The Collective Bloggers love a good binge watch and so we present to you “Netflix and Chill”, a series in which our newest collected contributor,Ardeospina, binge watches a Netflix Original show, let’s us know her thoughts and whether or not we should put in the time. I am excited for this series of reviews, because I’ve been wanting to watch a bunch of these shows and films, but I like to get an opinion first, before committing. Below isArdeospina’s SPOILER FREE review. Enjoy and let us know whether you plan to watch or, if you already have, your thoughts on the show’s bingeworthiness in the comments below.
Narcos Review: “Cocaine Is A Hell Of A Drug”
When my husband suggested Narcos as our next joint TV venture, I rapidly agreed, even though all I knew about the show was that Pedro Pascal was in it, and as any Game of Thrones fan knows, the more Pedro in your life the better. I didn’t know much about Pablo Escobar, the Colombian nobody who revolutionizes the cocaine trade and becomes one of the most important drug lords in history. I didn’t know about what he’d done in Colombia or about the U.S.’s role in trying to bring him to heel or about the sheer scale of his drug operations. I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. Which, as it turns out, is the best possible way to watch this show. Sometimes a baseline knowledge about a show and its surroundings is essential to enjoying that show, but I’d argue that the less you know about the story of Pablo Escobar the more you’ll enjoy seeing the way this stranger-than-fiction tale plays out.
One of the main themes that runs throughout the first season is “magical realism,” which the show presents in its first episode thusly: “magical realism is defined as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. There’s a reason magical realism was born in Colombia.” Understatement, Narcos. Understatement. Because while the show is too realistic and gritty to really capture the surreal feeling of magical realism you get in film and literature, the feeling of “this cannot possibly have happened because this is too weird to be true” will hit you again and again and again until you’re positive that NOTHING stranger can happen. But then it does, and you think, “surely THIS is the craziest thing.” But no, it’s not, and the cycle repeats itself over and over, and you just have to keep watching to see what absolutely ludicrous event happens next, and suddenly the season is over and you need more. You need it like, dare I say, a drug.
It would be easy in that sort of fantastical plot environment for the show to overdo it, but what I think is the show’s crowning achievement is how well it balances the very real human aspect of Pablo Escobar’s story with the wholly fantastical events these humans are involved in. Pablo himself, played with great aplomb by Wagner Moura, is surprisingly sympathetic, and you have to remind yourself that he’s a horrible person doing horrible things. The vast majority of characters on the show are extremely well-rounded and fleshed out, and no one feels like a cliché or a caricature of their real-life counterpart. The acting across the board is fantastic, and I always appreciate when shows have their characters speak their native language. Much of this show is in Spanish with English subtitles, so have your reading glasses handy. If you’re a native Spanish speaker, you’ll probably be able to tell that the cast is largely not Colombian and that there are a number of different accents in play. If, like me, you’re not a native Spanish speaker, you’ll be blissfully ignorant!
As much as Narcos is about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar himself, it’s also about the people trying to bring about said fall, both in the United States and in Colombia. Escobar’s actions have major political ramifications in both countries, and it’s fascinating to see how shifting political atmospheres during the season’s decade-and-a-half timeline impact the hunt to stop Escobar. One of the quibbles I have with the show is that it’s told from the perspective of a white DEA agent, Steve Murphy, and sometimes veers dangerously close to “white savior” trope land. Since Murphy really existed and did play an important part in the Escobar saga, along with some interesting character development, that mostly redeems the show’s choice to have him hold narrative perspective.
Now to address the most important question about any Netflix show: to binge or not to binge?
You won’t want to stop watching this show. Is it the best TV show ever about the drug trade? No, that’s The Wire. Is it the best “WTF is going to happen next, are you kidding me, that cannot possibly be true” show about the drug trade? It sure is. It’s even better to watch it with someone else so you can trade looks a la The Office and marvel at Pablo Escobar’s horrible sartorial choices because money buys a lot of things, but if you’re a certain Colombian drug lord, it sure doesn’t buy a sense of style. Season 2 of Narcos is slated for release sometime in 2016.
Ardeospina is a stay-at-home mom with two young children, a new house, and a knitting obsession. She loves binge watching TV shows and collecting yarn and IKEA storage furniture. You can find her on Twitter @Ardeospina, and if she’s not there, you can leave a message at the beep.