Netflix UK TV review: Narcos (Episodes 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10)
Chris Bryant | On 22, Sep 2015
The second half of Netflix’s new series continues charting Pablo Escobar’s war against domestic and foreign law enforcement, numerous anti-trafficking agencies, rival gangs and public perception. Narcos has a flair for stylised analysis, providing insight into motives, PR and the world stage, as well as delivering the uncompromising facts of Escobar’s business practices.
With the bloodshed still in full flow, the Columbian kingpin proves willing to use every tactic at his disposal to avoid extradition – by this point, he’s as safe in his home country as he is in his actual home. His opposition face the same struggle, learning more about the cartel’s methods, as they edge closer to catching them. What makes Narcos truly one of the most powerful shows around is the level of tension produced purely from telling the story: for every explosion, there is a calculated political move; for every bullet, there’s a razor-edged threat of betrayal. Narcos’ minimal soundtrack, gritty performances and romanticised realism prove more than worthy of creating a nail-biting final movement in which both sides are at their most powerful, but also their most desperate.
Narcos’ war is an ever-changing environment. The plot tackles boardrooms, war-rooms and sitting rooms with equal vigour, but the performances never waver. Boyd Holbrook’s Agent Murphy is shown to work diligently, passionately and calmly – his mental state is revealed during a short scene involving a fender-bender and his family. Wagner Moura’s Escobar is equally challenged; paranoid, volatile and ever-deadly, the comparisons between the two would fill pages.
Across its 10 episodes, the first season remains edgy, innovative and, above all, expertly executed. Supremely fascinating and a total roller coaster, Narcos is intelligent, gripping and so, so cool. Its treatment of a real-life drug lord is second to none, his existence a passing bonus compared to the wonder that the writers and Moura create. It’s difficult to imagine that the actor’s mantelpiece is large enough for next year’s awards season.
Narcos Season 1 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.
Spoilers and further consideration
– Ending on a scrappy, threat-filled cliffhanger, as Escobar flees his compound/prison into the woods and Murphy’s promise to kill him echoes over the credits, it’s unclear as to how much more of Pablo’s story there can be – could one man really cause more destruction than this? The final episode, almost devoid of Murphy himself, is brimming with twists and turns, cleverly upping the tension with fast-paced scene changes.
– “Sometimes you need more than the truth, when the truth is too much to believe,” says Escobar, when his brand of unwavering ultra-violence gets him what he wants, and Narcos is exactly that. With an ending as brave and elusive as this, woe betide anyone who doubts that this team can’t produce such a phenomenon of a season all over again.