Narcos

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}

‘Tis The Season

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

I have a giant backlog of shows to be watched, a back log that increases every day, given the number of “must watch” shows that are on television right now. I often find myself prioritising shows that have fewer episodes to catch up on, simply because it’s more convenient. This September, a slew of television shows will resume, bringing upon us new seasons, and more episodes to catch up on. However, there are also a number of new, exciting shows themselves that are coming out, and that’s why I’m planning to stop trying to catch up with existing shows that I’m behind on, and instead, get a head start on the following shows, which could all easily become the next great thing on television.

 

Best Time Ever
Fans of How I Met Your Mother, rejoice! Neil Patrick Harris is back on screens, this time as a host of a brand new variety show titled, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris. The show is inspired by “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway”, which is very popular in the UK, and will be filled with comedy skits, spoof game shows, musical numbers, hidden camera pranks, and even live segments with celebrity appearances. Neil Patrick Harris is well known for his comic timing, but for those who have watched him hosting the Oscars, or even the Emmy Awards, you would also know that he’s also an immensely gifted singer, dancer, and all round performer. There are not enough Variety shows on television, and my fingers are crossed for Best Time Ever to fill that void.

best time ever with neil patrick harris

The Grinder

An actor whose successful TV legal drama has come to an end, comes back to his home town and join his family’s law firm, despite having no license to practice, or even a formal legal education. I’ve only watched the trailer, but I can say with confidence that Rob Lowe is perfect as the over dramatic TV lawyer who takes himself too seriously, as is Fred Savage, who plays his formally educated but charisma lacking lawyer brother. This is a comedy show whose premise has great potential, and given the excellent casting, there’s every chance The Grinder is going to be a big hit.

the grinder, the grinder tv show

Limitless
Limitless is the television spin off of the 2011 Bradley Cooper film with the same name. Limitless stars Jake McDorman, and features the consequences of taking a pill which will enable you to realise the full potential of your brain. The series has some slick editing and action montages, but most importantly, Bradley Cooper reprises his role as Eddie Morra for the television series, and for me, that’s enough reason to look forward to this series.

Limitless, limitless tv show

Narcos
Netflix has been producing some incredible original television recently, with Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards being just the tip of the iceberg. Coming next on the Netflix pipeline is Narcos, a high intensity drama about the Medellin Cartel, a real life drug network from Colombia which operated through the 70’s and 80’s. At it’s peak, The Medellin Cartel monopolised the global drug market, and is, without doubt, a story that would translate brilliantly on to television. The series follows the beginnings of the cartel, and digs into the history of it’s overlord, Pablo Escobar. Netflix has hit a home run with every one of its series, and Narcos doesn’t look like it’ll be an exception.

Narcos, Narcos on Netflix, Pablo Escobar

Scream Queens
A college campus finds itself housing a serial killer seeking revenge for a murder that happened twenty years ago. This horror-comedy hybrid show has a star cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts and Abigail Breslin, apart from teen icons like Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, and Keke Palmer. Fans of Glee will also see the return of Lea Michele back on screen. Make no mistake that this is aimed for “young adults”, automatically making me about ten years too old for it, but I am excited nonetheless – age is but a number, after all.

scream queens, ariana grande, emma roberts, lea michele