Season one of Narcos was a bit of a mixed bag.
On one hand, it had a lot going for it: a compelling story (the rise of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar), a riveting and commanding performance by its lead (Wagner Moura as Escobar, all mustache and menace), and a former Game of Thrones actor as one of the DEA agents who was out to take him down (Pedro Pascal, although it would have been cool if Jason Momoa showed up in the premiere ready to fight the war on drugs while still playing Khal Drago, wearing eyeliner and ripping out throats all over 1980s South America). And it had a compelling structure, telling a large part of the story in Spanish and using real news footage from the time. It was pretty good, all in all.
On the other hand… it was kind of a lot. I mean, I’m sure you can tell the story of the rise of Pablo Escobar in 10 episodes, but to do so in a complete way really requires you to pick your spots, like how American Crime Story took us from murder to verdict in its first season by zeroing in each episode on one particular aspect of the O.J. Simpson case. But Narcos went a different route. It tried to pack in almost everything, from Pablo’s start in the mid-1980s to his escape from his self-made prison palace in 1992, and the result somehow felt too slow and too fast at times. That was the thing that kept it from separating itself from the gaggle of other biggish budget prestige dramas out there.
(Think about it this way: Breaking Bad spent the better part of four and a half seasons — 50ish episodes — chronicling Walter White’s one-year journey from mild-mannered teacher to New Mexico meth magnate. Narcos covered almost a decade of Pablo Escobar’s life in less than a quarter of that time. Which, again, is doable. It’s just a lot.)
But then back on that first hand, season one also gave us this hilarious promotional picture that makes Pablo Escobar look like a naughty little mischievous boy instead of a violent billionaire cartel boss. I think that’s important to note, mostly because I really want to post the picture again.