Reviews

For Children Of All Ages

{First Published In The Hindu Metroplus}

If you’ve followed, or are a fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s work as a film director, you’d be well aware of his bent for the fantastic and the impossible. He is the man who brought Hellboy to life, and gave us the monster fest that was Pacific Rim. Naturally, news of his collaboration with Dreamworks Animation and Netflix to produce an animated series was one that caused quite a stir. The result of this collaboration, Trollhunters, premiered on Netflix this Friday.

Trollhunters takes on the story of a 15-year-old boy, Jim (Anton Yelchin, who unfortunately, passed away this year), who is chosen by a magical amulet to become the Trollhunter – a hero who must protect both good trolls and mankind from evil trolls. Jim is helped in his mission by his best friend Toby (Charlie Saxton), and Blinky (Kelsey Grammer), a good troll who takes it upon himself to train Jim in the ways of the Trollhunter. Jim must now train, and defeat the evil troll Bular (Ron Perlman) who will stop at nothing to destroy the amulet and claim both worlds.

The series has twenty-six episodes in total, and they’re fairly short, with each clocking not more than twenty-five minutes, making them the perfect little work break, or the perfect binge, depending on how you watch Netflix shows.

It must be said though, that there is nothing in Trollhunters that’s particularly groundbreaking by way of story or characters, which is disappointing considering that someone with the caliber and whimsy of Del Toro is directing it. Trollhunters just has all the usual Dreamworks tropes – the underdog who is suddenly thrust with a hero’s responsibility, the sidekick who also provides comic relief, the adolescent love interest, adorable creatures and a fierce villain, who are all put together with the stunning animation that has become Dreamworks’ signature. The troll worlds are beautifully constructed with meticulous attention to detail, and the Man vs. Troll fights are impressively choreographed. The dialogue is fast and has plenty of humour, again, something that’s become standard with anything that Dreamworks produces. Occasionally, there are moments that stand out, like Jim’s interest in cooking and baking, and the way he takes care of his overworked mother, but there is nothing that particularly makes you go whoa, I’ve never seen this before – especially when you’ve watched How To Train Your Dragon, which is very similar in terms of storyline and characters.

That isn’t to say that the show is not fun, though – it’s immensely enjoyable to watch. In a time when television is getting darker and edgier, Trollhunters’ simplicity is actually its selling point. It’s light, visually arresting, clean, and possesses neither the pandering that kids’ shows today are in excess of, nor the risqué jokes that adult animation shows are infamous for. Trollhunters is a show for children, yes, but of all ages.

{Trollhunters is presently streaming on Netflix}

A Brand New Affair

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

When you’re someone who watches as much television as I do, every evening presents you with a question – namely – ‘why am I still watching this?’ I’ve found that the more I watch, the less patience I have for television that doesn’t compel me, or simply doesn’t make me feel good at the end of the episode. The Affair, belongs to the first category. The series traces the life of a struggling, married writer, Noah Solloway (Dominic West), who jumps headfirst into an affair with a waitress, Alison (Ruth Wilson), jeopardizing not only his own life, but also the lives of those around him.

The third season of The Affair premiered last week, jumping three years from where the last season finished. Noah has just completed his term in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit, and is back in the city, trying to put his previous life back together. He’s living with his sister, who’s the only person who believes his innocence, and has a part time job teaching writing at a reputed university. His wife, Helen (Maura Tierney) seems to be hopeful of reviving their relationship, although Alison doesn’t want to hear from him again. His children and his new students aren’t very fond of him either. He does, however, meet a very attractive, very French professor at the university, and in typical Noah Solloway fashion, makes his love life more complicated than it actually is. Noah also seems to be plagued with disturbing dreams and visions of his time in prison (which includes Brendan “The Mummy” Fraser as a scary looking prison guard), so even though the third season has done the time hop, we can be sure that it’ll explore Noah’s stint in prison, and how it changed him.

The reason the obviously unoriginal premise of an affair works as well as it does is because the story is woven through the perspectives of each of the characters, and takes into account their memory biases. As a viewer, you’ve to bring your own objectivity, and you never really know who ‘the good guy’ is, or even who to root for. The first episode of this season is all Noah, but the show’s creators have announced that the story will move through five characters (as opposed to the previous season’s count of four), so this is a season where you’ll be required to pay more attention than ever.

I’m quite old fashioned when it comes to viewing order, but strangely, I’ve found that watching the current episodes, and then going back to the previous ones makes you appreciate The Affair more as a show than you would if you went in order. So, if you’re new to the series, I’d recommend that you begin with the third season which is barely two episodes old, before you start catching up on the previous seasons. Each episode begins with a rather comprehensive recap, so you’re not going to feel like you’ve missed anything massive, either. I must warn you, however, that The Affair is not some kind of commentary on modern marriage. It’s dark, it’s dramatic, and drives home the point that nothing is ever what it seems.

{The Affair is presently telecast on Star World Premiere HD}

A Year In The Life

{First Published In The Hindu Metroplus}

The Gilmore Girls premiered in the year 2000, bringing to life the story of a young single mother, Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her teenaged daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) in the fictional American town of Stars Hollow. Lorelai and Rory’s special and unconventional mother-daughter relationship, along with the witty banter that became the show’s signature, captured the imagination of millions before the series came to a close in the year 2007. The Gilmore Girls’ relatable themes of friendship, romance and family, its cast of memorable characters, and the way the show used dialogue to guide the story line made it an instant classic.

The show’s ending in 2007 though, was not one that was received well by fans, and with good reason. Instead of tying the 6 season old storyline together, the ending only brought on more questions and what-ifs. This botched finale was attributed to the absence of the show’s original creators, Amy Sherman and Daniel Palladino, because of network and channel politics. After years of more what-ifs and rumours of a Gilmore Girls movie, the original creators along with the internet streaming giant and series-factory Netflix are bringing the Gilmores back with ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life’, which has released right on time for this weekend.

I’ll confess here that I’m an unabashed Gilmore Girls fan – I used to catch the occasional re-runs on television, but ever since it surfaced on Netflix, I’ve constantly turned to the show and copious amounts of ice cream to put a good end to bad days. I’m not one to be excited by revivals (remember how Fuller House turned out?), but given that the show’s original creators are the ones behind the revival, I am hopeful.

A Year In The Life, thankfully, isn’t a new series. It’s a feature with four episodes, each about ninety minutes long and named after the four seasons. The show picks the story up in present day to tell us what’s been happening with the Gilmores, nine years later. Richard Gilmore (Edward Herrmann, who died in 2014), the patriarch of the Gilmore clan, has passed, creating fresh strains on the already delicate relationship between Lorelai and her mother, Emily (Kelly Bishop). Rory decides to return to Stars Hollow as well, to take the time to find herself, for her once promising journalism career still has her searching for success. The rest of the town continues to be in its comfortable little bubble, far removed from the happenings of the real world – the Dragonfly Inn still has sarcastic Frenchman Michel (Yanic Truesdale) running its phones, Rory’s exes are still around, and Lorelai’s partner-of-many-years-now, Luke, is still sermonizing his customers.

That isn’t to say, however, that the show isn’t aware of the time period it’s in, and what it is – the pop culture references which the characters have always been throwing around, have been updated to feature Amy Schumer and Game of Thrones, and more importantly, Rory, Lorelai and Emily, are all made to feel their age.

Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life isn’t a revival that requires prior knowledge of seven seasons to enjoy. All you need is a love for free flowing repartee and the acquired taste for small town oddities, like the fact that there’s only one café in the whole town and everyone knows everything about everybody. You might even find yourself going back to the original, and generally losing all track of time. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan though, get the pizza ready – it’s going to be a good weekend.

{Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life is now streaming on Netflix}

Love, Found and Lost

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

Sarah Jessica Parker returns to the stables of HBO with Divorce, which, on first sight, feels like a twisted sequel to her much celebrated Sex And The City. Parker, through six seasons of Sex And The City, did everything she could to find true love (while accumulating an enviable shoe collection) in New York City. Now she returns as Frances Dufresne, a married woman struggling to put her life back on track as goes through, well, divorce.

The show begins with the couple, Frances and Robert (Thomas Haden Church), when they’re still married. It’s immediately made obvious that they’ve been together for a while, but are not really madly in love. They head out to a friend’s birthday party where an abundance of alcohol results in things going sideways, with a dramatic shooting and heart attack. The shock of it all makes Frances realize she doesn’t want to be with Robert anymore, and take her life back while she “still cares about it”. Frances breaks to Robert that she wants a divorce, throwing him, predictably, into shock and anger for he had been of the opinion that they were happy together. While Robert tries to process what had just happened to him, Frances realizes that making a clean start after a middle aged marriage is harder than she thought it would be and runs back to make amends, but it’s too late. There are no spoilers here – the show’s title makes it clear that there is no happy ending.

divorce hbo gif, sarah jessica parker gif, divorce gif

When the show was announced, I’d been of the opinion that it was some kind of unfortunate sequel to Sex And The City, after all, it’s hard to see Sarah Jessica Parker as anyone else other than Carrie Bradshaw. However, I am happy to admit that I was proven wrong by the show. While there are bits of Carrie’s personality that have been infused into Frances, it’s obvious that she is her own person, and not an aging Carrie. The addition of her friends’ lives in the narrative though, unlike in Sex And The City seems forced and unnecessary. Thomas Haden Church is painfully hilarious as Robert, part sincere husband and part incompetent buffoon. He has the demeanor of a soldier who has seen unspeakable things, to the point where even his apparently romantic declarations seem like he’s barking instructions to his men. It’s clear that Frances and Robert couldn’t be more different, and yet there is something about them together which makes sense, and for me, that’s where the show’s success lies.

Divorce explores every married couple’s worst nightmare – what happens when the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, isn’t the really the one you want to spend the rest of your life with? The show gets into the nitty-gritties of the modern marriage, and connects in ways you’ll never expect it to. There are no yelling matches or burst blood vessels or dramatic revelations or tears. Instead there are awkward silences, obvious dysfunction and unflinching honesty – not what you’d want in a marriage, but everything you’d want in a black comedy.

{Divorce is telecast on Star World Premier HD and is also available to stream on Hotstar}

Ugly Reflections

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

Black Mirror isn’t a television series as much as it is an anthology. The episodes are independent stories, so there’s no requirement of watching them in order. They are, however, tied together by the common theme of technology, and the consequences of technology. The first and second season which was written for and broadcast by UK’s Channel 4, released in 2011 and 2013 respectively, with three hour long episodes each. The third season, produced by Netflix, released on the 24th of this month, with six episodes – six different, terrifying stories of how our dependent relationships with technology could alter our lives, and the world.

Each episode takes on a different genre – the first episode, Nosedive, is an excellent satire based on our fixation with social media and is set in a pastel coloured, alternate future (or near future, depending on how you look at it). In this world, every social interaction, whether it’s getting into a cab or buying coffee, involves you being rated out of 5, which in turn shapes your rating as a person. Permanently cheerful and ridiculously good-looking 4.5s get treated with extra care, gain access to privileged spaces, and can claim their world as their oyster. The lesser ranked 3.5s and below – the ones who speak unpleasantly, the ones who don’t care for appearances, are categorized as low lives who for whom facilities are shut off. Nosedive narrates the story of a young woman who gives all she has into climbing up the ratings ladder so that she can move into a plush housing colony.

The second episode, Playtest, tells the story of a somewhat dull American traveler who agrees to test out a virtual reality game for quick money. It’s a fun episode to watch, but is among the weaker episodes in the anthology, with too many predictable, cheesy horror movie tropes and a rather ineffective twist in the end. The similarly themed fifth episode, Men Against Fire, which deals with augmented reality and tells the story of trigger happy soldiers whose brains are implanted with chips that make them see deformed zombies instead of human enemies, isn’t the most impressive either. While the moral lesson is necessary, the episode feels bloated, and doesn’t connect.

The third (Shut Up And Dance) and the sixth (Hated In The Nation) episodes are the standouts of the season. Hated In The Nation combines online bullying with drone technology with a classic whodunit police investigation, resulting the most riveting and well taken 90 minutes of television that you’d have seen in a while. Shut Up And Dance is an especially disturbing story of how a 19 year old, soft-spoken waiter in a café, and a married 40 year old are forced to come together as an unlikely tag team who have to complete terrible tasks when a mysterious hacker gets hold of the secrets of their computers and threatens to leak it to the world. It is poignant, gripping, upsetting and has an ending that lingers long after the episode finishes.

black mirror season 3
I thought the fourth episode was too eh-meh to write about, so here’s a photo.

Black Mirror, as a series can be especially bizarre when you’re watching it for the first time, and this third season hasn’t been consistent with the quality of its episodes. However, if you’re even slightly fascinated by the impact that technology has on our lives, Black Mirror is a series you don’t want to miss.

{The first three seasons of Black Mirror are currently streaming on Netflix}

 

Royal Pains

{First Published In The Hindu Metroplus}

The lives of the British Monarchy have been the subject of endless fascination for generations. One would think they’ve no relevance given the times we live in, but the celebrity treatment of the Royals, which began with Princess Diana, has well and truly exploded today. Forget Prince William and the Duchess, Kate Middleton – even their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, are not spared from the constant public scrutiny of not just their behavior, but even their outfits. You’ve got to hand it to the Royals though, their public appearances are always so put together, so polished, so perfect, but the inner workings of their family are kept tantalizingly private. Occasionally a scandal breaks out, but the finer details are buried deep and stowed away, far, far away from the rest of us. Consequently, there’s a Royal rumour mill that never loses steam, and a slew of ‘inspired’ films and television series that try to offer some perspective on their lives.

the crown on netflix

The latest, and perhaps the most promising endeavor in this regard, is Netflix’s newest drama series, The Crown. What makes this series special, isn’t that it’s Netflix’s most expensive production yet (they seem to be topping their previous record for spending every three months now), or even that it is written by Peter Morgan, who was also the writer behind the 2006 film starring Dame Helen Mirren, The Queen, as well as Frost/Nixon. The Crown is special because, for the first time, the Royals seem to have approved of the show- Peter Morgan had revealed at a Press Conference that they were ‘very, very, aware’ of it, and that it might not be too long before Netflix manages to get the Queen’s opinion of it.

The Crown is a drama that seeks to explore the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and the first season, which comprises ten episodes and releases in a few weeks, begins at the very beginning. The year is 1947, the second World War has just about come to an end, Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) has been re-elected as Prime Minister, and Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy) is getting married to Prince Philip (Matt Smith). In the middle of all this, King George VI (Jared Harris) is ailing – he is frequently coughing blood, which his faithful attenders dismiss as a symptom of “the cold”. It isn’t long before he discovers that it isn’t the cold, but cancer, and realizes that he must do all he can, while he can, to prepare his barely 25 years old daughter for the throne. The Crown explores the impact that the adherence to duty, to royal duty, has over family and relationships, and the immense burden that is placed on a young woman’s shoulders.

Claire Foy plays young Queen Elizabeth, which is interesting because this series would be the second time she’s playing an important English queen on television – she was spectacular as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall, and her performance in The Crown doesn’t seem any different. Matt Smith is also wonderful as Prince Philip, a man who is caught between the boundless love he has for his young wife, and hating the monarch that she must become.

The Crown is the story of a Princess who became Queen, but make no mistake – it isn’t a fairytale.

{The Crown releases on Netflix on November 4th}

These Violent Delights

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

It was the famed novelist, Michael Crichton, who had written and directed ‘Westworld’, the film, back in 1973. The sci-fi thriller was about an amusement park where guests with heavy pockets could indulge themselves in any way they wanted with the highly realistic robotic inhabitants of the park – from gunfights to lovemaking, everything is kosher to those who can afford it. These robots are programmed in such a way that they can never harm the guests, until one day, they begin malfunctioning and predictably, all hell breaks loose. Westworld was a film that was far ahead of its time, and a runaway box office hit as well. The truth is that I’ve not seen the film (although I am very familiar with Crichton’s similarly themed Jurassic Park) which is why HBO’s lavishly produced television reboot of the film was one that interested me as much as it did.

Westworld (the TV series) picks up thirty years from where the movie left off – the park is well established again and the robots are more human than ever, to the point where it’s impossible to distinguish them from the guests. The only tell that they have is their inability to harm live creatures, which means they’ll happily let flies sit on their face, and sometimes, their eyeballs. These robots live programmed lives wherein their fates are already have already been written, unless an interaction with a guest throws their day off previously scheduled events. Even then, once the guests leave, they go back to sleep and wake up with no memory of past events, ready to lead their scripted lives once again.

The entire scientific set up is headed by Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins, who is as hypnotizing as ever), who is in charge of creating and programming these bots. It’s when he installs an update in them, an update that allows the bot to access previous memories and have ‘reveries’, that the bots begin to malfunction, and chaos looms.

The show is unapologetic about its (mostly) ridiculous and over the top premise, and takes itself very seriously, making sure you’re as immersed in their world as they are. The Westworld of 2016 has been created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Ray Nolan, and has JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk sitting as executive producers – all names and talent that need no introduction, least of all in the realm of science fiction television. The casting is also incredible – a veritable coup by itself, for it brings together the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Hemsworth (the oldest of the Hemsworth brothers), Jeffrey Wright and Rodrigo Santoro, among others.

Westworld is only one episode old, making it the perfect new show to watch. To be fair, the premiere left the audience with more questions about the show than answers, but I do believe that it’s by design, for it makes sure that you’re counting down the days to the next episode. The sets are lavish, and it’s evident that every penny of its massive budget is accounted for, but the story is still the hero of the show, which is why a simple shot at the end of the first episode will have you more agape than all the special effects put together. Westworld calls itself a reboot, but think of the term as a technicality, for there is little else that is as original on television right now.

{Westworld is presently telecast on Star World Premiere HD every Tuesday, and is also available on HotStar}

A Night To Remember

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

When Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed), a shy, maths-loving college student in New York is invited to a party that holds the promise of “mad females”, he’s elated. He makes plans with a friend to drive there, but as his luck would have it, his friend cancels at the last minute. Naz is so desperate that he decides to borrow (read steal) his father’s cab to drive to the party. It’s not the greatest drive, with him being unable to figure out how to switch the ‘off duty’ light on, resulting in random people getting into his cab asking to be driven around. To make matters worse, he gets lost. It is when he stops to figure out his way that a beautiful young girl gets into his cab, and Naz decides that he’ll drive her, setting into motion a chain of events that will alter his life forever.

Naz and his mysterious, beautiful passenger (Sofia Black-D’Elia) whose name he doesn’t know end up taking a long drive, having copious amounts of alcohol, and fall into bed. Naz wakes up in the kitchen, and when he goes up to the bedroom to say goodbye, he sees her body, bleeding and brutally stabbed. He makes a run, only to get caught for drunk driving. It isn’t long before the police put two and two together and sweet, soft-spoken, wide-eyed Naz becomes the lone and prime suspect in a gory murder.

the-night-of

Naz now faces a future in jail, and must learn to deal with life in prison, forge bonds with other convicts for his own safety and decide whether or not he should place faith in his lawyers, or in his own memory of events.

The Night Of is a tightly paced mini-series (it only has eight episodes in total) which covers a variety of themes including Islamophobia and racial prejudice in the backdrop of the American Justice system. Riz Ahmed is mesmerizing in his portrayal of Naz, a student whose life has shut down because of a mistake which he can’t even recall in full. John Turturro is also excellent as John Stone, an eczema ridden, street smart lawyer who defends petty criminals. Stone is the first lawyer who comes to Naz’s defence in jail, and decides to fight for his innocence. Bill Camp, who plays Seargent Box, a ‘subtle beast’ of a detective who isn’t convinced about the case despite all the evidence in the bag, is a treat to watch as well. Naz’s parents are played by Poorna Jagannathan and Peyman Moaadi, and they are both very convincing as hardworking, middle class immigrants grappling with the shock of their son’s arrest, the attention from the press and most importantly, the fact that they don’t know their son as well as they thought they did.

The Night Of is intense, dark, and gripping, which isn’t a surprise considering the fact that it has been directed by Steven Zaillian, who has Schindler’s List to his credit. The series has been reportedly inspired by the BBC thriller series Criminal Justice which aired sometime around 2008, but I also found that it had striking similarities with a viral podcast called Serial, that came out a few years ago. Serial unraveled a real murder of a young girl that had happened in Baltimore in the late ‘90s, where the accused was also a Muslim student, Adnan Syed. Like Serial, the audience isn’t given the whole picture, and the evidence is unfolded through the course of the series as it reaches crescendo in the finale.

Although The Night Of is a short series with only eight episodes, the impact of the show is one that will stay seared in your memory for a long time to come.

{The Night Of is presently streaming on HotStar}

Hits and Myths-es

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

About a year ago, I had ranted in this very space about the lack of creativity when it came to mythology and epic based serials on mainstream regional television. It was around that time that Star’s production of Mahabharata, with its opulent sets and six pack flaunting Pandavas had had audiences glued to the television sets again, after all, the lure of a good story, no matter how many it has been retold, is undeniable. The show finally came to an end last year (after a Kurukshetra battle sequence that probably lasted longer than the original battle as described in the epic), but I suppose the over-the-roof ratings and popularity of the show made it clear to the producers that the mythology genre is one that would never get old in our country, thus giving birth to Seedhayin Raman (Siya Ke Raam in Hindi, Janaki Ramudu in Telugu and Seethayanam in Malayalam).

seethayin

Seedhayin Raman seeks to narrate the story of the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective. I know of many books that have given a new lease of life to epics by narrating the story from the view point of a character who is usually sidelined in conventional retellings. Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee’s excellent novel, The Palace of Illusions, for example, is the story of The Mahabharata as narrated by Draupadi. Randamoozham (Bhima is the title of its English translation) by MT Vasudevan Nair is another classic novel that brings to life The Mahabharata through the eyes of Bhima. Naturally, the idea that a television show, and a prime time television show at that, would be attempting to a showcase a different idea of a beloved epic was something that I found intriguing, and that was enough for me to sit with the show and see what the fuss was about.

Visually, the show is stunning. The sets are lavish, the makeup and costumes are beautiful, and the actors are very good-looking. The writers, though, have taken creative liberties with the story. Ram and Sita, according to Valmiki’s version of the Ramayana, are said to have met for the first time at her Swayamvaram (the ancient Indian practice where the princess chooses her husband among an assembly of potential suitors), but in the serial, they have a run-in much before. There are other changes in the story as well, but they’re minor, and it’s obvious that they’ve been made for the sole purpose of creating more dramatic television.

The Ramayana is very different from the Mahabharata – the former doesn’t possess the multitudes of characters or complexities that the latter does, but it does have its own intricacies. Seedhayin Raman’s treatment of those intricacies, however, are not well done. The story of the Vaanara brothers, Sugriva and Vaali, for instance, is one of the few grey areas in an epic that is mostly black and white. Although Rama sides with Sugriva, both the monkey kings had virtues as well as flaws, but Seedhayin Raman insists on showing Sugriva to be an incorruptible, virtuous king, and Vaali as a power-hungry villain who deserves to die. Seedhayin Raman might be creative in its setting and clever in its style, but without the nuance – without the grey, there’s no colour in its story.

My wait for an original, bold, televised take on Indian mythology continues.

{Seedhayin Raman is currently telecast on Star Vijay, and is also available on HotStar}

Diet Coke

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

There was a point in time while watching Narcos, when I had to pause and look up the events that were being played out on screen, just to see if they had actually happened for it all seemed so incredulous and unbelievable. Did Colombia really go through such a prolonged period of drug related violence? And did all the devastation really root from one man’s crazed ambition?

Narcos resurrects the life and times of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord whose business and political aspirations led to government unrest, assassinations, and overwhelming violence across the country, which lasted for most than a decade. Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) is a smuggler from Colombia, who knows his way around the local officials who are impediments to his business. Each time he’s confronted, he gives them a choice – Plata (silver) or Plomo (lead, referring to the bullets in his gun), and the fear he invokes, coupled with the economic situation in Colombia, ensures that the officials’ choice is almost always Plata. It isn’t long before he controls certain transport routes in the country. Around the same time, Mateo “Cockroach” Moreno (Luis Gnecco), a chemist whose specialty is the manufacture of cocaine, comes into his acquaintance.

Cockroach wants Pablo’s help to sell coke in Colombia, but Pablo, the visionary, decides to take the business to the United States. The initial smuggling of coke which happens through blazers with hidden pockets, expands into one that requires shipments delivered through private planes, and before he knows what’s happening, Pablo finds himself with so much money that he has to bury it in fields, and even starts distributing it to the poor. Pablo also takes the initiative to form the Medellin cartel, consisting two other important players in the drug business – the Ochoa family, and Gonzalo “The Mexican” Gacha (Luis Guzman), for it is important to keep one’s friends close, but even more important to keep your enemies closer.

Pablo’s ascent has him believing that he can do anything, he can be anything, including the President of Colombia. His cousin and closest friend, Gustavo (Juan Pablo Raba) warns him that his political dreams are bad for the business, but Pablo is beyond reason. He positions himself as a philanthropist with a dream for Colombia, but his history catches up with him, and he’s shamed out of parliament for being a drug dealer. The humiliation is too much for Pablo, and he unleashes a brutal war on the streets, bringing Colombia to its knees, and giving the government no choice but to support extradition of convicted drug lords to the United States, and empowering the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Colombia.

Although history will serve as a spoiler to how Pablo’s life eventually turned out, the show’s execution is flawless. It’s thrilling, it’s got a great deal of black humour, and it’s impossible to stop with watching only one episode. The screenplay explores the lives of both the drug lords, as well as the men and women on the other side. Wagner Moura’s portrayal of both Pablo, the ruthless drug lord, as well as Pablo, the gentle family man, is impeccable. Although the narration isn’t one-sided, the show has a narrator in the DEA Agent, Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), who has been brought into Colombia to help the American government tackle the drug menace. Steve Murphy, and his partner, Javier Pena (the extraordinarily handsome Pedro Pascal), along with the Colombian General, Horacio Carillo (Maurice Compte) are crucial players in the fall of Pablo Escobar. It’s interesting to know that the real Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, who’ve long retired from their Narco hunting days, were hired as consultants to show to ensure that the series is true to the real chronology of events. Season one of Narcos explores the first decade of Pablo Escobar’s reign, and the newly released, and just as brilliant second season, takes on the three years that Pablo spends in hiding. The show is as addictive, and possibly as pleasurable as the drug that forms the core of its story. You’ve been warned.

{Seasons one and two of Narcos are currently streaming on Netflix}