Perhaps that’s the culprit of Moura’s somewhat leaden performance, as well. He lacks any dramatic presence on screen and has a default “evil” face that becomes laughable once he has to start putting it to use against various cops and cronies to get them to do his bidding. Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) pops up only momentarily in the first few hours, but otherwise the cast as a whole feels largely disconnected and forgettable, creating the air of a second-rate telenovela in some scenes that clashes haplessly with the story’s true-crime roots.
Thankfully, the sections that are pure history lesson are admittedly entertaining to consume, with all the glitz and high production values expected of Netflix at this point. The entire pilot documents a ten-year span in which we see Escobar’s first successful cocaine smuggling into the United States, all the way up to his mini Colombian palace in which he oversees his entire empire. Full of tense border crosses, prickly conversations and brutal backstabbing, the show’s muddled timeline and somewhat pedestrian characters again soften its overall impact.
But, in the end, Narcos‘ biggest draw – those small, curious narration sequences of Escobar’s rise – ultimately highlight its biggest weakness: as an hour-long drama, it’s just not up to snuff. It’s full of random facts and data and timely footage about the escalating drug trade in the United States (3,245 drug-related murders were committed in Miami between 1979 and 1984, pull that one out at your next party), but its lack of both a beating heart and endearing characters makes the entire show come off as the one thing a property based on a true story should avoid: it isn’t believable.
Exceptionally directed but with no dramatic situations or characters to latch onto, Narcos' fact-vomiting narration gives Netflix's new series the feel of an unusually well-made documentary and not much else.