by the en­forcer who re­cruited her that she has noth­ing to worry about. What feels like sec­onds later, she is in hiding, fear­ing for her life.

Mean­while, the scenes fea­tur­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures dis­cussing what they are go­ing to do about Es­co­bar, and those fea­tur­ing rival co­caine barons dis­cussing what they are go­ing to do about Es­co­bar, feel end­less. You find your­self just wait­ing for the sub­ject of their dis­cus­sions to re­turn to screen. And when­ever he does, that’s when the show sparks into life. The nag­ging feel­ing is there’s just not enough story here — what could eas­ily have been tied up in two hours is in­stead stretched over an­other 10. With his rise to promi­nence, his at­tempts to break into pol­i­tics and the Palace Of Jus­tice siege al­ready cov­ered, the only truly sig­nif­i­cant event left in Pablo Es­co­bar’s life is his death. And it feels a long time com­ing.

Nar­cos con­tin­ues to be as stylishly made as its first sea­son was, but there are only so many holdalls be­ing hur­riedly stuffed full of cash, brutal mur­ders or hushed phone calls that we re­ally need to see.

NAR­COS SEA­SON 2 IS OUT NOW ON DVD AND BLU-RAY

Above: Pablo Es­co­bar (Wag­ner Moura) plots his next move. Here: Pe­dro Pas­cal as DEA agent Javier Peña.

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