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Narcos Is Not Your Average Colombian Drama

Narcos has quickly become one of the most successful shows to hit television this decade, boasting an outstanding cast, high production values and Oscar-winning…


Narcos has quickly become one of the most successful shows to hit television this decade, boasting an outstanding cast, high production values and Oscar-winning filmmakers behind it. Though not the first show set within drug trafficking and DEA agents attempting to prevent it, Narcos takes a unique approach with regards to both characters and storyline.

Narcos offers more than a superficial view of Colombia; instead it dives deep into its complex history. It recognizes how its anarchic conditions and rising inequality presented ideal conditions for someone like Escobar to come into power and pledge redistribution of wealth to those on the margins.

Narcos recognizes that Colombians themselves have their own distinctive perspective of reality, which Narcos illuminates through the show. Narcos shows us how many languages and cultures influence each other in unexpected ways. The opening episode sets the scene by introducing one of Cali cartel’s key figures Helmer “Pacho” Herrera played by Argentine actor Alberto Ammann with menacing gusto. Pacho rides into a backroad bar/nightclub on his motorcycle while meeting other members from Cali cartel godfathers from three Cali godfathers’ groups with mixed admiration/incredulity.

Colombians and others familiar with life in Colombia will recognize these reactions, the result of years of violent conflict and political upheaval that left Colombians feeling powerless and vulnerable, creating conditions which made them susceptible to recruitment by criminal gangs promising peace.

At first, Narcos appears to be a straightforward tale of good vs. evil; however, as it progresses and expands upon this binary structure. Narcos explores how drug trafficking is more than simply good or evil actors and addresses how American interference in foreign policy — through political influence or military intervention — often results in complicated situations that become even more perplexing and perilous.

But Narcos truly flourishes during its second season. Narcos begins revealing truths about those involved with running the drug trade; character after character reveals themselves as corrupt and untrustworthy. Descenso is the first episode in this new documentary series and opens with a narration describing how cocaine production began in Columbia before moving to Miami where its cultivation transformed from marijuana-using hippies into hard drug addicts. Narcos introduces viewers to Steve Murphy, played with precision by Holbrook. His narration helps viewers follow some of the more complex plotlines while including his personal opinions and motivations when trying to take down Pablo Escobar – making this show standout from similar but less accomplished historical reenactments.