A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Narcos is a very realistic drama about the birth of the cocaine trade in Colombia. The drama is historically accurate and made with great care. However, because it depicts shocking and potentially traumatizing events, it's not for kids. Violence is ever-present on-screen. Characters are shot dead suddenly, with spurting blood and gore. Their dead bodies are shown at length. A dog is shot on-screen and his body shown for long moments; a pregnant drug mule and her baby die from leaking ingested cocaine packets. Characters frequently snort cocaine, drink liquor, and smoke marijuana on-screen; piles of packaged cocaine and stacks of money are shown frequently, as are the intricacies of the drug trade: how it's made, smuggled, and sold. Characters have sex on-screen; we see breasts, buttocks, moaning, and thrusting. Prostitutes are offered up as trophies of success; their body parts are ogled and rated. Frequent four-letter words, ethnic slurs, and insults ("faggot").
What's the story?
Cocaine was practically unknown in the United States in the early 1970s. By 1986, the drug had made such inroads into American society that the First Lady appeared on TV to tell everyone to "just say no" to drugs. What happened in between? Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), the richest criminal in history, whose hundreds of billions of dollars were almost entirely made building the cocaine trade in America. NARCOS chronicles just how that happened, outlining in intricate detail how Escobar and his compatriots in the Medellin Cartel turned a small smuggling business into a billion-dollar operation. Meanwhile, intrepid DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) stalks Escobar from afar. Escobar will be brought down, as history tells us -- but it's going to take a lot more out of Murphy, U.S. law enforcement, and Escobar himself than anyone ever planned.
Is it any good?
Beautifully shot and with Swiss-watch timing, this (let's just say it) addictive drama on the drug trade is historically accurate, with the beats of a particularly mesmerizing thriller. Escobar emerges immediately as a man to be reckoned with: a thug, yes, but a sympathetic one with big, sad, puppy-dog eyes. He's nice to his wife (even if he's cheating on her with the Colombian anchorwoman who convinces him to get into politics) and respectful to his mom, and he even gives money to the poor. Is he so bad of a guy? As you watch Narcos, awestruck, as Escobar builds his empire on smuggling vehicles, hapless drug mules, bribes, threats, and murder, you soon realize yes -- yes, he is. You'll love watching him anyway.
Meanwhile, our hero (not much of a hero, he points out himself in the Goodfellas-esque narration), Agent Murphy, tries to unravel Escobar's schemes using the limited means available to him at the time, walking viewers through the finer points of snitches and drug busts and double agents and crooked cops. It's all mostly for nothing, he also points out; even though the Medellin Cartel was brought down, another cartel almost immediately took its place. But watching all the sound and the fury of the way it really happened is mesmerizing, in the grand drug-drama tradition of Breaking Bad and The Wire. One final note: Much of the action takes place in Spanish, with subtitles.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their experiences during the time period Narcos was set. Were you aware of the Colombian cocaine cartel? How?
Narcos includes many real-life news snippets and footage of real speeches. Does that add to the reality of the production? Does it make the show more believable?
How is the viewer supposed to relate to the character of Pablo Escobar? Is he sympathetic? A villain? A flawed hero?
For kids who love dark drama
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.