Monday, August 31, 2015

Pilot Review: Narcos

Narcos (Netflix)
Premiered August 28

There are some shows that Netflix picks up that I automatically know may be interesting, while others, like “Marco Polo,” just don’t entice me at all. I wasn’t sure about this one, and I’m very glad that I decided to watch the whole first episode. There’s something about the style of this show, so sweeping and grand in scope, beginning in 1989 and then flashing back to earlier decades and the establishment of the cocaine trade, is mesmerizing. I’m pretty sure that the narrator, played by Boyd Holbrook, isn’t even close to the series’ most magnetic character, and yet hearing his relatively neutral take on his role in this entire ordeal just makes it all seem even more intriguing. I love the fact that this show is true to its native languages, employing subtitles very frequently and making everything seem entirely realistic. I’m extremely impressed with Wagner Moura, the Brazilian actor cast to play Pablo Escobar, who, with the greatest subtlety, commands every scene he’s in. There were many great moments in this premiere, but the best scene was inarguably when Pablo met new faces at the border crossing and identified every law enforcement official by name and even clued them in to some more personal details he knew about each of them. Enough happened in this first hour to fill a movie, and then the episode ended with the game-changing pledge by Pablo to pay for the head of a DEA agent, signifying that a remarkably successful smuggling scheme had now turned into a full-on war with the United States government. I’m pretty thrilled to discover this show, and can’t wait to watch episode two next week.

How will it work as a series? I can only imagine how much ground this show can cover, and as long as it recognizes that what it’s done so far has worked very well, it can continue to be great. While I lamented the slow pace of “Daredevil,” I think this show could benefit from not being in a rush to get anywhere, since there’s obviously so much rich real life material that, to keep everyone happy, needs to be fictionalized just enough to end up being even more magnificent.
How long will it last? The first season will be ten episodes, and I think that the international appeal of this one will enable the network to measure it as a home run. The reviews so far have been favorable, and so I suspect that this one will be picked up again as just the latest Netflix offering to prove to be a hit for the network.

Pilot grade: A-

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