Sunday, September 4, 2016

Narcos 2: In League with The Godfather Saga



My wife and streamed Narcos 2 on Neflix the last two evenings, and, what can I say, it was outstanding, a stand-out masterpiece in both true-crime and crime fiction drama, in any medium.  I liked it even better than the first season, and I would now place it in league with The Godfather trilogy and The Sopranos.

Pablo Escobar's crew is portrayed in vivid and memorable detail.  Limon the driver ... La Quica the hitman ... Blackie the masterful bomber ... everywhere you turn in this story you find a subplot as riveting as the overall drama, and acted with style and precision (Limon by Leynar Gomez, La Quica by Diego Cataño, and Blackie by Julián Díaz).

As the pressure mounts on Escobar and the Medellín Cartel, he and we can never be sure who is still loyal.   The story has some shockers, especially if you're not familiar with the real history.   The pressure comes from so many interlocking sources that, as was the case in the first season, you find yourself admiring Escabar's intelligence and survival skills, despite the murders that he ruthlessly dishes out, especially when he's angered.   In addition to (most of) the government of Colombia including its President, and the US DEA, Escobar must fend off increasingly damaging attacks from the rival Cali Cartel and a brutally effective rightwing military group, Los Pepes.   Even worse for Escobar, these groups have an alliance, uneasy but effective enough for the DEA - or at least one agent, Peña - to funnel high-tech surveillance info to Cali and Los Pepes.

Even a fleeting knowledge of history will tell you how Escobar's story ends. What you may not know, though, is the lack of telecom sophistication that sealed his fate, or the joy he took in just buying and eating strawberries and creme like any other citizen of Medellín (assuming that's true, but touchingly shown in the series).  But the bigger questions attendant to his life of crime continue.  Miguel Uribe, husband of Diana Turbay - tragically killed by Colombian National Police in 1991 during a botched rescue attempt after Escobar had kidnapped her (portrayed in Season 1) - told me at dinner in New York City in the late 1980s that the drug cartels wouldn't have grown rich and powerful in his country had there not been such a keen taste for the white powder in ours. And that problem obviously still remains.

And this means there's more than ample Narcos story to tell for a third and subsequent seasons, which I hope are made.  As for the first two, they shouldn't be mistaken for literal history - some of which is left out, such as La Quica's arrest in Queens, NY and his conviction for the bombing of Avianca Flight 203, for which he's still serving time in the U. S. - but that's the difference between documentary and docudrama.  Indeed, even documentaries sometimes leave out material that others deem important to the true story, but what we're left with in Narcos is a fabulous piece of work - not really the "magical realism" with which the narrator Agent Murphy frames the story (clever, given that the late Gabriel García Márquez, one of the pillars of magical realism, also penned News of a Kidnapping, about the cartel's kidnappings, including Diana Turbay) -  but a real epic of our time, or the time that led to our time, brilliantly told and directed, and indelibly acted by Wagner Moura as Escobar and Paulina Gaitan as Tata his wife.  Narcos, like all the great crime drama, takes its place not only with The Sopranos and The Godfather, but Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies - in other words, with stories of greed and yearning for freedom, and right and wrong, and establishment vs. anti-establishment, as old as our very humanity.

See also Narcos on Netflix: Outstanding

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