R29 Binge Club: What To Watch This Weekend

Photo: Daniel Daza/Netflix.
Remember in Entourage when Vince decided he could play Pablo Escobar, drug kingpin of Colombia, in Medellín, and it was a complete disaster? Well, you might not, because it's a fictional TV show about a fictional movie star. The important thing to note, however, is that the failure of a white guy from Queens to properly portray one of the most famous cartel runners of all time served as a lesson to all of Hollywood, both real and fictional. If you're going to have the hubris to take on Escobar's empire, you've got to do it right. Netflix has finally done it with its newest original series, Narcos, which is now streaming.

In the late '70s and '80s, Pablo Escobar — played excellently by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura — figured out how to shuttle cocaine into Miami by the ton. He did this by establishing manufacturing laboratories in Medellín, Colombia, in which workers would take coca paste trucked in from Peru and transform it into cocaine powder. From there, he hired drug mules, who, as you'll see in Narcos, were often women — sometimes pregnant ones because they were less likely to be searched. They would swallow bags of cocaine and fly to the U.S. He also smuggled the drugs in planes and cargo ships bound for Miami, where Americans were getting hooked on disco snow. He even arranged for some of his product to get discovered by the DEA so they would think they were doing their job.

For a time, Escobar ruled his empire and Medellín with an iron fist. He murdered policemen, informants, and others who didn't succumb to his will in cold blood. His business philosophy boiled down to his favorite saying, "plato o plomo" (silver or lead). Or, in other words, take a bribe or get a bullet. He and his cartel set up money laundering fronts in an attempt to make his sudden wealth seem legitimately earned.

Of course, if you know the story of Pablo Escobar, you know that it didn't last. The DEA caught wind of what was happening in Medellín, and the bloodshed escalated into an all-out international manhunt for Escobar. Narcos explores just how long it took for authorities to catch the man who ran one of the most notorious drug cartels in history, especially given the limitations of technology available for espionage during that time.

If you're a fan of epic cat-and-mouse chases, devious masterminds, subterfuge, stings, drug busts, and true stories, Narcos is the weekend binge-watch for you. Just look at that devious grin on Escobar's face as he luxuriates in front of piles of cocaine in the picture up there. This is a man with a plan. It's all going to end in hellfire and brimstone, but he's not going to go down without a fight and a really interesting Wikipedia entry.

More from TV