Move Over, Narcos: Mexico. Pablo Escobar Will Always Remain Our Favourite Drug Lord

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Move Over, Narcos: Mexico. Pablo Escobar Will Always Remain Our Favourite Drug Lord

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Now that Narcos: Mexico has been gulped down, it’s time for my favourite activity of the year: Judging the TV narco kingpins on offer and deciding which one is my favourite.

After three years of bingeing on each storyline as obsessively as a dog with a bone, I suppose I have arrived at my decision: As far as bad guys go, it’s the Colombian Pablo Escobar who wins my heart.

It’s a given that as drug barons, all these were flawed and corrupt men who ran huge cartels and killed thousands of innocent people as they made their way up. But regardless, there is such a thing as emotional investment. In Narcos: Mexico, the companion piece to Narcos, we met the unlikely and reserved Felix Gallardo. The suave Gallardo was portrayed as someone who single-handedly built the Guadalajara cartel by constantly preparing and being a move ahead of his competition, with as little violence as possible. But rip the surface and you’d find a lonely man forever haunted by his first wife’s untimely death – an incident that propelled him to become the control freak who reigned over the Mexican drug trade for years. Except, by the time Felix starts to falter, sends off his second wife, pisses off his closest aides and kills a man in pure rage, I couldn’t find myself sympathising with the poor little loner anymore.

But I suppose, it wasn’t as bad as the Cali cartel with whom I felt zero emotional attachment in the third season of Narcos. The moment Escobar was killed, it was the cold-blooded Cali heads who swooped in and claimed the top spot left empty by his death. The band of brothers lead by the eldest, Gilberto Rodriguez, rose to riches quietly by bribing the elite as opposed to Escobar’s modus operandi of blowing the elite up.

It’s a given that as drug barons, all these were flawed and corrupt men who ran huge cartels and killed thousands of innocent people as they made their way up. But regardless, there is such a thing as emotional investment.

And then there was Pablo Escobar, who besides being pretty much the gold standard for drug lords was also a Robin Hood for the poor people of Medellín, a lover of animals, and a doting family guy. In fact, Escobar put audiences in a spot by portraying two sides of the same man, out of which one was pretty damn relatable.

No wonder then that Escobar got two compelling seasons to tell his story. The small-time trafficker was a genial, portly guy next door who was as committed to his business as he was to his family. He also had the everyman’s fantasy of doing something great – to be the Colombian president one day albeit through some crooked means. But it was a dream, an aspiration nonetheless, and at the end of the day, it made him more human. His crazy dream even looked possible at one point of time, given how he loved the people of Medellin and how they loved him back.

But Escobar also scored with Indian audiences like me, because of his undying love for his family. In the first season of Narcos, we got acquainted with Pablo’s work, his methods, his main accomplices and how he rose from an average cartel king to being included in the Forbes “Richest people in the world” list seven years in a row. But it was the relationship with his cousin brother Gustavo that was one of the finest angles to the tale. They were an extremely well-oiled machine, matching each other’s strengths, covering their weaknesses with a united front, and making money by being at the forefront of innovation in the cocaine business.

Gustavo was Escobar’s backbone who allowed him to make a name undisturbed by the nitty gritties of what running an empire necessitated. The importance of their perfect equation became even more evident when Pablo lost the plot after Gustavo’s death. His time in La Catedral, especially when he mercilessly and unnecessarily killed two of his colleagues (the wife of one went on to bring his eventual downfall) was a consequence of his brother no longer having his back. Even in the penultimate episode of the second season, the part which makes you almost teary-eyed is when Escobar has an ice cream and a conversation with the ghost of his brother.

But Escobar also scored with Indian audiences like me, because of his undying love for his family.

Narcos’ Escobar also adored his mother, a shrewd lady who pushed him to become the dreaded kingpin. He was head over heels in love with his wife, who, despite his affairs, stuck by him till the very end. And the man turned into a marshmallow in the presence of his two kids. Come to think of it, the second season of Narcos that narrated the last year of Escobar’s life after he escaped from La Catedral was nothing short of a family drama.

Losing from all sides and being cornered into isolation, Escobar became emotionally dependent on his wife and took decisions based on making his family feel secure. Eccentric as he was, he kept changing one home after the other when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started chasing him. Heck, he even burned two million dollars to keep his daughter warm one night. How could Felix Gallardo, who hardly sees his kids, even compete with that? No other narco kingpin has had such relatable motives. After all, how can you not root for the flawed guy who goes to the end of the world just to keep his family safe?

Watching the destruction and havoc caused by the drug kingpins in Narcos, any sane person would be rooting for the DEA, the good guys. I sure did that when it came to the Cali cartel and the Guadalajara cartel. But not with Escobar. I was actually saddened by his death. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

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