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Narcos Season 2 - Review: "War"

Major Spoiler Warning!

And Narcos returns for a second season. Season 1 ended with Pablo Escobar cornered in his own prison, but thanks to his sheer reputation alone, he was able to escape through an army checkpoint. Murphy, Pena and the DEA were close to busting him but he slipped through their fingers again, and this time, Escobar's now more annoyed than ever. He's a cornered rat, and if you thought the previous season was any indication as to what was going to follow, then it's pretty clear that you haven't seen nothing yet, as the show ups the stakes and once again features an award-worthy performance from Wagner Moura, who is quickly turning out to be the main difference that sets Narcos aside from being another crime drama about drugs. It has history in its corner. Of course, what happens when you take away the leading man? It's no spoiler to say that Escobar is killed at some point in this season given that this has pretty much been Netflix's marketing campaign for its launch - "#WhoKilledEscobar?" features in the trailers, but even if you haven't been following that and know enough about Escobar's history you'll know that the end is coming soon, as we begin the season not too far away from the events of his death.

Season 1 did suffer a bit by having too much Goodfellas-style narration and a case of over-exposition, provided by the returning protagonist Steve Murphy. And whilst the narration is there it is wisely toned down a bit this time around, as the show itself takes a darker turn for much of its second season. However the show itself is not without its flaws. It can get a bit repetitive and slow in the middle act, and drops the lightning fast pace that it boasted in season one, possibly brought about by the change in showrunners while the show was off air. This doesn't stop the repetitive nature of Escobar finding somewhere to hide, being backed into a corner and then escaping again, and can often feel like the writers were trying to meet the ten episode limit so that Escobar would be killed off in the finale. However, the wait for the finale is thankfully worth it, as it turned out to be very effective indeed, providing an emotional, satisfactory and rewarding Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-esque last stand for Escobar that pays off really well. The death of the infamous drug lord was easily the seasons' highest point (and maybe the entire series'), allowing for a nice touch being that it mimicked pretty much perfectly the real life photograph of Escobar's death, which was shown on screen. It was the payoff that the last two series was building towards but begs the question where next will the story will be headed? After all, Narcos has just been renewed for Seasons Three and Four, and without Escobar, what's to stop it from turning into another generic gangster show? Moura was the main difference that allowed it to stand out from the rest, and now he's gone... it'll be interesting to see what happens next. Of course there's still many more factors in play and the drug trade of course didn't end with Escobar's death. However, thanks to the sheer quality of his performance, It's safe to say though that if the antagonists of the seasons to come can even be portrayed as half as well done as Escobar himself, then it should still be an enjoyable watch.

Something that the show benefited from this season was the decision to take the action outside Columbia, a bit briefly, for a journey to Germany in the episode entitled Deutschland 93, which is surely a nod to the amazing period drama Deutschland 83 (which I will be reviewing in its entirety next week, so stay tuned for that), and I loved how the action relocated to Germany as we got to see what happened when Pablo's family tried to seek shelter elsewhere. Their attempt to leave Columbia was one of the main struggles that Tata and her children faced this season as no country was willing to accept them given her infamous husband. Of course, Murphy had to follow Tata to Germany as well and we got to see what followed there. An interesting subplot as well was seeing Tata try to get Escobar to surrender for the sake of his family, right up until his death, which proved to be a really effective moment and further added depth to her character which allowed Paulina Gaitan to shine in her role. It's interesting to wonder how differently history would have turned out had Escobar surrendered, and given the horrific acts that he committed it would be unlikely that he could survive prison (a fact that he admits to Tata during their conversations) especially with the Los Pepes killing everyone connected to the man and his family.

The show itself continues to be stylish, well shot and boasts good production values. Its action movie-esque approach of Season 1 was toned down a bit this season as it plunged us into a more ambiguous drama that was enough to keep things interesting as both Boyd Holbrook's Murphy and Pedro Pascal's Agent Pena were fleshed out and given development that took them down darker paths. Their claim of the moral high ground was slipping away as the season progressed, with evils committed by both sides thanks to the hardline response of the Columbian Government and President Gaviria (Raúl Méndez). This was a response to the cornered Escobar, who was now more dangerous than ever.

We also had a few subplots this season as well that kept things varied. Murphy's wife left him this season and he decided to take his anger out on a drug-snorting businessman in a bathroom, in a fairly brutal scene. Fictional subplots such as these allowed the drama and tension to be maintained throughout the series, especially with the increase in the bodycount, but for all its strengths the show never quite matched the first season. It does allow itself to get the best out of Wagner Moura's acting skills though and I will now be keeping an eye out for any of his future projects. It remains to be seen whether the show will be as good without his involvement though but it looks like only time will tell.

Did you enjoy Narcos Season 2? Let me know in the comments section below, and catch the series in its entirety on Netflix.

Overall Episode Verdict: B
+Wagner Moura.
+Morally ambiguous.
+Escobar's death.
+Less narration.
-A bit too repetitive.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The 100, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Black Sails, Murder in the First, Narcos, Preacher, Roadies, Star Trek Discovery, The Shannara Chronicles, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV as well as books, films and games for his own blog The Fictional Hangout and contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic.
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