As Series 2 hits Netflix, the first series about Escobar arrives on DVD.
Plata o plomo – silver or lead. That was the stark choice Pablo Escobar gave those who stood in his way as he rose to become one of the wealthiest criminals in history. The makers of this drama about the notorious Colombian drug lord can’t use bribes or bullets to keep the viewer hooked. With a story as addictive as this one, though, they really don’t need them.
Visceral in detail, novelistic in structure and accompanied throughout by a Goodfellas- style voiceover, Narcos juxtaposes the inexorable ascent of the “king of cocaine” with the dogged attempts of two DEA agents to cut him down to size. But it also tells of the other members of Escobar’s Medellin cartel, a mean alliance of hombres who, when not seeking to execute and undermine each other, were responsible at one point for 80 per cent of the yayo smuggled into the US.
With Pablo having a similar percentage of his country’s lawmen, judges and politicians in his pocket, the DEA agents, Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and his partner Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal), have their work cut out for them. Yet they have an unlikely ally in Escobar himself (Wagner Moura) – a man whose craving for respectability and influence all too often sees him working against his own self-interests. Artfully blending new and archive footage, Narcos skilfully recreates some of Escobar’s most outrageous exploits – the storming of Colombia’s Supreme Court in 1985, for example, or the downing of a commercial airplane in 1989 that left 107 dead (but not the presidential hopeful it was meant to kill). It also has him terrorising his homeland with a campaign of kidnappings and assassinations, crimes that didn’t stop him negotiating a truce that saw him “imprisoned” in a palatial gaol that he himself designed.
Through it all, however, Moura remains strangely, scarily likeable, his goofy smile and Santa paunch suggesting a cheery affability that’s continually undercut by his character’s dead-eyed ruthlessness. Like Scarface before him, Escobar is a bad guy we can’t help being drawn to – a dangerous attraction that ensures we’re with him right to the end of this debut 10-episode run.
Right from the start, you just know this is not going to end well.
Mustache wars had broken out.
The violence is pretty relentless.