Three Netflix series — Narcos, Narcos Mexico and El Chapo– are gritty, raw, and bingeable. Each chronicles the most powerful drug lord and his cartel at the rise of cocaine and marijuana production in Colombia, Mexico, and other parts of the world.
Based on sometimes astonishly real life stories of drug kingpins Pablo Escobar, Angel Felix Gallardo and El Chapo, the viewer witnesses each of these drug dealers’ malevolently brilliant strategic maneuvers to avoid capture and extradition. Corrupt government and law enforcement, including the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration), dance to their deaths in quick step, a carefully calibrated violent seizure of power.
The war on drugs is not simple for the agencies committed to win or for the producers and distributors committed to prosper. With billions of dollars in income, we are treated to observe, from the catbird’s seat, each drug lord continually shifting allegiances and deal-making in order to retain power. Surviving in a cut-throat world of betrayal and loss, the thug subculture tries to maintain fierce loyalty while family members become the collateral damage. An unlikeable character, no matter the circumstances, remains unlikeable, but in each of these Netflix series we see the drug lord’s vulnerability, focused on wives, girl friends, and children, giving humanity to otherwise horrifyingly brutish and cruel behavior.
The three award-winning series seem incredulous until the viewer realizes that the current and ongoing trial and sentencing of El Chapo demonstrates truth is stranger than fiction, and that screenwriters flocked to the courtoom in Queens, to gather more material for the ongoing series, Narcos Mexico, and that the young actor who plays El Chapo was greeted with a wave by the actual El Chapo when he entered the courtroom. At times gripping suspense and violence give way to scenes of Mexican culture and small towns surviving on the margins.
Poppy and cannabis cultivations fit in well in among cucumbers and tomatoes. This is one of the best series of drama and suspense to come from Netflix. A winner without qualifications.