|'the online provider is on to something, particularly given how seamlessly it seems to have sold this series, at least half of which is in Spanish, to a mainstream audience'|
Netflix's promising, if a little cheap-looking, Narcos concludes with a risky strategy that suggests a second season is very much on the horizon. This ties in to a wider concern with Netflix, namely its ability to let go. Keeping a current audience paying for shows they know they like is a solid strategy as far as a content producer goes, but Netflix is also in the business of art and you wonder if Narcos really needed to be anything more than a one-shot ten episode run, telling the complete story of Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura). Do you really want this series to still be running in five seasons time, stars Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal now in ageing make-up, chasing down their umpteenth real life drug lord, like a high rent NYPD Blue?
For now though, based on this evidence, the online provider is on to something, particularly given how seamlessly it seems to have sold this series, at least half of which is in Spanish, to a mainstream audience. Holbrook and Pascal recognisably anchor the show in Americanisms, allowing the imposing Wagner Moura (now in receipt of an equally imposing belly) to rejoin with Elite Squad director José Padilha for the opening two sharp episodes.
When Padilha departs, for episode three, the series suffers a notable dip in quality. Episodes three and four in particular seem to take place entirely within the bunker-like compound of the US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. Instead of ramshackle streets and Escobar's supposed opulence, they show a much more conservative Netflix, a dangerous precedent for what could be on offer, should the provider ever decide to stop splashing the cash and produce bargain basement offerings. Episode three also mangles the show's tone: the series works hard to establish a fairly hard line and then cuts to an episode rife with jokes about a cat.
The other main problem throughout is the voiceover, provided by Holbrook and another of a recent spate of examples of productions returning to a trend that should have been forgotten long ago. Narcos effort is even worse than the recent Legend, choosing the route whereby you are both constantly told what you can already see ('Escobar though he was untouchable'), and reminded to 'listen up' and 'pay attention'. It's ever-present and it almost ruins the show.
In the end though, the lead duo are compelling company and the uncertainty of the final two episodes holds your attention. It's not up there with House Of Cards as 'much watch', but it shows that Netflix can produce the Action version of a soap opera and still come out smiling.