Narcos fans have been mesmerised by the Pablo Escobar story. I have had atleast half dozen Facebook friends who changed their profile pic to that of Wagner Moura’s Pablo Escobar. But here’s the deal, if you liked Narcos, you must must watch Pablo Escobar El Patron Del Mal. Here’s ten reasons why
1. What Narcos tells you in roughly 15 hours running time, this 2012 Colombian tv series by Caracol TV takes over 50 hours detailing every incident. It’s 74 episodes. Both are rated equally high in IMDB. One will agree Pablo Escobar, the man who dug millions of dollars in fields, needs that much screen time.
2. Narcos has the tendency to glorify the American DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency dudes) and over glorify Pablo Escobar, while compromising on many details. Narcos has been primarily made from the American and (to some extent Pablo Escobar’s) point of view. El Patron Del Mal has been made from Colombia’s point of view.
3. Case in point being Pablo Escobar’s first entry into Parliament till Minister of justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla’s assassination is covered within one episode in Narcos, El Patron Del Mal takes seven brilliant episodes to cover. The detailing and keeping it closest to reality needs strong appreciation.
4. It takes you into depth of what Rodrigo Lara was getting into, his vision, his upright honesty, him being a staunch family man who played with kids every night, how the press worked day and night helping him uncover Escobar’s past, how Pablo Escobar took first step of character assassination by accusing him of taking bribes through a false cheque, how Medellin cartel takes days in decisioning if they should kill a senior minister, how they audition young bike stuntmen to execute, how the government becomes aware of assassination threats and starts taking precautions, the multiple times the killers attempt to kill the minister but get nervous, the edge of the seat the viewer stays knowing the inevitable (this is where watching Narcos before is important) and the actor Ernesto Benjumea’s excellent performance which makes you feel for him throughout. Sort of reminds me Bollywood thriller Madras Cafe climax where you know the PM will be assassinated but you don’t want him to die.
5. Actress Diana Hoyos as Lara’s wife steals the show in post assassination episodes. Her life turned upside down, worst fears true and consolation from all and sundry can just not console her. Her performance during the state respecting funeral, afterwards when the President makes a getaway arrangements for her and family to Spain, the pain of leaving Colombia, how her worst fears came true and that nothing will ‘bring him back’, moves the viewer to tears.
6. Simply put, El Patron Del Mal makes hero of the right characters. It also showcases in a small third world country city, it wasn’t easy getting away killing a politician – that’s true, right? Can you expect high profile gangsters to get away killing a senior politician in 80s Mumbai. The state is in shock, red alert, Pablo and Gonzalo (Cousin) need an overnight small unsafe boat to Panama and Paty (wife) fakes a pregnancy problem to get down from a flight hoodwinking the DEA agents. And all that I said above, is barely into Episode 15!
7. El Patron Del Mal also shows Mariachi (Gacha of Narcos) as one equally powerful with men and ammunition at par with Pablo. Through its apt pace it keeps the viewer concentration limited to small set of characters and get into detail of each. That helps you not lose track of what’s happening. The focus is never on DEAs or random gangsters walking in and out or agents helping fly or distribute the cocaine to USA or the guerrillas. Narcos that way is sometimes confusing with excess characters thrown at your face on drop of a hat.
8. Even Chilli’s (Poison of Narcos) character is shown in depth – how one day he mistakenly tells Paty of Pablo’s visit to whores, his girlfriend, how he in hiding with his pals post the assassination, how the police spot him but fail to identify him as Pablo’s right hand etc are all thrilling. There is Paty’s brother Fabio who steals the show in initial episodes. Or Pablo’s childhood, his initial smuggling jobs and then when he and Gonzalo rob a bank to break into big time criminality.
9. The above also means it’s important the viewer has seen Narcos and got the story in his/her mind embedded. That helps them maneouvre through El Patron Del Mal better, get into depths and see things from another perspective. And in depth. El Patron Del Mal will make you cringe more, keep you at edge of your seat, shed tears more and stay glued. This despite your over reliance on subtitles and Colombian locals actors (not your prettier looking American cast) who actually perform lot better. So General Carillio is an aged man and not as handsome here but boy, all of them act brilliantly.
10. Which brings me to Narcos 3. Pablo Escobar’s story was extremely complicated and fascinating worth 20 Narcos episodes and 74 El Patron Del Mal episodes. Narcos 2 while being brilliant, is not as good as Narcos 1. That’s because they got the timeline wrong. The more fascinating decade of Pablo’s rise was covered in ten episodes while his one year downfall in next ten. What Narcos 3 will show with the sheen of Pablo gone, is anybody’s guess, and I doubt, less exciting to anticipate. Till Narcos 3 comes, do give your time to El Patron Del Mal. It’s far far better.
Updated 14 Nov:
11. That Pablo Escobar had a love pregnancy (from a random girl) and how he executed the abortion to get rid of the headache or that his relationship with star TV presenter (Regina) was an extremely rickety affair was missed in Narcos. Narcos glamourized it to an affair of mutual benefits but truth was Vallejo was never fan of killings and wanted Pablo to surrender for sake of himself and their love. At one stage their relationship was in such poor shape that Pablo wouldn’t mind raping her.