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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 29, 2016

Narcos TV Review: One Of The Most Satisfying TV Series We've Ever Seen

WE’RE GETTING tired of watching both local and foreign films as, more often than not, they are just a waste of time. The most satisfying entertainment we get now is from Hollywood TV series, like the legal dramas “Suits” and “The Good Wife”. We didn’t go anywhere during Holy Week. We got hooked watching the Netflix crime drama series, “Narcos”, based on the true to life story of notorious Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, the richest criminal in history with a net worth of more than $30 billion, profits he got from producing and trafficking cocaine. One thing good with Netflix is they post the entire series right away, so you don’t have to wait for the next episode. This is also what they did with another Netflix fave of ours, “House of Cards”.

“Narcos” is brilliantly written and every episode is so engrossing in its scope and sweep as it delves on the political and economic context of Escobar’s country and how it was influenced by its interaction with the U.S.A. At one point, Escobar was earning $60 million a day from his U.S. customers. “Narcos” skillfully combines docu filmmaking, actual and archival news footage, action filmmaking and even soap opera with daring sex scenes.

The story is mainly seen from the eyes of Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent assigned in Columbia in the late 1970s to work with his partner, Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal, Prince Oberyn in “Game of Thrones”). He is the official narrator who explains what’s going on, but there are sequences where the narrative is told from an omniscient point of view to actually show the evil that Escobar (Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) is doing along with his cohorts.

The DEA agents get to work with Pres. Nixon and Reagan and they’re often opposed by the CIA who thinks the war on communism is more important than drugs. But soon, Escobar is conniving with the leftists, like Panamanian dictator Noriega who’s one of his biggest drug distributors. What’s ironic is that the U.S. spends billions of dollars fighting drug lords but the truth is that Americans are the biggest user/consumer of cocaine, with 660 tons of cocaine consumed by American drug addicts in one year.

The story shows Escobar’s rise from being a smuggler of TV sets and other appliances to being the leader of the infamous Medellin cartel that exports drugs mainly to Miami where the rich and the famous gobbled it up, turning Miami into a huge bloodbath due to drug-related crimes. In five years, 3,245 killings were reported and they ran out of morgues to put the corpses in. Escobar commits unspeakable ruthless acts without blinking and makes Tony of “The Sopranos” look like a saint.

Escobar learned the drug trade from a Chilean chemist (who he later killed) and he then built his own drug labs in the Colombian rain forest, bribing cops and politicians along the way. The Colombian experience was an eye-opener for Agent Murphy, who narrates: “When I started, a kilo-of-grass bust was a cause for celebration. Before long, we were seizing 60 kilos a day. They let us have 60 so they could bring in 600.”

As an absorbing portrait of the tide of corruption that swept South America and the U.S., Escobar, at one point, is earning so much money he cannot launder it so he had to bury them inside drums in the rain forest. Escobar also aspired to be the president of Columbia and became a Robin Hood for the poor, freely giving money to the impoverished citizens of his country. He also connives with members of a communist rebel group called M-19 who he uses to destroy evidence against him in the Palace of Justice, then he later kills them all. He assassinates a presidential candidate who’s not sympathetic to him, then blows up an airplane to kill another candidate (who manages to escape), where all the other passengers perished.

When he finally surrenders to the government, it’s in his own terms. He is imprisoned in a jail he himself built in the mountains, called La Catedral, where he lives a life of luxury complete with transported whores for his henchmen. It becomes his own kingdom where he continues to operate his drug business. The show’s season ender sees him escaping from La Catedral in 1992 after he killed mercilessly two of his own allies. Well acted by a largely Hispanic cast, well produced and directed, this is certainly one of the most satisfying TV dramas we’ve ever seen.