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'Narcos: Mexico' on Netflix: Anatomy of a Drug War

The best drug-themed TV show returned for a fourth season on Netflix on Nov. 16. Narcos: Mexico goes back to the '80s when the Guadalajara cartel ruled the country's drug trade and DEA agent Kiki Camarena was a casualty of the drug war. Michael Peña (Cesar Chavez, American Hustle) plays Camarena and Mexican actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá Tambien, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) portrays cartel leader Félix Gallardo. 

This version of Narcos is reminiscent of the movie Blow. It a starts as a marijuana story with Gallardo's partner Rafa (Tenoch Huerta) discovering that by separtating male and female plants you can create a superior product, know as sinsemilla. All goes fairly well until Gallardo decides to expand into the cocaine business. Rafa disagrees and from this point the cartel begins to unravel.

Unlike more mercurial cartel leaders like Medellin cartel jefe Pablo Escobar, who he meets with (Wagner Moura, who played Escobar in Seasons 1 and 2, returns for this cameo), Gallardo has little personality and generally dwells on matters until he figures them out. He travels by himself and is not surrounded by henchmen. But ultimately, Gallardo's methods work as he consolidates power and vanquishes his rivals en route to another season of blood-stained action.

Seasons 1 and 2 focus on Escobar and the Colombian goverement's desperate attempts to capture him and dismantle his cartel; he's eventually killed at the end of Season 2. Season 3 shifts to the Cali cartel, which took over the country's illegal cocaine business after Escobar's fall.

Filmed like a movie, Narcos is high-level TV. It's violent, but rich in details of the lives involved in the dangerous trade. 

Season 1 review

Season 2 review

Season 3 review

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.