I have spent the weekend with a bunch of narcos. It was not as sexy or intellectually challenging as other outlets would have you believe. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Puerto Rico and I’m kind of over reading, watching, romanticizing, and looking forward to yet another imaginative retelling of the Pablo Escobar story. Or maybe it’s because when a character does not tie their shoes I only need a two-second shot to get that he’s staying put. Especially when he lives in a prison-castle.
Narcos is slow, which is ironic considering it’s a show about coke. I know I’m supposed to hype it up and tell you it’s another triumph for Latino programming, but I can’t and I won’t. I’m glad that streaming golden-boy Netflix is taking a cue from Hulu and making a show where characters mingle in English and Spanish. Yet, if you’re going to embark on such an ambitious project, man, get a Colombian to do it or at least someone who can half-ass the accent.
Narcos features a Brazilian (Wagner Moura) playing Colombia’s number two celebrity, second only to Gabriel García Márquez, whose name is also dragged into this American-framed story. Because, the only explanation for Pablo’s prison-castle has got to be magical circumstances affecting reality. Not, let’s say, oh, lack of balls, ineffective political strategies or greed. I’m stopping there because I am no Colombian drug trade expert and this is not a Political Science essay. This is supposed to be funny. I’m nailing it. I know. *Insert awkward smile emoji*
Narcos chronicles the rise and fall of Escobar, told from three different points of view. It starts with DEA agent Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and his partner Peña (Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal) as they embark on the ill-fated mission of capturing Pablito. We get Colombian government representation by way of el Vice Ministro de Justicia (El Cartel de los Sapos’ flawless jevo Manolo Cardona), President Cesar Gaviria (Rául Méndez), and a bunch of other people who die as result of a crazy, cartel-created code of ethics. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Mr. Escobar whose fucks, kills, and steals are all for the eradication of the oligarchy and extradition treaty with ‘Merica. As you know, Pablito’s only fear is stepping foot in the land of his number one customer.
I’ll give it to Escobar, the Robin Hood Paisa, as his side piece dubbed him. The man could negotiate. He excelled at positioning people between la espada y la pared. If you’re not familiar with the expression, that’s the Spanish equivalent for between a rock and a hard place. Excuse me, I should use Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria’s preferred expression – plata o plomo. Give this man what he wants or he will throw a violent tantrum. He’ll kill your family and your kids without blinking (seriously, Wagner Moura doesn’t blink.) Narco’s creators and producers do not shy away from this. At all. The writers also don’t shy away from repeatedly using that expression, to the point where I wanted to give plomo to my laptop. That, my friends, was a joke. #guncontrol
Let’s take it down a notch and give you some of the best insults, maxims, and similes used in this historically accurate noir telling of the story.
The first season of Narcos is now streaming on Netflix.
“The Miami Coroner said Colombians were like Dixie Cups. Use ‘em once, then throw them away.”
In the first episode, “Descenso,” José Padilha (Director and Producer of Narcos) paints a dire picture about how disposable the bodies doing Escobar’s work in Miami were. The average age of Colombians getting killed in Miami? 17. Way to drive a point home, Mr. Padilha.
“He’s as slimy as a hagfish, with none of the charm.”
By the sixth episode, titled “Explosivos,” the DEA’s Murphy is worried about his family’s safety. The CIA and Embassy resources are not being cooperative. He resorts to meeting with Suarez (Julián Beltrán), a man who plays both the DEA and the cartel for plata. Murphy describes him as a hagfish without charm, which should be Trump’s new campaign slogan.
“Whatever you got cooking, it stinks.”
DEA Agents Murphy and Peña meet another informant who has evidence that would send Escobar to jail. Murphy does not want to hear it. He rejects it with the lamest choice of words: “it stinks.” Well, duh, Agent Murphy, you’re meeting with a rat and rats party in dumpsters. Everybody knows this.
“Surely your mother taught you never to turn down a polite invitation.”
Pablo: “Estoy seguro que su madre le enseñó a no rechazar una invitación amable.”
*Insert dramatic pause*
Vice Ministro: “Lo que mi madre me enseñó es que una invitación es opcional.”
(Vice Minister: “My mother taught me that an invitation is optional.”)
Pablo: “Le pido disculpas por hacer que esta invitación sea obligatoria.”
(Pablo: “I hope you’ll forgive me for making this invitation mandatory.”)
I love this exchange. The Vice Ministro is inside Pablo’s jail. He went there to strike a deal but negotiations quickly soured. He ends up surrounded by armed guards. Pablito ignores the setting and finds time to school him on manners. Amidst dramatic music and metralletas, they both look and sound like children. That is, children playing on the world’s most dangerous playground.
This is how Pablo Escobar opens a threat. Mid-season Pablo has angered a ton of people, including Colombian military man Carillo (Maurice Compte). Carillo calls up Pablo (who picks up his Zack Morris phone) and threatens to kill his family, to which Pablo responds with the aforementioned “gonorrea malparido.” In English, it translates to “gonorrhea bastard son of a bitch.” It makes me question if Escobar had gonorrhea.