by David Norris 8/29/15
This superbly produced Netflix series is part crime drama, part history lesson, and is definitely worth watching. I didn’t have a lot of background about the Columbian drug cartels going into this, but much of the ‘headlines’ from the 1980’s came popping back into my head as the story unfolded.
I noticed some similar themes to modern day headlines as well including: competing drug gangs (cartels), communist rebels (instead of guerilla fighters, we have guerilla ‘activists’), social unrest, corrupt politicians, corrupt police, and the besieged poor caught in the crossfire.
Pablo Escobar started out as a smuggler and then found his way into the lucrative cocaine trade. Before long he had created a ‘partnership’ with other drug lords called the Medellin Cartel. He was making so much money that they couldn’t ‘launder’ it fast enough. Coming from humble beginnings himself, he had a vision of helping the poor, and of one day becoming president of Columbia. He saw himself as a ‘Robin Hood’ type figure and began promoting himself as such by building schools and hospitals and housing for the poor.
Pablo is portrayed as a jeans wearing, down to earth, nice guy. He is a loving family man who does not put on airs, someone whom you would invite to a backyard barbeque. He is somewhat quiet and contemplative with a sense for business ‘opportunities’. Whatever you do though, don’t make him angry.
As he becomes more wealthy and powerful he begins to get more resistance from the government. His way of dealing with this resistance is that he gives people a choice; they can have silver (bribes) or lead (death).
As cocaine use becomes epidemic in the U.S., the D.E.A. is called in to investigate.
Now Pablo is fighting the Columbian and U.S. governments. He begins to become more and more daring and murderous, using assassinations and bombings to terrorize the populace (“no snitching”) and his enemies.
Even with all the blood-shed, Pablo remains a sympathetic character, you know someone who had some good intentions at first, but then ‘over-reached’ and it all went to hell. Of course I’ve only watched the first five episodes so far, so this view of him could change.
An interesting part of the storyline was the inclusion of the “M-19” communist guerillas who are seeking ‘social justice’ for the people, and keep talking about “redistribution of wealth” (sound familiar?) At one point, out of desperation, Pablo hires them for a million dollars to stage an assault on the capitol building. He asks them to destroy a room full of records while they are there. These records are key to the legal proceedings to take down the Cartel, and with them destroyed Pablo and company are now in the clear.
Afterwards he brings the guerillas their money, and hails them for their courage, exhorting them to “keep up the fight” and to know that he is in their corner. The moment their guard is down however, he has them all shot dead (sounds familiar too).
It’s really hard not to like this program, and not to like Pablo, but I do wonder about this show and those like it (some examples being: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Sons of Anarchy) where we are asked to view these criminal and sub-culture types, as ‘people like us, that just made a few wrong turns in life’.
I think I’ve heard this described as “moral relativism”, and it does leave me a bit unsettled and wondering about humankind.
Was I supposed to write “spoiler alert”? • (1534 views)