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Review: Narcos

Copyright Gaumont International Television

The impossibly true story of Pablo Escobar is brought to life once again, this time by Netflix for for their latest original series, Narocs, which has already been renewed for a second season.

Narcos stays true to the Netflix brand of original projects, sporting a high budget feel, while also being well researched and conscious of the television market around it. The success of other projects such as Better Call Saul and Daredevil are predicated on Netflix’s start entrance into making original content. Saul strung on an the huge fandom of Breaking Bad and Daredevil complimented Marvel’s ambitions to expand its growing universe.

Narcos meanwhile arrives the same way that programmes such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black did, cutting straight to the chase in delivering its pitch. It takes a documentary like style of narration under DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) as he wages a war on drugs spanning from Columbia to Miami in the 1970’s.

It sets a fast pace with the pilot, racing through locations, events, characters and dates, but it fails to keep up with what began as an entertaining and informing adventure through a world that’s as apt for television as any other ‘gangster TV show’ we’ve seen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t delve into the human side of the story in a way you’d expect from Netflix, as series like House of Cards explore their characters to such an extent where their particular personas became the focal point of the plot. Escobar makes for a compelling character, but here we only get so much as Murphy is willing to tell us in his narrative, with a little bit extra, that achieves no more than to under-cook what looks in the pilot to be one of the most interesting characters we would see explored on television. In the era of the anti-hero, it’s perhaps a misfire from Netflix to posit their protagonist as merely a narrator of sorts, not really adding much detail to the man we’re supposed to be rooting for. He’s simply too typical a character that it causes the interest of the story to suffer as the series progresses.

Narcos really does have the binge-able quality that all Netflix projects seem to have, always employing their clever method of slicing its single story apart in ways that keep you coming back for more. It’s also genuinely educational,while being entertaining. It may have obscured some of the finer details but it paints a clear enough picture of the scene at the time which is extremely interesting for its own sake.

I enjoyed this series, but it fell a step short as I will not anticipate its second season with as much excitement as other Netflix shows. Like the HBOs and AMCs of this new breed of avant-garde television, Netflix is now also a production company who’s output merits that it be judged on its own standard. Narcos would survive well on any cable network, which is a testament to the quality of this and any Netflix production, but it is a levelling rather than a step up for Netflix as a house of television production.