Do you remember in the last five minutes of Narcos season 3, we're introduced to the transportation of cocaine in Mexico. Well, Netflix has taken the story forward with the fourth season of Narcos, titled Narcos: Mexico. The show opens with a young man his rickety bike across the Mexican countryside, over green hills and on dirt roads. He's being chased by the police so he decided to take refuge in a church, as an illegal immigrant knocking on the doors of his country’s embassy in a foreign land.
Rafael Quintero knows well that even in the lawless badlans of Sinaloa, the police can't even think of murdering someone in the House of God. While the police has surrounded the church from outside, a man approaches who looks important because he start giving orders. Betraying the inner compliance that curses every human being when confronted with authority, the police captain gives in. The man enters the church, and exits with Rafa in his capture. “I’ll handle it from here,” he says, and drives off with his friend.
That man is Felix Gallardo, the future leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, and Rafael is the man who’s going to help him get there. Rafa had discovered a new strain of marijuana, in a country where weed grows like coffee in Dargeeling! However, the new strain is delicate and it needs to be cultivated away from other fields, so as to keep it pure, uncontaminated by the common stuff. Gallardo sees an opportunity and just like Gus Fring in Breaking Bad, puts all his resources into facilitating Rafa’s skills.
He is a businessman, and after earning a significant amount of money in his life, he is open to bending the laws. It helps that he comes from the town of Sinaloa, notorious for having birthed some of the most legendary drug lords of our times. In Sinaloa -- and indeed, in many parts of Mexico -- tombs are erected for drug lords, who are seen as Robin Hood-like figures that bring economic prosperity to their towns. But this is just one side of a rusty coin. In 2017, it was reported by Sky News that a record 25,000 people died in drug related violence in Mexico.
Effects of the Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs are still felt in Mexico, till this date. Some believe, these impacts are permanent and will never be irreparable. There is an immense responsibility on Netflix and Narcos: Mexico’s shoulders to not in any way glamourise this reality - something that our very own Mirzapur, which releases on the same day on Amazon Prime, fails spectacularly at.
This season of Narcos deals with real world consequences, some of them have already been felt. If you know, just a couple years ago, the brother of Pablo Escobar, who was played so well by Wagner Moura in seasons one and two, issued a chilling threat to Netflix. “If we don’t receive $1 billion, we will close your little show,” he said. Nothing happened, but to receive a threat from the former hitman of the Medellin Cartel must surely have called for emergency meetings.
However, the show saw the darkest day in 2017, when a crew member- the veteran location scout Carlos Muñoz Portal - was killed under mysterious circumstances while working on this season. His bullet-ridden body was found in one of the most violent regions of Mexico. Diego Luna, who plays Felix Gallardo in the show, told me that Carlos’ death is related less to Narcos and more ‘to a very dangerous country that is living a war that has affected every level of society.’ He said the crew owes it to Carlos to tell this story in the most responsible manner possible.
This season is a pure tribute to Carlos' work. The authenticity and the locations are fantastic. You can almost feel the dirt, heavy swear and the harsh Mexican sun. It’s crucial, too, that more than most other stories such as this, which sadly begin and end with the escapism of newfound wealth, Narcos: Mexico devotes almost an entire episode to show how the other side has been impacted by this terrible war.
DEA agent Kiki Camarena is brought to life by Michael Pena. He's a man who is seen as a patron saint now, someone who -- spoiler alert -- sacrificed his life for the future of all humanity. Camarena decides to go undercover, without informing his superiors, to investigate the inner circle around Guadalajara about Felix Gallardo’s growing empire. After a long bus ride, where everyone was quietly blindfolded, they arrive at one of Felix Gallardo’s majestic plantations. There was no one to watch over them expect the Mother Mary painting on the bus’ dashboard, Kiki is stunned to learn of the scale of the operation. He works daily in the fields with people, who can be called modern-day slaves and gathers intel bravely.
The fact that Rafa’s crop needs to grow in isolation serves as a metaphor for Kiki and Felix Gallardo’s parallel journeys in the show. They’re both loners, despite being always surrounded by others. To achieve their goals, they know that they must work alone.
Many of you might have an idea about how this story is going to pan out and we can expect a reboot in the next season. However, this season has a lot going on and many new characters. For the blow go on, the violence must be weeded out first. 8.5/10!