We’re just a few weeks away from Narcos Mexico season two’s premiere. The original Narcos premiered on Netflix in 2015 and starred Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, and Pedro Pascal. The first two seasons dealt with Colombia’s notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar (played by Moura) and the two DEA agents responsible for taking him down (Holbrook and Pascal). Season three shifted away from Pablo and focused on the other infamous cartel in Colombia; the Cali cartel. Season three lost Holbrook and Pascal took his place as the show’s narrator. Season four was meant to then focus away from Colombia, but instead ended up being its own show aka a partner to the original Narcos. Thus, Narcos Mexico was born.
Narcos Mexico actually takes place before the original Narcos series; focusing on the beginning of the Guadalajara cartel – commonly regarded as the first drug cartel and the start of the drug war. Diego Luna starred as Felix Gallardo and Michael Pena was Kiki Camarena. If you watched the original Narcos, you had an idea of what happened to Kiki. In Narcos season one, Javier Pena (Pascal) explains to Steve Murphy (Holbrook) that because Kiki was brutally tortured and killed in Mexico, this kicking off a massive and bloody retaliation from the DEA; that the DEA didn’t have to worry about being killed by sicarios. “He died for our sins” is what Pena says in regards to Kiki.
Kiki was indeed killed at the end of Narcos Mexico season one. The end of the season teased the start of Operation Leyenda, which was the retaliation against the cartel. Season two will see Luna return as Gallardo and Scoot McNairy will be the DEA agent that is there to launch Leyenda. McNairy was the narrator in season one, but we never saw him on the screen until the last five minutes of the season. Unlike the first three seasons of Narcos, McNairy’s Walt Breslin was not a real-life person. Instead, he’s meant to represent the kind of agent sent to Mexico in response to Kiki’s death.
Now that we’ve gone over the series, I thought it would be fun to rank all of the seasons of Narcos. These opinions are my own and the list will be ranked from favorite to least favorite!
Narcos Season Two
The first two seasons were arguably the strongest ones in all of the franchise. Whereas season one concentrated on showcasing how Pablo Escobar rose to power, season two essentially focused on his decline. While Escobar was still the most dangerous man in Colombia, he wasn’t untouchable anymore. His sicarios were dwindling, his cousin Gustavo was dead, and not only was the DEA after him, but rival cartels such as the Cali cartel. Escobar was such a stain on Colombia that a former member of the Medellin cartel (which was Escobar’s cartel) teamed up with the Cali cartel and paramilitary guerillas to launch Los Pepes. Their sole purpose was to kill Pablo and anyone associated with him. This even included his lawyers, former lover, and even children. Pablo’s family was forced into hiding and even the government was protecting them.
The stakes were incredibly high and all the meanwhile, Murphy and Pena were dealing with their own frustrations in trying to catch this man. In the end, the death of Pablo was depicted how it was in real life and season two wouldn’t have been as good if not for the dedication to historical accuracy (though, of course; creative liberties were taken), great writing, and stellar acting by Moura, Holbrook, and Pascal.
Narcos Season One
Narcos seasons one and two should be 1 and 1.B because that’s how good both are. Season one concentrates on showing you how exactly Pablo rose to the infamy that he obtained. Originally wanting to be a politician, Pablo was ousted due to being in the drug business. This public embarrassment led him to become just the biggest threat Colombia ever faced. Pablo was unstoppable. At first, Pablo may have been tracked by the DEA, but he built churches and hospitals, as well as schools. So, the communities he grew up in loved him. As did his wife and his mother. In reality, Pablo was blowing up planes, pharmacies, killing his own friends due to paranoia, and even built his own prison. That’s right; because the Colombian government just wanted the violence to stop, they adhered to his terms to build his own prison, which was essentially a resort.
Pena and Murphy knew exactly the kind of man Pablo was and they never stopped trying to take him down. It was an informative and exhilarating season that gave you a bird’s eye view of a world that you may have not known about. The real Pena and Murphy are still alive and worked heavily with the show, to make it as accurate as it was.
Narcos Mexico Season One
We’re not in Colombia anymore. After three seasons in Colombia, it was time to explore other infamous cartels. While everyone knows El Chapo, you may not have known about Felix Gallardo. El Chapo may have been like Pablo Escobar in the sense of doing outrageous shit, but Gallardo’s tale is worth telling. Softer spoken and less flashy than Escobar, Felix started off as a Sinaloan cop, who got into the weed selling business and then the cocaine vertical. I think, we also needed to see Kiki’s story. Michael Pena is so likable that it was sad knowing off the bat what was going to happen to his character. You really rooted for Kiki and you became frustrated along with him whenever their job seemed to be stalled due to the local officials either being unwilling to help or being in the pockets of the cartel.
Narcos Mexico Season One wasn’t as outrageous and bloody as the first two seasons of Narcos; Felix also isn’t as grandiose as Pablo. In fact, one of the best episodes in the season was when Felix went to Colombia to meet with the Cali cartel and Pablo. Most of the “shock and awe” happened with Rafa’s (Tenoch Huerta) story and his turbulent relationship with his on-again, off-again girlfriend.
Unlike the first two seasons of Narcos, Narcos Mexico felt like it took a lot of liberties history-wise. Some of the real-life events, such as the killing of American journalist John Clay Walker; were glossed over. There were a lot of moving parts and while season one of Narcos seemed to pack a lot into one season perfectly, Narcos Mexico season one didn’t do as good of a job. Regardless, it was still a great season and I’m looking forward to learning more about Operation Leyenda that was so referred to in Narcos. Plus, we could see Luna carrying himself as Felix better at the end of the season, so the dynamic between him and McNairy’s Breslin should be interesting.
Narcos Season Three
If Narcos Mexico season one felt a little loose, Narcos season three is like skim milk. A little bit of milk, but mostly water. Personally, I was excited for season three. Season two had ended and Pablo was dead. What was next? The Cali cartel. While the Cali cartel had a major role in taking Pablo down, they were still drug lords. They just hid behind fancier suits. So, it was time to take them down. Season three really operated independently, I felt. Holbrook didn’t return and I missed that dynamic between Pena and Murphy. It never felt like we recaptured that; especially not with the two forgettable agents, they introduced in season three. Plus, the real Pena never had anything to do with this chapter, so the show was really taking liberties. The drug lords of Cali dealt in illegal activities, but they wanted to be legitimate businessmen.
When it seemed like the Rodriguez brothers (Damian Alcazar played Gilberto and Francisco Denis played Miguel) wanted to get out of the cocaine business, there was some resistance. The plot itself seemed a little funky and to be fair, the Rodriguez brothers weren’t interesting enough on their own to lead a season. Alberto Ammann as Pacho and Pêpê Rapazote as Chepe were far more interesting and personable, but hardly got any screen time. We then had Swedish actor Matias Varela as Jorge, but his story fell flat too. Among all of this, Pascal was completely lost in the season and everything we loved about Pena didn’t seem to be there.
Even though season three of Narcos was my least favorite, I love this franchise. I cannot wait for Narcos Mexico Season Two to return on February 13th and I really hope Netflix knows that this is one of their draws. So, no canceling, Netflix!
What is your favorite season of Narcos?
A girl with too many fandoms to count.