Narcos: Mexico-Season 3

It’s educational.

If you want to know what is going on with the drug war, you’ve got to read the Sam Quinones books. Start with “Dreamland,” which delineates the beginning and growth of the opioid epidemic, from rural Kentucky to south of the border, and his new one, “The Least of Us,” which is all about today’s fentanyl epidemic, as well as the meth story. One of the bottom lines is Quinones believes the surge in meth use is causing a surge in schizophrenia. Actions have consequences. You may survive a Covid-19 infection, but fifty percent of the infected have ongoing symptoms, I know two people who still don’t have a sense of taste and smell eighteen months on. So beware. Then again, we live in a country of “winners,” and if you fall by the wayside, either through some misstep of your own or sheer luck, you’re forgotten. Hell, you don’t see the vaccine deniers supporting those who’ve been infected, never mind died, and you don’t see the anti-health insurance troops coming out in support of those whose families have gone bankrupt as a result of illnesses they had no hand in causing,

Ain’t that America.

And if you know the story, heroin exploded in America because everybody got hooked on opioids, doctors were handing them out like candy. Purdue Pharma said OxyContin wasn’t addictive when nothing could be further from the truth, and then when the hooked could no longer get scripts for legal opioids, they turned to the illegal one, heroin. Which for years has been a far cry from the street drug you were afraid of in the last century. Heroin is cheap, and it’s delivered to your door, but too often now it’s laced with fentanyl…a super-powerful synthetic opioid that can kill you right after you’ve taken it, just ask Tom Petty. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Fentanyl is a boon for those truly in pain, but if you’re taking the street version, you’re truly taking a risk. Well, the truth is you think you’re taking something else, but it’s got cheap, powerful fentanyl in it and you die. The cartels love the economics of fentanyl, but those won’t help you if you’re lying dead in bed.

So, the first three seasons of “Narcos” were the well-known Pablo Escobar story. They dragged it into a third season, but it was pulpy and entertaining and…

That’s not “Narcos: Mexico.” The story of the Mexican drug cartels is much messier, with more people involved and constant clashes. And unlike in the Colombian/Escobar version, the star of one season doesn’t necessarily make it into the next one, BECAUSE THEY’RE DEAD!

That’s what “Narcos: Mexico” does so well, demonstrate not only the risks of being a drug dealer, but the collateral damage of their business.

So, the third season is a bit hard to understand, unless you’ve read “Dreamland.” You see the cartels have different “plazas,” with different entrances into America, and they’re fighting over access and supply, constantly.

But it gets even better, BECAUSE IT’S REAL!

They constantly interlace historical footage amongst the TV series drama. This all happened. These families were at war. The government was corrupt and…

This is where we’re heading in America. Believe me. And also believe me there will be collateral damage. This is what happens when you lock out opportunity for the underclass, they find a way to get rich.

And believe me, the drug dealers love the adrenaline of the action. But when they’re not doing business, they’re partying. Seems like a sad life if you went to college, if you’re an educated person. But that’s not who these people are. If you want to get rich so you can party, I feel sorry for you. That’s a very empty life. I’m never going to underestimate sex, it makes the world go round, it’s more important than any business, any amount of money, but when it comes to drinking and drugging, it gets very old very soon, and the conversation attendant to it…may be novel at first, but then it’s endless repeats.

And the truth is that’s why today’s musical stars are seen as second class by the cognoscenti. They’re not that rich, and they’re not that educated, and all they want to do is party. So they can be manipulated by the rich when needed, and dropped thereafter. That’s right, you can get a sponsor, a private, but if you think you’re ripping off the man you’re sorely mistaken, your pay is a pittance to them and if you don’t toe the line you’re out, and chances are your window of dealmaking is very short, your fame doesn’t last, whereas the corporation is forever and the execs get paid double digit millions year after year after year.

Not that the uneducated are inherently dumb. That’s what makes “Narcos: Mexico” so interesting, Amado and Chapo are so damn smart, especially the former!

You can reinvent the system, you’ve just got to be able to leap forward in thought and then convince the powers-that-be you’ve got a better way. When it comes to music, the creators of Napster didn’t even ask, and at this late date, more than twenty years later, those in power back then still haven’t gotten over this. Not the execs, they fired the high-paid boomers, replaced them with low-paid Gen-X’ers and Millennials, and got more from the acts as a result of 360 deals. But really, the labels were saved by Daniel Ek, and if you’re legacy talent you’re still bitching about this. But instead of complaining, you should look at today’s Grammy nominations. Recognize the names? Probably not, time is always marching forward, and time passes you by and then your time runs out.

So, drug dealing is a game. Which requires a lot of thought, a lot of mental effort, along with some muscle. You’ve got to get a supply. You’ve got to establish a chain that brings it to the ultimate customer. You’ve got to pay off law enforcement, and you’ve got to battle for turf with your competitors. And there is no court of last resort, this isn’t about fairness, but smarts and brute force. No one helps you win, it all comes down to you. But the price can be very high, your life. Then again, you can make so much money you could compete with third world countries. And with money comes all kinds of power.

So in this new season of “Narcos: Mexico” we have the stories of multiple plazas, and the evolution of their power. Amado gaining, the Arellanos losing. The Sinaloans going up and down and…

The whole story being chronicled in “La Voz,” which is true! And they, the cartels, kill not only their competitors, but journalists, elected officials, if you’re going against them, you probably won’t survive.

So the series is building up to the ultimate power of El Chapo, that will play out in coming seasons. But at first he’s got no way to get his drugs across the border and…

There are loyalties and alignments but can you really trust anybody? And if you’re further down the food chain, should you stay loyal to the end or at some point do you switch sides?

As for America and its DEA, it’s a fruitless effort. “Narcos” is the best advertisement for the legalization of drugs ever, but that won’t ever happen, because there’s too much money in it and the drugs themselves are vilified as opposed to the reasons for taking them. I mean if you’re uneducated, working a low level service job, never mind manual labor, what else have you got but getting high and hopefully sex? Nothing. And drugs are glorified by the entertainers and everybody is smoking cigarettes, especially in “Narcos.” You think you’re immune, that the actions of your youth will never catch up with you, but Billy Hinsche died of lung cancer over the weekend, all that smoking caught up with him, at 70, which may sound old to you today but when you get to that age, believe me, you’ll want much more time.

So, the third season of “Narcos: Mexico” is a commitment. There is an arc, but it is multifarious and confusing. But that’s life, it’s rarely linear and ordered like it is in a movie. And speaking of movies, they never go as deep as these extended streaming series do.


Either you’re watching “Narcos” or you’re not. It’s one of the progenitors, not as early on the scene as “House of Cards,” but it predates “Stranger Things,” never mind “Squid Game.” “Narcos” arrived when people still thought movies were king, which is certainly no longer true.

And if you want fantasy, go see the Marvel epics. But if you want reality, which when done right is always stranger than fiction, always more educational than fiction, always more riveting than fiction, watch “Narcos.”

And if you’re caught up, if you watched season 2, I recommend season 3. It’s an investment as opposed to a delightful trifle. The stories are not as clean-cut. But they’re real, you’ll get a peek into the way it was, and the way it still is. It’s happening today, it looks like it will never go away. And you can rarely identify with the protagonists, as DEA agent Walt says, he’s not a good guy, but real life is not a comic book, it’s complicated, with many more losers than winners, and the truth is everybody wants to play the game and win at some level. Just like the Narcos.

I don’t like having to wait so long for a new season, but I’d rather they continue to take the time to get it right. “Narcos: Mexico” rings true, which is the most riveting and scary thing about it.

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