The drug wars come full circle in Narcos Mexico, a totally edge-of-the-seat thriller.
It’s no surprise that (the first three seasons of) Narcos, which focused on the cocaine cartels of Columbia, were followed feverishly by anyone with a Netflix account. It was a smashing cinematic success that set a precedent for any sequel to work really hard to live up to. Narcos Mexico does that in style, provided one can appreciate the fact that the trade of drugs by cartels is not less dangerous on account of the type of drug traded. Most viewers might feel the need to take a step back, and relax while the cocaine story turns into a seemingly peaceful cannabis drama. It must be understood that drug cartels and any story revolving around them will naturally be rife with violence and bloodshed.
Mexico was the hotbed of the marijuana cartels of the ‘80s; a time of serious clamp downs on the cocaine trade south of the American border. It all began with Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, an ambitious Mexican businessman, supporting his brother Rafa who developed a new strain of cannabis that was far superior to the regular “weed” being sold on the streets at the time. He envisioned an empire (he always stresses on that exact word) of marijuana, much like his cocaine-smuggling counterparts from further down south. Cannabis was freely available at the time, owed in no small part and vociferously protected by the Mexican feds (known as the DFS), but it lacked the corporate structure that had been perfected in the cocaine world, as is seen in Narcos season two and three.
The title of the series includes Mexico, Season 1, almost pointedly, as if to say -- this is a whole other ball game, and hence a whole other series. I beg to differ. Even the (equally) ambitious protagonist - Enrique “Kiki” Camarena (played by Michael Peña) -- is almost entirely the same character as Javier Peña from the “original” Narcos. An argument can be made that the Narcos saga is based on the truth and if agent Kiki was almost identical to agent Peña, then it’s not a crime to portray him as such. This can be countered by the (now ubiquitous) disclaimer that flashes on the screen before every episode of any TV series that is based on true events. A filmmaker’s license, no doubt. Nevertheless, the series does not fail to deliver. It’s addicting as hell, and you’re going to want to free up some time to soak it all in and eventually realise that you’re as much at the edge of your seat as you were while watching the first three seasons of these drug empire stories.
The cinematography, screenplay and main character development are all on point. Can’t say the same for the extras, though. But that’s too be expected anyway, seeing as there’s too much ground to cover as is. This was not overlooked by any reviewer with a discerning eye for detail even in series predecessing.
NARCOS MEXICO: SEASON 1
STAR RATING: 4/5
MUST-WATCH: If you’ve watched Escobar and/or the Cali cartel being torn down by intense FED ops and liked it, then this one’s right up your alley. If not, I suggest you watch a couple of episodes and draw your own conclusions.
— The writer is a coffee roaster, vaping enthusiast, cinema buff and seeker of unique stories.