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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Narcos Mexico: A Riveting Prequel

With Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán on trial in New York, what better time to watch - and review - Narcos Mexico, the fourth installment in Netflix's justly acclaimed Narcos series.  Actually, it's a prequel to the other three Narcos, but it's just as powerful.   It takes place (obviously) in Mexico, but it's the story of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and the massive weed cartel he and his brother Rafael Caro Quintero put together in the 1980s.

El Chapo appears as a low-to-high-level henchman of Rafael's.   And Pablo Escabar and the Kings of Cali put in an appearance in a great episode in which Gallardo goes to Colombia to get make a deal for the coke distribution which is beginning to rival and exceed his weed trade.   Indeed, Gallardo's shift from marijuana to cocaine is one of the turning point in Narcos Mexico, and has some unforeseen and unhappy consequences for Gallardo.

The other central theme is the dedication - some would say obsession - of American DEA Agent  Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena to bring down Gallardo's Guadalajara/Mexican/world drug cartel.   In case you're not familiar with the real history, and/or haven't seen Narcos Mexico, I won't tell you how this all turns out.  But I will say that there are close calls galore, and death expected and unexpected meted out in almost every episode.

There's a narrator - Scoot McNairy - who sounds a lot like like the narrator of the first three seasons but is not.  The acting is excellent - especially Diego Luna as Miguel, Tenoch Huerta as Rafael, and Joaquín Cosio as their uncle 'Don Neto' Fonseca Carrillo. Michael Peña does memorable work as Kiki, as does Alyssa Diaz as his wife. And it was a real treat was seeing Wagner Moura as Escobar and Francisco Denis and Alberto Ammann as the Cali bosses back in the 1980s one more time.

And here's the confession I often make when I watch these series:  I know the drug cartels murdered a lot of people and did a lot of very evil things.  But in the narrative framework of the story on screen, I always feel a little bad when things don't go right for them, and a little bit glad when they do.  For that reason, I wouldn't be totally devastated if El Chapo dug a tunnel and got out his jail in New York, just as he did in Mexico, but that's another story.

See this series.  If you like this kind of stuff, you'll love it.

the Neanderthal cartel

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