Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Gone are the days when Netflix had but one series per season; this summer has seen the streaming behemoth debut an electric new sci-fi property and the continuation of arguably its most popular show. Next in line is Narcos, premiering all ten of its episodes on Friday, August 28. The show tells the true-life story of the slow rise to power of Pablo Escobar and his massive cocaine empire that spanned cities and countries, and the handful of DEA agents who made it their life goal to put an end to his operation.
Like the service’s previous hour-long dramas, Narcos is handsomely produced, with unmistakably confident direction from José Padilha (2014’s RoboCop) and a warm color pallet that highlights the trickly sweat-drenched actors and the sticky air of both the Miami and Colombian city streets of the late 70’s/early 80’s. Unfortunately, where Narcos falters is in its priority of historical accuracy over compelling drama, which is a laudatory accomplishment, but nevertheless hinders any personal or dramatic connection to the events unfolding onscreen, no matter how shocking.
Created by Chris Brancato, Eric Newman, and Carlo Bernard, the show’s biggest immediate concern is its heavy use of narration to drive essentially all of its backstory. The American DEA officer Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) who implants himself, and his family, in Columbia to take Escobar head-on narrates the series. Fortunately, he’s a convincing disembodied voice, he just lacks the leading man charm when appearing onscreen, especially in a few perfunctory flashbacks to meeting his wife and the initial blowback of dealing with Escobar’s increased cocaine activity in Miami.
Although he lends the info dumps a nice lilt, the writers use them as too much of a crutch to present Escobar (Wagner Moura) and his lackeys as violent psychopaths. The show’s trio of creators have chosen to present the story in a manic order, shuffling up the dates and timeline of events in which things escalated – jumping from 1989 to 1973 to 1979 and back again in the pilot alone – and largely draining the show’s most violent scenes of any true menace.