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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Narcos, Season 3

Just finished the third season of Narcos on Netflix this week, which was about the rise and fall of the Cali cartel. I was trying to figure out exactly why I enjoyed it so much; I think it was that it was so grittily realistic.

The staggering amounts of wealth that the various heads of the cartel accumulated gave the show a slight air of unreality, but the fact is that the cartel did control immense amounts of money. (A realistic drama about a small time marijuana dealer would, admittedly, hold less appeal.)

Beyond that, the women acted like women; there were no Angelina Jolies beating up men twice their size. The hotheads acted like hotheads, and the politicians acted like politicians.

Not everybody on the police force was good -- corruption in Colombia at that time was extremely pervasive. And not everybody on the side of the cartel was a sociopath; some people just get drawn into that life though circumstance.

And the education was enjoyable. Most of us are familiar with Pablo Escobar, and the fabulous wealth and power he amassed. But most of us also couldn't name a single member of the Cali cartel. And almost every major character in Narcos was based on a real person. (They would occasionally intersperse actual film clips of the real people into the dramatization.)

The actors actually looked like the the people they were supposed to represent, and not glamorized Hollywood versions of those people.

Even the two characters we're supposed to identify with most closely, the American DEA agent and a cartel security man who wants to leave the cartel, are pretty ordinary-looking guys.

Narcos also showed the government, even at the highest levels, to be corrupt -- just as it was.

And it showed how US politics were played: decisions by the US weren't based on who was corrupt and who wasn't, but rather by who was on our side. That added to the gritty realism as well.

The third season stands on its own, though you'd be better off with the background of the first two seasons, which focused on Pablo Escobar.


gambino dellacroce said...

I first remember reading a 1991 time magazine article about them. In contrast to the Medellin, it portrayed them almost as the Ivy Leaguers of the cartels - low key, discrete and sophisticated, preferring networking, legal and political power as instruments rather than violence first. Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela portrayed himself as a run of the mill businessman. Their counter intelligence operations were meant to be very sophisticated.

Steven said...

are there spoilers in this?

John Craig said...

Gambino Dellacroce --
Yes, that point was made a couple times in this season, the Cali guys far preferred bribery to intimidation and violence, though they didn't shy away from the latter, either. Escobar's motto was "Plata o plomo," which translates as "silver or lead," which was the choice he offered people.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I just took another look; I don't think so. (I think I was *mostly* talking in generalities.) Plus, it's actually sort of hard to have spoilers about a show which is about nonfictional characters. Even if I talked about Escobar getting killed at the end of Season Two, I don't think that would have been a spoiler since everyone knows that's what happened to the guy anyway.

Steven said...

I enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 a lot and having an Escobar spoiler would be a bit like having a Titanic spoiler but I'm in a state of total ignorance when it comes to the Cali cartel. I guess I'll read the post anyways...thanks.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Ah, I see, you hadn't read the post yet; there's nothing I'd consider a spoiler in it.

I'm surprised, by the way, that they were able to keep up the quality of the series in Season 3, my initial reaction to finding out there was going to be a third season was, ah, they're just tacking on another season because the first two were such a hit. But, I enjoyed this one just as much.

Steven said...

Good to hear. I thought the same.

You aware of Patron Del Mal? My dad loved it.

John Craig said...

Steven --
No, I hadn't heard of it, but I see it's on Netflix and I just added it to my watchlist.