Netflix brings us Narcos, a brand-new story about the drug war in Mexico. This time, it’s about Mexican drug trafficking and is about weed. The story is about Felix Gallardo, someone who’s looking to unify the traffickers in Mexico, so that he can build an empire and control the supply. Into that comes Kiki Camarena, a DEA agent who becomes a pain the rear for not just Gallardo but the entire Mexican drug cartel. What happens next forms the rest of the series.
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Documentaries about drugs are good. It gives the mobile generation a moment of pause and thought to consider the bigger picture. What they think is just a small infraction is something that poses danger to everyone who doesn’t toe someone else’s line.
The problem with these documentaries is that they don’t make for happy viewing. People die, after a few episodes, binge watching audiences feel the frustrations that the good guys are facing – it doesn’t make for a fun evening watch. At the end of it all, the takeaway is that the world is a bitter, evil place – for audiences that know that already, Narcos: Mexico is a bit of an overkill.
The other problem with such series is the glorification of the enemy. The original Narcos created several eye-rolling incidents where the younger generation talked about how the antagonist once burnt money to provide warmth to his daughter. There was a meme that went something like if Pablo got time to call his wife, any boyfriend should. That was a romanticising of a man who was literally described as an ‘animal’ by authorities who had interacted with him. The older generation pointed out that the guy was shot down in broad daylight. With Pablo Escobar already a cultural phenomenon, the original Narcos just reignited that phenomena.
Doug Miro and Carlos Bernard tell a more positive story, which, at least in essence, has the good guys win. The two antagonists do nothing but kill people who aren’t in line with their thinking. The lowest point in the series come when a drug stoked trio kill a film production crew simply because they were writing something down. Whether it’s an ode to the real killing of a location hunter for Narcos will never be known.
The scale at which Netflix sets up Narcos, the performances are always going to be grand scale. Michael Pena, the most underrated actor in America, gives a ground-breaking performance that’s part funny, part aggressive and makes the audience root for him in one fell swoop. It’s easy to play someone blowing the brains of people with guns. What’s difficult is to portray rejection, frustration and aggression without walking down clicheland. – Michael Pena aces that.
Like the other series, Narcos: Mexico has several supporting characters who offer able support to the story. There are colourful ones like Don Neto, there are sympathetic ones like Kiki’s wife, Mika Camarena and others.
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What’s Wow: Narcos is the gold standard of streaming story telling. They can do no wrong, and at least this time around, they do no wrong.
What’s Blah: One criticism of the entire series is the glorification of the criminals. The defense is that the show should go on and the end point will come when the script demands it. But this review is free of such issues. So, here goes:
Felix Gallardo is serving a forty-year prison sentence for the killing of DEA Agent Kiki Camarella. He’s said to be running the business from inside. But look at the scenic locales Felix is pitched in throughout the series. Even if he was the richest man, he’d still wake up everyday looking at the sun through bars. For forty years. Every day. That’s not exactly rotting in prison, but hey, we can’t have everything. On the other hand, the man he killed, has a school, hospital and a lane named after him. There’s a golf competition running in his name. A golf competition. In his name.
Don Neto, as he is called, was also arrested and is still not a free man. At 86 years of age, there’s little doubt whether he’ll die a free man.
Parting Shot: Narcos is a must watch crime documentary.
Cast: Michael Pena, Diego Luna, Aaron Staton, Alejandro Edda, Alfonso Dosal, Alyssa Diaz, Clark Freeman, Ernesto Alterio, Fermin Martinez
Created by: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro