Back when ‘Narcos’ revealed it was going to continue as a series beyond Pablo Escobar I had my doubts and was thankfully proven wrong. Then, when Narcos revealed it was moving away from the Columbian cartels and into Mexico, I again had my doubts. I am very happy to report that once more I have been proven wrong.
‘Narcos: Mexico’ is a fast-paced rollercoaster of tension that essentially details the rise of the Drug Enforcement Administration in South America, the creation of the first cartels and the beginning of the drug war across the Americas. As grand and epic as that may sound, this season is really anchored by the building conflict between two men. Upcoming drug kingpin, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) and DEA operative, Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena (Michael Peña) completely steal the show this season, which is an impressive feat considering they share very minimal scenes together. Gallardo is by far the most sympathetic antagonist Narcos has produced (Escobar may have had layers but he was always the ‘bogeyman’ to other people and the Cali Cartel were just representations of the upper class) and Luna plays him perfectly. He’s a far more cerebral man than his predecessors and for once we really get to see how a drug empire was built up from scratch and all the dangers that came with it giving Luna a lot to work with here. Camarena starts off as the stereotypical ‘Boy Scout’ cop that goes to a new precinct and doesn’t fit in because his co-workers are so lax. But it doesn’t take long for Peña to really pull back the layers of this character as Camarena begins to hunt Gallardo and almost becomes obsessed with him in the process. The two men are linked by their untapped ambition and make for a very captivating parallel across the season.
Other notable standouts include Alyssa Diaz as Mika, Camerana’s endearing and supportive wife, she brings a lot of heart to the show especially in its third act. Tenoch Huerta as rebellious and slightly unhinged gangster Rafael Caro Quintero and he really relishes every second. Finally, Joaquín Cosio plays the bitter drug lord Don Nesto who at first just seems like one more in a long line of villains. Cosio however, brings a humanity I wasn’t expecting and aside from Gallardo and Camarena, Nesto probably has the most interesting arc of the season.
With the way the show is structured and the type of events that occur, you wouldn’t be blamed for saying that the show is slightly repetitive. It’s a vicious cycle of drug dealers killing drug dealers, corrupt police not helping the DEA, an array of colourful and charismatic characters talking to each other about money and cocaine. That certainly is all present in this season but, in my opinion, it doesn’t get stale because it is history. Everything in this show happened in real life (minus the odd embellishment) and Narcos: Mexico will continue to shock and surprise you just as much as the first three seasons did. With the addition of two new fantastic lead performances, Mexico is a more than worthy addition in the Narcos franchise.