‘Narcos’: Where ‘Breaking Bad’ meets real life

Netflix recently released a new original series, “Narcos.” The show is inspired by true events set in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It is a take on the legendary Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and how he spread cocaine drug cartels across the globe, along with Steve Murphy, an American Drug Enforcement Administration agent who is assigned by the United States to capture or kill Escobar. All 10, hour-long episodes were aired on Aug. 28.

Although probably not one of the best original shows Netflix has ever aired, “Narcos” proves to be a very binge-worthy program. It has strong performances, a compelling story and an interesting take on a criminal drama. What is so incredible is that this man, Escobar, was such a complex, unique kind of criminal, and this story was actually real.

This crime drama is based on the real story of Pablo Escobar, also known as “the king of cocaine.” He revolutionized the drug trade by building huge bases to make drugs and ship tons of cocaine all over the world. He controlled the majority of drugs that entered the U.S., Europe and South America and was known as the wealthiest criminal in history, making billions of dollars. He is played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura (“Trash”), who does a fine job of portraying the character. Moura’s performance has shown us the nature of Escobar’s mindset.

He murders, distributes drugs and has committed unforgivable acts, but you also see the softer side of Escobar as a man of the people. Escobar used a good amount of his money to build schools, hospitals and churches and was known for very generous donations to the poor. Even though he was a murderer and a criminal, you feel like there is potential in him to be a good man. That is the hardest part of watching this show. You want him to be the man he appeared to be to the citizens of Columbia, but you know that he is no good. It is fascinating that he is causing so much destruction and death, but has also invested his time in many charitable deeds. Moura must have had a difficult time playing someone so complex, but he pulled it off well.

Another actor who deserves praise is Chilean actor Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”) who plays Javier Pena, a DEA agent and partner of the lead role Steve Murphy. Pena is a sarcastic character who does whatever it takes to bust Escobar and is sometimes even willing to put people in harm’s way to do so.

The minute you see Pascal on screen, you know that he is going to be a character that you want to see more of. Before “Narcos,” he portrayed Prince Oberyn Martell on the wildly popular HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” Despite only being on the show for one season, he almost immediately became one of the most popular characters in the show’s history, with many fans wishing that he was on longer. It is extremely refreshing to see Pascal as one of the leads on “Narcos,” as it is a welcome reminder that he can excel in whatever role he is given.

One odd thing about “Narcos” was the dialogue of the show. Even though it is an American-made program, the characters on the show speak in Spanish more than they speak in English. While some may not consider it strange since the show takes place in Spanish speaking countries – such as Colombia and Venezuela – it’s an American made program; Americans are the target audience. The show could develop some viewership problems there, since some people may not want to read subtitles and just want English dialogue.

What was interesting, though, was that the narration of the show was in English. Lead character Steve Murphy, played by Boyd Holbrook (“Gone Girl”), served as narrator for every episode of the season. Holbrook’s voice would take up at least 15 minutes of every episode. The narration took a long time, but Holbrook did a brilliant job of it. His character would explain what was happening in the episode and who certain characters were so the audience would not get confused. While narration is common in crime programs, his was unique in that it reminded viewers that, despite all the Spanish dialogue, it was still an American show.

Once you watch “Narcos,” you become fascinated with the story and actually want to type ‘Pablo Escobar’ into your phone to see if he really was who the show claims he is. He was indeed that man, and his story on Netflix isn’t over. On Sept. 3, “Narcos” was officially renewed for a second season, so anyone interested should turn on Netflix and watch it. It’s a show that is worth giving a shot.
Rating: 4 out of 5