From Breaking Bad to Orange is the New Black, drugs seem to be taking Netflix by storm. As a Breaking Bad fan, I was excited about Narcos, and boasting a 9.1/10 IMBD rating, I was expecting big things.
The series is based around the prolific Medellín drug cartel that operated in Columbia during the 1970s and 80s. At its height, the cartel were smuggling almost 80 per cent of the world’s cocaine, and Pablo Escobar, the drug lord, had an estimated wealth of $30 billion.
The beginning of the episode is set in 1973, a time when marijuana was a huge concern in the United States. Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), a drug enforcement officer, goes from chasing “hippies in flip flops” with minor offences, to fighting hardened Columbian drug-lords. Escobar (Wagner Moura) soon becomes Murphy’s main focus as he relocates to Columbia to track the cartel down.
Just as expected, Escobar is ruthless, cunning, and extremely powerful. We are shown the resourceful ways that he managed to smuggle vast amounts of cocaine into the US; whether it was in the stomachs of pregnant women or taken on planes by US pilots. Nevertheless, unlike some dramas that I’ve watched, Escobar is portrayed as the brutal, violent, and cruel person that he was – not a glorified ‘genius’ of a drug smuggler.
The drama is enhanced by real life footage from the height of the drug war in the US, sometimes making it feel more like a documentary than a Netflix original drama. Clips from the Reagan era highlight the government’s reluctance to do anything about the cocaine problem plaguing the country, despite there being over 3,000 drug related murders in Miami in just five years.
There is a good amount of mystery and drama that leaves you questioning what is real and what is just fiction. It is an engaging, dramatic and compelling first episode. It left me in suspense and made me eager to binge-watch the rest of the series. Goodbye social life.