The story of Pablo Escobar, based on the memoirs of an American DEA agent. The show takes us from the early days of Escobar’s drug business (which will have some amusing resonance for Breaking Bad fans) to his eventual emergence as one of the wealthiest men in the world, poised to take over the Colombian government. Why he didn’t succeed is the subject of this story.
Despite its provenance, this isn’t an “Americans to the rescue” story — much of it is told from the Colombian’s viewpoint. We see Colombian policemen, government officials and, yes, politicians, who are determined to bring Escobar down, in an environment when all too many officials, even at the highest levels, were willing to take the substantial bribes Escobar offered and look the other way. When, about 7 episodes in, you see a high-value hostage negotiating for the release of other hostages before she will release a video, you realize just how much courage that took.
The two American DEA agents were instrumental in bringing the attention of the US government to the dangers of Colombia becoming a narco-state — for better or worse, the beginnings of the War on Drugs. But the Colombian government was justifiably cautious about accepting the help America offers — satellite intelligence is acceptable, direct military intervention much less so. Interestingly, one of the most effective forms of American assistance turned out to be extradition — the Columbian drug lords were terrified of the American prison system.
This show follows the current fashion of having the characters acting Colombians actually speaking Spanish instead of in “Frito-bandito” accents. I like this approach, but it’s not for everyone. (In fact, native Spanish speakers have been complaining about the accent of the Brazilian actor playing Escobar).
The series is not overly violent, as shows on this subject go, but there is a mass rape depicted in an early episode that may be disturbing to some younger viewers. Interestingly enough, there is very little drug use, and when you see one of Escobar’s gang actually using cocaine, late in the series, you realize immediately that his future is not bright.
Minor spoiler: There is going to be a second season.
GOT Watch: Pedro Pascal, who played Oberyn Martell in Season 4, appears here as the DEA agent’s Columbia-based partner.
Currently streaming on the Netflix subscription service, but should be available on DVD eventually.