Pablo Escobar, the famed Colombian drug lord whose modern-day popularity is almost richer in death than his bountiful personal fortune was in life, is the anti-hero of our current cultural adoration. Tales of his humanity often battle with documented feats of violence and savagery, though the former mistakenly balances the viciousness of his blood-filled reign in Colombia. Escobar was a muted monster whose temper manifested into terror. Yet, the moments of tenderness that orbit his larger than life villainy tend to supply heart to his troubled public remembrance.
In season two of Netflix’s Narcos, the blood-fueled cartel drama that recently entered its fourth season, Escobar (played by Wagner Moura) finds himself beyond his crescendo and begins to take a downward turn. However, given the estimated $420 million dollars he’d made per week trafficking cocaine, the portly Colombian remained insanely wealthy. As legend has it, during a stay at one of his many hideouts—this one in particular on the Medellin mountainside—Escobar burned $2 million dollars in cash to keep his infant daughter warm during the harsh cold. Stories similar to this one—coupled with the emotional and racially pulling scene of Escobar’s slain body sprawled over a rooftop while white American DEA agents stand overtop his lifeless body smiling and posing for pictures as the final moments of Narcos Season 2—do their best to humanize Medellin’s cocaine baron.
The psyche of the viewer is immediately torn, juxtaposing the gripping decisions of a man who loves his family and his country against those of that same man who rips his family and country to shreds. No longer is Escobar simply a villain who has witnessed thousands die during his murderous reign as cartel kingpin, he’s almost a good man whose broken bad with good still inside of him. It’s compelling. It’s drama. It’s both meant to divide and entangle. It is, in essence, meant to keep us watching.