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Narcos is a 2015 Netflix Original Criminal Procedural series chronicling the United States Drug Enforcement Administration's attempts to stem the drug flow from South and Central America into the U.S., related from the perspective of hardbitten deep cover DEA Agents in the 1980s and 1990s. Along the way much chaos, corruption, and bloodshed occurs in the pursuit for fortune and justice. The first season follows the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the DEA's attempt to stop him, the second season chronicles Escobar's fall, the third season is the DEA versus the Cali Cartel, and the fourth season goes to Mexico which got a Soft Reboot as Narcos: Mexico. The series is filmed in both Spanish and English, and mixes drama scenes with a semi-documentary style narration and real life news footage.

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Features Wagner Moura as the famous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal as the DEA agents on his trail. In Season 4, Diego Luna and Michael Peña took over the lead roles once the story follows the Mexican drug trade. The series also has as its executive producer (and director of the first two episodes) Jose Padilha.

Within a week of its release, Netflix renewed it for a second season. A week after season two was released, two more seasons were ordered.


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Narcos contains examples of:

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  • The '80s: The setting for most of the first season. However, fashion in Colombia seems more rooted in the The '70s. The only character to dress in a stereotypically '80s fashion is Pacho Herrera, who doesn't enter the picture until the final few episodes which are set in the early 1990s, showing that Colombia is not in the vanguard of the world, in fashions or otherwise.
  • Aborted Arc:
    • Peña unintentionally getting Murphy abducted due to his dealings with the Cali Cartel gets dropped in season two, with the two making up as bigger threats emerge.
    • Early episodes focused on the long history of Columbian Government corruption and why so many of Columbia's poor turned to crime since they saw it as the only way out in what was essentially a caste system. This is dropped midway through season one and never really explored again.
    • M-19 member Elisa Álvarez, put into hiding as a potential witness against Escobar, is never revisited. Her fate in the show is never explained and she isn't based on a real person.
  • Adaptational Name Change: While Feistl and Van Ness were real people, Van Ness is not the DEA agent's real name as he was still serving while season 3 was produced.
  • Adult Fear:
    • After a car bomb goes off outside Escobar and Tata's building at night, the two immediately panic about their two children. Escobar gets a rare heroic moment as he rushes through the dust cloud to grab his kids and get them out of further danger.
    • In season 2, a family is finishing up shopping for school supplies when a massive car bomb explodes. The injured father desperately looks for his young daughter before finding her bloody shoe.
    • Once he realises that he's being targeted by Los Pepes, the first thing Fernando Duque does is pull his son out of school and go into hiding. It doesn't save either of them in the end.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Pablo Escobar himself cares for the poor and is in general a very polite man, at least at first. As the series progresses he loses his "affable" part and increases his "evil" part.
    • The Gentlemen of Cali do live up to their names. They treat crime as a regular entreprise and genuinely want to avoid unnecessary violence.
    • Season 4 continues the trend with how they portray Mexican drug lord, Felix Angel Gallardo. He is shown as pretty nice guy most of the time. A loving husband who is devoted to his family. A trustworthy business man who doesn't screw over his partners and employees. The only time he shows his ruthless side is when someone stands in the way of his dream of creating a Mexican drug empire, no matter who they are.
  • Age Lift: In real life, Don Berna was around 30 in 1993, not middle-aged.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Escobar's death is deliberately presented in a grey, conflictive light. The show pointedly juxtaposes the laments of his tearful mother with images of his various atrocities. Satisfying and tragic at the same time. Showrunner Eric Newman has stated that it was a conscious decision to humanize him in his final moments, and anticipates that there are going to be just as many people rooting for his death as there are for him rooting to get away.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Valeria and Tata.
  • All There in the Manual: The ultimate fate is some characters isn't resolved on-screen, but as the series is based on genuine events it's pretty easy to find out what the show didn't explain. For example:
    • Steve Murphy doesn't appear after series 2. In reality, he returned to the U.S. the year after Escobar's death, staying with the DEA until as recently as 2013.
    • Pablo Escobar's wife Tata and his son are still alive, having went into exile in Argentina. They were caught in 1999, held for 15 months, and have lived fairly quietly since. The son is now a motivational speaker and lecturer. Little is known about his daughter, although she is also still alive.
    • Pablo Escobar's mother Hermilda died in 2006.
  • America Saves the Day: Mostly averted. While extradition to the United States is a way to bury the problem for good away from a corrupt Colombia and a Fate Worse than Death to the narcotraficantes, the show makes it clear that the Colombian Government, and many of its' citizens, led the charge to bring down Pablo and that American involvement was strictly for support.
  • Amoral Attorney: Fernando Duque. Subverted in later episodes when he starts to regret working for Escobar and fears his boss.
  • Analogy Backfire: When Gustavo asks Escobar what they should do about all the money they're bringing in, Pablo suggests laundering it like Al Capone did. Gustavo points out that this is a terrible analogy - not because Capone was eventually caught and convicted for it, but because Capone never had as much money as they do now.
  • Animal Motif:
    • Rats are used as a major symbol in the first episode.
    • One of Escobar's original major backers is nicknamed The Cockroach because he had a knack for survival. Eventually, his luck ran out when he crossed Escobar.
    • In season 4, Felix meets with Escobar in person. The latter implicitly compares himself with the hippopotami he keeps as pets around his mansion—they look harmless, almost like a baby, but if you get in their way they'll bite you in half.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Javi Peña and Murphy are both ruthless, not above doing a Vigilante Execution on criminals and torturing bad people.
    • Carillo is even more ruthless than either of them. He sees no problem with having Gustavo beaten to death when he refuses to give the Search Bloc any information, nor threatening and shooting a teenager in cold blood due to his association with Escobar.
  • Arc Words:
    • For Escobar, plata o plomo ("silver or lead").
    • For the early Medellin Cartel, especially Pablo and Gustavo, Nosotros somos bandidos ("We are bandits.")
    • For Galán and Gaviria, "There will be a future."
  • Artistic License – History: The story condenses and sometimes rearranges the timeline and changes the specific details of some events.
    • On the show, Murphy arrives in Colombia in 1981 and Peña has already been there or a while. In real life, Peña didn't get there until 1988 and Murphy until 1991, a decade after his fictional counterpart.
    • The real life Palace of Justice Siege took place in 1985. In the series, it happens in 1989.
    • In the 1989 of the series, the United States still views communism is its biggest threat. In real life, by 1989 the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Soviets had instituted glasnost and withdrawn from Afghanistan, and communism was in decline all over the globe. For all intents and purposes, the Cold War was over.
    • The show portrays M-19 as much less competent and dangerous than they were in order to prop up the Medellin cartel. The group did clash with cartels occasionally, but the show portrays it as a slaughter, forcing Ivan the Terrible to turn himself in to Escobar to save the movement. When M-19 attacks the courthouse, it's purely on Escobar's bidding. This is an existing conspiracy theory, but not much credit is given to it. Near the end of the season, Escobar betrays and casually executes Ivan and his closest supporters. In reality, Ivan was killed in battle against the Colombian army.
    • Crosby's real-life counterpart Busby became ambassador to Colombia in 1991, not 1992 as in the show. His fictional predecessor, Ambassador Noonan, takes the place of four different ambassadors (Thomas D. Boyatt, Lewis Arthur Tambs, Charles A Gillespie Jr., and Thomas Edmund McNamara).
    • Valeria is murdered by Los Pepes, while the real person she's based on, Virginia Vallejo, survived the war, going on to get political asylum in America after naming names of some of Escobar's allies.
    • After season 3 aired the real Jorge Salcedo was interviewed and stated that while most of the story is factually true, some scenes were added for dramatic effect and never happened. Miguel never tried to suffocated Jorge with a plastic bag since Jorge was not exposed as The Mole until after Miguel's arrest. Jorge could not have killed Navegante in self defense since at the time of the shooting he was already in protective custody and far from the action.
    • The arrests of the Cali Cartel leaders are shown out of sequence. Chepe was arrested a month before Miguel.
    • Peña was not involved in bringing down the Cali Cartel. The DEA station chief was Joe Toft. See Composite Character.
  • Ascended Extra: Trujillo has a small role in season one, but gets much more prominent in season two. Most notably, he kills Pablo.
  • Asshole Victim:
  • The Atoner:
    • Javier becomes this once he realizes that giving confidential information to the Cali cartel has only made the situation worse. He tries to help out Fernando Duque, but fails, and resigns himself to being transferred back to the States for disciplinary action once his involvement comes to light.
    • After Escobar orders a bomb to explode in a very public place resulting in many children dying, Blackie looks extremely remorseful before doing it and when he sees the news where the crowd has totally turned on Escobar, he silently says "Forgive me".
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Pablo is chubby and a stoner, but he's the boss, and any time he's forced into a fight, he dominates.
  • Attempted Rape: Gacha's son attempts it on a maid, only to be interrupted by his father, who's more annoyed than angry.
  • Ax-Crazy: Gacha, and as time goes on, arguably Escobar. The Castaño Brothers are definitely this.
  • Back for the Dead: Season 2 has a nasty habit of this, with both Colonel Carillo, The Lion, and Valeria being dispatched shortly after their returns to the show.
  • Badass Army: The Search Bloc. And in the first season finale, Colombian Special Forces. Season two introduces Los Pepes, a far-right paramilitary death squad who switched from fighting FARC guerillas to fighting narcos.
  • Badass Gay: Pacho who is easily one of the best gunfighters in the show.
  • Badass Israeli: Gacha imports Israeli mercenaries to Colombia to train his sicarios.
  • Badass Mustache: Because the show takes place in The '80s and early Nineties, most male, non-military men have mustaches.
  • Badass Pacifist: Jorge Salcedo of the Cali Cartel. He's a security expert who doesn't carry a gun but his badassness lies in his ability to spot out trouble with ease.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Narcos: Mexico (season 4) ends with Agent Kiki being kidnapped, then tortured and murdered by the Cartel, while Felix Gallardo has made a deal with the Mexican government and reasserts his control over the organization from his underlings who planned on betraying him.
  • Bait the Dog: Jhon (Limon's) whole story in Season 2. He seems like a good person who is in over his head at first. You'd expect the Heel–Face Turn to come in at some point, right? Nope. Instead, he uses his friend by pretending to want out, in order to setup the Policia, which gets Carillo and many of his men killed by Escobar. He ultimately kills his friend, when she threatened to turn him in for ruining her life, and because she spent most of the money Pablo gave to her, which he wanted back. And he is the only man to fight and die with Escobar at the end of the Season 2 Finale.
  • Bald of Evil: Navegante has male pattern baldness mixed with long hair. Velasco has an outright shaved head.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Jorge never uses guns, despite being a security expert for a massive criminal organization. Once he feels his family is in danger, however, he reassembles an UZI stored in his house. He doesn't end up actually firing one until the season 3 finale when he is forced to kill Navegante in self-defense.
  • Beard of Evil: Pablo's end-of-season-two beard, plus one of the Orejulas, and Pacho Herrera after previously being a mustache.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Pablo grows a beard while languishing at his father's farm, after he's lost everything. When Murphy comments on how unimpressive Escobar looks in the end, he notes Escobar's overgrown beard.
  • Berserk Button: Peña is very protective of his informants, and is outraged when Murphy goes behind his back to put one's information to use, getting him killed.
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with. While Valeria is the Veronica played straight, Tata only displays a few Betty characteristics. The most notable subversion being that she's fully aware of Escobar's activities and atrocities, and doesn't discourage him in any way.
  • Big Bad:
    • Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellín Cartel, for the first two seasons.
    • The "Gentlemen of Cali" (Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, Pacho Herrera, and Chepe Santacruz-Londoño) take up the mantle in Season 3.
    • Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, replaces them in Season 4.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Miguel after Gilberto gets arrested thinks himself the new kingpin but his leadership just causes more problems for the Cali cartel.
    • David Rodriguez (Miguel's son) is even worse. Paranoid, doesn't look for threats around him, a Bad Boss, obsessed with ruining Jorge's life for no discernible reason, refuses to listen to reason, and tries to "rule" with an iron fist. Fittingly, he's unceremoniously gunned down, having taken no precautions whatsoever to protect his location.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tata's older brother, Carlos, tries to convince Pablo to get her and the children out of Colombia when things start getting too dangerous.
  • Big Good: Cesar Gaviria becomes the closest thing to one that the series has, and he looked up to Galan.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Valeria has a carefully cultivated image as a serious but glamorous newscaster. The reality is anything but. Case in point, she has Diana Turbay, a rival newscaster kidnapped by Escobar. Why? Because Turbay had better ratings than her.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The main difference between our good guys and the cartel is that the good guys don't purposefully endanger civilian lives as they try to bring Escobar to justice. And as the opening of episode one shows, even they aren't immune to killing innocents, albeit accidentally. They do know that what they do is brutal and are not happy about it, but they don't have many alternatives and honestly believe they are fighting for the greater good.
    Murphy: The good guys, they got guns pointing at their fucking head and the bad guys get away with it?
    Peña: Who are the good guys, Steve? That's us?
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Peña denies ever visiting a brothel they track a Cartel man to, even as he identifies the location, names one of the girls, and gets very familiar greetings from the ladies.
    • After killing Gustavo by badly beating him, Carillo says to report his death as caused by a shootout with police. When an underling points out how no one would believe that, Carillo simply draws his pistols and unloads half a clip into the bloody and bruised corpse.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: When Rafa starts really getting into the gangster lifestyle, he begins carrying gold-plated guns around.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Navegante sells out Gacha to the DEA, and later works for the rival Cali Cartel.
    • Don Berna does a variant. Rather than let Judy Moncada become a DEA informant, he sells her out to the CIA. She's forced to leave Colombia, but he also ensures her safety.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: As the war heats up, Carillo gains a number of guards protecting his house, and one who even sits at the table next to him at a restaurant when Carillo and his wife go out for a date. The bodyguard dies quickly when a gunman attacks, only for Carillo to take him out quickly.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The first season starts with text defining Magical Realism. At the end of season two, Murphy's narration gives a different definition.
    • Similarly, the first episode establishes Pablo's character with him declaring himself the future President of Columbia. The final episode of season two opens up with a long dream sequence of him achieving just that.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Trujillo finishes off the gravely wounded Pablo.
  • Brains and Bondage: Escobar and Valeria engage in this at one point, while discussing politics.
  • Break the Cutie: Across the board with many, many characters.
  • The Brute: What Navegante becomes after Herrera is Demoted to Dragon for the Cali Cartel.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Minister Lara and Galán. They are killed for it. And in season two, Carrillo pushes his luck too far.
    • The M-19 decides it is a great idea to pick narcos' relatives as targets for kidnapping.
    • A very angry Maritza confronts Limón, threatens to turn him in for the reward and keeps antagonizing him when he points a gun on her, confident that he is not really a killer. He pulls the trigger.
    • Nava, head of the DFS, at first is a senior partner in the Guadalajara cartel, since Felix relies on their contacts for protection, but after Felix makes a deal with the Colombians and starts side-lining the DFS, Nava still thinks he can boss Felix around right up until Felix smashes in his head in a fit of rage.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Navegante. A looming, threatening and dangerous hitman, who also has odd jokes, is quiet, and has a warped perception of friendship.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Lion disappears after the first two episodes of season one. He reappears in episode five of season 2, running much of the Miami smuggling operations for Pablo.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Martinez, in contrast to Carillo. It doesn't mean he's not a badass though.
  • Call-Back: The Lion is introduced trying on a jacket with pockets sewn in to smuggle cocaine to Miami. When The Bus Came Back for him in season 2, he's introduced sewing cash into beds in Miami to ship back to Colombia.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Pablo calls his father an ignorant nobody who lives alone in a shithole farm, while Pablo made the name Escobar resonate throughout the whole world. Pablo's father retorts he is ashamed and broken because his son is a murderer.
  • The Cameo: The real Steve Murphy and Javier Peña appear in the Season 2 finale, cheering the news report of Escobar's death next to the exiled Pena.
  • Camera Abuse:
    • As an ACCU sniper kills a sicario with a headshot, the camera is hit by a spray of blood.
    • Escobar helps his father slaughter a pig; as his father slits the pig's throat, the angle switch to beneath the pig and as a result the camera is drowned in blood.
  • The Cartel: Drug cartels are the subject of the series, and several make appearances:
    • The Medellín Cartel is the focus of the first two seasons.
    • The Cali Cartel appears in the first two seasons and is the focus of the third. Both Medellin and Cali cartels appear mid-Season 4 after Felix Gallardo decides to expand into the cocaine trade.
    • La Oficina de Envigado splits off from the Medellín Cartel in Season 2.
    • The Norte del Valle Cartel likewise splits off from the Cali Cartel in Season 3.
    • The Juárez Cartel in Mexico also appears in Season 3.
    • The Guadalajara Cartel in Mexico is the focus of Season 4.
  • The Casanova: Peña, who's also a Chivalrous Pervert. A prostitute he sees refuses to charge him, and later he sleeps with his informant Elena.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Escobar's
      • "Plata o plomo." Silver or lead. Meaning you either take bribes and work for the drug lords or get bullets.
      • Better a grave in Colombia than a cell in the US.
    • Javi Peña's "all in."
  • Cassandra Truth: Jorge is Season 3 is mostly ignored when he tries to warn Cali Cartel associates whenever the DEA or a rival Cartel are trying to come after them, because he isn't liked among most members for being straight laced and refusing to get his hands dirty. He is ignored and even insulted despite being an expert in security and trusted to do his job. And when things go wrong, the members who don't like him use this as an excuse to blame him for it. Especially Miguel's son who is jealous of him for gaining favor with his father. It's this among other things that causes him to betray the Cali Cartel.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The President of Colombia is presented with terrible cards; deal with a narcoterrorist or fight a civil war, and sometimes both.
  • Children Are Innocent: Pablo's young daughter Manuela. After the Escobars barely escape from one safehouse to another in December, she quietly asks Pablo how Santa Claus will bring her presents if he doesn't know where they live.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Remarkably, the absence of Steve Murphy in series 3 doesn't seem to be addressed on-screen, even though he was the narrator during the first two series. In reality, he returned to the U.S. the following year and stayed with the DEA for two more decades, finally leaving for private consultancy work in 2013.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The protagonists are DEA agents rather than FBI agents, but the dynamic is identical. The CIA is tangled up in the cartels and often refuses to cooperate taking them down. Escobar even has an ex-CIA man on his payroll. Season two introduces a truly shady CIA figure in the form of Bill. This is made unquestionably clear in Season 3, when Bill warns Pena that he is wasting his time going after the Cali Cartel. By the end of the season, it is revealed that the CIA knew the Cali Cartel bought off the Colombian President and still decided to back him because of him also being a puppet leader for the US Government. Bill outright tells Pena that the war on drugs is already lost and the US Government's role in South America goes far beyond stopping drug trafficking. Pena finds out Bill is right when his superior admits this to be true, causing Pena to quit the DEA.
  • Co-Dragons: After Gustavo's death, Moncada and Galeano take over his operation duties for Escobar.
  • Coitus Interruptus: On one of their first nights in Bogota, Murphy and his wife's intimacy is broken by the sound of machine gun fire nearby.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Carillo and Colonel Martinez.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Which is what Javier lampshades in the season 3 opening. While Pablo and his men wanted to be loved by the citizens and made sure everyone knew of their crimes, the Cali Cartel wanted friendships with politicians and other political figures and did everything in their power to keep their crimes hidden from the public eye.
  • Contrast Montage: A montage of Pablo's hitmen assassinating dozens of cops is cut with clips of him dancing lovingly with his wife.
  • Comic-Book Time: You could be forgiven for missing the fact that the first two seasons take place over a 14 year period (1979-1993).
  • Composite Character: Since the real Peña left Colombia after Escobar's death, his actions in season 3 against the Cali Cartel are taken from DEA station chief Joe Toft. Most notably the part where he leaks to the press and calls Colombia a "narco-democracy."
  • Cop Killer: Murphy relates that US agents are not targeted by the drug dealers, because the last time one was tortured and killed, the retribution from the US was extremely harsh. Played with in the season 1 finale when Murphy is kidnapped and his fate uncertain for a while. This is also a factor behind the increasing ruthlessness of law enforcement, as Peña relates to Murphy regarding Carrillo: "You had a partner killed. He's had a dozen," because the Medellin Cartel actively encourages the killing of Colombian soldiers and police officers.
  • Corrupt Cop:
    • Escobar offers "silver or lead." In other words, cops take bribes and become corrupt or they get shot.
    • The first season finale heavily implies that Peña is this, by selling proof of Murphy's culpability in the nightclub shooting of several innocents to Pacho Herrera, head of the Cali cartel. He gets a DEA agent in his pocket in exchange for his support in helping the Americans and Colombian military take down Escobar. Averted in season two though.
    • In Season 3, the Cali Cartel controls all of the local police and politicians including the President of Columbia by helping him win his election. This makes things a lot harder for the DEA to bring them down, and the revelation that the US Government knew and still backed the President, causes Pena to quit the DEA and live with his father at the end of the season.
    • Season 4 possibly shines the brightest light so far. All of Mexican law enforcement and government are controlled by different drug cartels, and eventually controlled by Felix, when he brings all of them together. On top of this, many US officials in Mexico also turn a blind eye to the corruption, either because they are also getting a piece of the action, or because they simply don't care. The DEA in Mexico originally didn't care until Kiki came along. And they become committed to bringing down Felix and the cartels after Kiki is kidnapped, tortured, and killed.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela run a corporate empire, mostly banking, which they built with (and use to launder) cocaine money.
  • Cowboy Cop: Being a maverick is a necessity for the crusading law enforcers (Murphy, Peña and Carrillo) given the red tape, obstructionism or outright corruption they regularly face.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Pablo isn't exactly a moron, but he's a fat stoner who spends his time wearing silly sweaters. Every time he's forced to take action, he's one of the most badass fighters in the show.
  • Crusading Widow: Judy Moncada in season two, who vows revenge against Pablo for killing her husband in season one and her brother in season two.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • In the season 1 finale, Colombian Special Forces storm La Catedral and obliterate Escobar's men.
    • Escobar's Cartel massacres the Communist Rebels, M-19.
    • Los Pepes absolutely slaughter Escobar's sicarios at almost every encounter.
  • Da Chief: Ambassador Noonan, who has to deal with the CIA, DEA, and military, with increased exasperation as the series goes on. An actual DEA Da Chief appears in season two, with Messina. Noonan is replaced as ambassador with Crosby, a more covert operations-minded person.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Halfway through season four, as Kiki is ready to go back to the U.S. after spending years with the DEA in Mexico, he and his colleagues are seen throwing darts at a board outlining the Guadalara Cartel network. None of the darts hit Felix Gallardo's picture, just as none of their many attempts to take him down have succeeded up to that point.
  • Dead Guy on Display: How Los Pepes leave behind the sicarios they kill. At one point they're even shown positioning the corpses, and putting a freshly lit cigarette on the mouth of one.
  • Deadly Doctor: One of Pablo's underbosses, Ricardo Prisco.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Pablo has one with Gustavo in the season two finale.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Colonel Horacio Carrillo's real-life counterpart, Colonel Hugo Martinez, successfully fended off all attempts on his life and was still the leader of Search Bloc at the time of Escobar's death. He retired with the rank of General in 1998. In the show, Carrillo dies in an ambush set up by Escobar.
    • Valeria Vélez's real-life counterpart, Virginia Vallejo, was in 2006 evacuated from Columbia by the DEA as she was a key-witness in several cases against leading politicians involved with cartel activities, and she went on to testify about several of the Medellín Cartel activities in the 1980s, even releasing a book in 2007 about her romantic relationship with Escobar. She gained political asylum in the US in 2010. In the show, Vélez is murdered by Los Pepes.
    • Roberto "Poison" Ramos' real-life counterpart, Jhon "Popeye" Jairo Velásquez was apprehend by Columbian authorities in 1992, and sequentially sentenced to 23 years and 3 months of jail. He was eventually released on parole in 2014. In the show Poison is killed by Carrillo during a raid of the nightclub he was hanging out at.
  • Defiant to the End: Gustavo. And ultimately, Pablo.
    • Also, Carillo.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fiestl and Van Ness. The former leans more on the snark and the latter on the deadpan.
  • Dead Partner: Murphy's Miami partner gets accidentally gunned down by one of Escobar's assassins. Carillo is stated to have lost dozens.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Gaviria describes dealing with Escobar as this. A former Colombian president retorts that it could not be otherwise, since Colombia became a living hell a long time ago.
    • Javier definitely considers his deal with the Cali cartel to be this.
  • Death by Materialism: The Cockroach, Escobar's original cocaine manufacturer, eventually tries to backstab Escobar in various ways (snitching on him to hurt his operation and getting into bed with a different trafficker) to increase his own percentage of the profits. Murphy's narration does say that Escobar was screwing over his partner as well, but when he finds out he personally executes him and his conspirators.
  • Decomposite Character: Colonel Carillo is a fictional character. Carillo and Colonel Martinez are based on the real Colonel Hugo Martinez who led the Search Bloc in its hunt for Escobar. Carillo gets most of Martinez's backstory and Cowboy Cop tendencies while Martinez himself is portrayed as a By-the-Book Cop and finishes what Carillo started.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Pacho Herrera in season two, when the true leaders of the Cali Cartel are revealed.
  • Demoted to Extra: Martínez and Don Berna involvement in Season 3 is little more than a single event.
  • Dirty Communists: Much of the first season takes place during the Cold War. M-19 in Season 1 and FARC in Season 3 are Communist guerilla groups who kidnap people for ransom.
  • Dirty Coward: La Quica is notable for the sadistic pleasure he takes from his work as the Medellín Cartel's main assassin after the death of Poison, having absolutely no qualms in liquidating defenseless civilians and killing police officers in ambushes, but when Escobar asks for his participation in Storming the Castle of the Cali Cartel, something that is very probably a Suicide Mission, he gets notably deadly afraid, and ultimately deciding that he doesn't like the odds, he ends up betraying the Medellín Cartel by trying to run away with a chunk of the cartel's money, but gets arrested by the Search Bloc during this attempt. He also cracks very easily during Murphy and Peña's interrogation of him, quickly dropping his half-hearted attempts at acting tough and agreeing give them all the information they want in exchange for a more lenient punishment, where pretty much all of Escobar's other men put up much more of a fight.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • The father of Maritza's daughter isn't mentioned or seen.
    • Pablo's own father also doesn't get a single mention before he hides out in his farm in the second season. It's quickly made clear they aren't that close, and possibly have been estranged for some time (his parents apparently divorced or separated). His father finally tells Pablo that he's completely ashamed to have him as a son, prompting him to leave.
  • Disappointed in You: Pablo calls his father out on his modest life as a farmer, stating that he himself has made something of the name Escobar through his drug empire. His father throws it back in his face, telling him in no uncertain terms that he is ashamed of his son who in his eyes only has made himself a simple criminal and murderer.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After the Colombian government prevents his family from fleeing abroad and puts them in protective custody, Pablo orders a bomb to go off in the middle of a market district during the day, killing hundreds of innocent people. This act ultimately turns the people against him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Murphy pulls a gun on a cab driver for yelling at him, then gets back into the car with his horrified wife and continues his conversation as if nothing had happened.
  • Doomed by Canon:
    • History tells who will prevail, but the show keeps it interesting nevertheless.
    • Within the show, Poison. He's killed in the first episode and it's a How We Got Here story until the end of episode eight.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In Spanish, narco is short for "narcotraficante", drug dealer, while in English it refers to a law enforcement agent specialized in narcotics, aka "narc."
  • The Dragon: Gustavo, to Escobar.
  • Dramatic Irony: Jhon aka Limon was the one to save Maritza from being killed by La Quica, but later on he ends up killing her in front of her daughter.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played straight with the narrator when discussing cocaine, but very much averted with his cynical attitude toward the focus on marijuana in the war on drugs.
  • Dwindling Party: Escobar's inner circle becomes this in season two. One by one they are killed by Los Pepes or arrested by police. By the time Escobar makes his Last Stand, it is just him and his driver.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The show highlights the Search Bloc, as well as the Colombian Special Forces, who are both played as a Badass Army. However, the main Centra Spike (AKA the ISA, the intelligence/paramilitary arm of top-tier US special forces) operative in Colombia, Jacoby (presumably based off of Major Steve Jacoby) is a scrawny and nebbishy looking figure.
  • Enemy Mine: Season two finds Judy Moncada, technically with the Medellin Cartel, joining up with the Cali Cartel, the Right-Wing Militia Fanatic Castaño Brothers and their Vigilante Man army (who are being supplied by "CIA Bill" Schencher), with Peña drawn in as well.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • Escobar has a pretty diverse crew. His Medellin Cartel includes Blackie (a black man), Carlos Lehder (a half-German Neo-Nazi), Fernando Duque (a high-class lawyer), Lion (an Ambiguously Gay man), and Barry Seal (a Good Ol' Boy American ex-CIA agent). He also "hires" M-19 (a Communist guerrilla organization) and briefly contracts "the Spaniard" (a Basque separatist bomb maker).
    • The anti-Escobar coalition that forms in season 2 is made up of various narco factions.
  • Erudite Stoner: Escobar is constantly puffing away on joints. It doesn't seem to affect his business skills.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • In his first scene, Escobar and his men are stopped at the border by a new military commander, who looks ready to arrest him then and there. Escobar calmly lets the soldiers know that he knows everything about them, despite never meeting them before that moment: their names, where they live, and their families. He ends by introducing himself as future President of Colombia and offers them all a simple choice: "silver or lead." They let him pass without further incident.
    • Peña is introduced by CIA agent Owen as "an asshole." Subverted in that he's eventually revealed to be one of the nicest characters on the show.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Hermilda, Pablo's mother.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Escobar clearly loves his mother, and is sincerely devoted to his wife and two children (dalliances with Valeria aside).
    • Gacha has an only son, and goes into a Villainous Breakdown when he's killed.
    • The Cali Cartel have their spouses/lovers, each other, and their children.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • One of Escobar's thugs is visibly disturbed at being ordered to kill the young widow of the man they duped into blowing up Avianca and their two-year old baby daughter. It's not clear who shoots the woman, but he refuses to shoot the baby.
    • Escobar himself is horrified at Gacha casually shooting his dog, just because the dog couldn't detect the drugs Escobar had hidden on one of his cars.
    • Jorge decides to betray the Cali Cartel because of how they easily and viciously kill one of their most trusted men.
  • Evil Genius: Escobar is anything but unintelligent, but he uses his immense talents for selfish and violent goals.
  • Evil Is Petty: Escobar quadruples the war tax on his lieutenants because Galeano won money off of him at pool.
  • Evil Power Vacuum:
    • Once it's clear to everyone that Escobar is done for, the Cali cartel wastes no time in taking over his operations in Miami, becoming the biggest Colombia drug cartel.
    • In season 3 the major problem with Gilberto's surrender scheme is that as soon as he announces it he creates a power vacuum. Worse, he intends to wait the full six months before surrendering. Neither his allies or his rivals want to wait that long before making a grab for power. He then gets greedy and tries to temporarily expand his operations instead of winding them down. This makes a Mob War inevitable.
  • Evil vs. Evil: A good deal of Season 2 focuses on Los Pepes, the coalition of rival drug lords to take down Escobar, and the police's uneasy relationship with them.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Carillo goes down swinging, calling Pablo Escobar a "coward" to his face. Escobar himself ends up going out a similar way.
  • Fair Cop: Murphy and Peña are portrayed as two hunks. Carillo and Martinez also count.
  • False Flag Operation: Escobar hires M-19 to storm the Palace of Justice. Ostensibly it fits M-19's war with the government, but Escobar specifically has them torch the room containing evidence against him.
  • Family Values Villain: Escobar is big on family and Thicker Than Water values.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • One of the only things that Pablo Escobar is afraid of is being extradited to the United States, where his wealth and power would be meaningless and he'd be living in a small cell just like all the other criminals. One of Escobar's mottoes is "Better a grave in Colombia than a cell in the United States."
    • The only named character to suffer this fate is Carlos Lehder, who remains in prison to this day. Until Gilberto and Miguel are extradited at the end of season 3.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Although Colonel Carillo is obsessed with bringing down the Cartel, he does not recklessly endanger the lives of his men. He avoids putting them in danger unless it's absolutely necessary.
    • Martinez is also this. And he's literally the father of one of them.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Escobar starts off as legitimately Affably Evil, but slides into this midway through the series. Pacho Herrera as well, who is far more snide and cold when not negotiating.
    • "CIA Bill" Stechner uses friendly words, in the most hollow way possible.
  • Flowery Insults: Pablo has a penchant for dropping half a dozen of insults in as many seconds. Most of these parlache (Paisa/Medellín slang) words sound wonderful to non-Colombians (hijueputa, gonorrea, malparido, pirobo, sapo...) and became popular in other Spanish-speaking countries during the show's heyday. Netflix even asked the Royal Spanish Academy via twitter about the correct spelling.
  • Foil:
    • Carillo and Martinez — Carillo is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to bring Escobar, even shooting an unarmed teenaged scout of Escobar's to strike fear into his other men; Martinez is completely by-the-book and makes it clear to his men that he doesn't tolerate vigilante justice.
    • The Cali Cartel and Salazar Cartel — The Cali Cartel is all about being discreet and maintaining a good public image, the Salazar Cartel couldn't care less for either one.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Not too surprising, considering Escobar's eventual fate.
  • Freudian Excuse: Pablo wasn't exactly raised to be a model citizen. It's heavily implied that his mother Hermilda instilled the idea that it's right to just take what you want. She relates that when Pablo was a boy, a little girl from his school made fun of his ragged shoes. They didn't have any money to buy him new ones, so that night, Hermilda went into town and stole a pair from a store.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Limón is just a taxi driver hired for a day for his clean record. He becomes a cop killer and develops Undying Loyalty to Pablo.
  • Frontline General: Carrillo frequently leads his Search Bloc troopers on raids.

    G-L 

  • Gayngster: Pacho of the Cali Cartel is one of the Cali Godfathers and is also a Badass Gay.
  • Godzilla Threshold: In-universe, Gaviria orders an exiled Carillo to return to Colombia after Pablo has scores of policemen murdered, even though he knows how brutal Carillo can be.
  • Gold Digger: Valeria in spades. After Escobar begins his campaign for Congress by handing out dollars to the poor, she seduces him in no time. In one scene, she boldly asks Escobar for her 'fair share' in helping to cultivate his political persona. Towards the end of the series, as Escobar becomes more notorious and violent, she blatantly tells him that she has to break up with him because it would be negative for her own image as an anchorwoman. She's later seen having dinner with Pacho Herrera.
  • Good Is Not Nice: This is shown from the very first episode with Carillo's forces shooting up a night club, killing innocents, to catch some of Escobar's sicarios.
  • Great Offscreen War: The decades-long war with the FARC guerillas goes unseen, beyond a few references when introducing the Castaños.
  • Guns Akimbo: Escobar wields two pistols during his final shootout.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Escobar is known as a very volatile person who can be both diplomatic and unforgiving. This makes him especially feared within his organization, since "El Patron" often kills people over perceived slights.
  • Happily Married: Escobar and Tata. Carillo and his wife count as well. Murphy and his wife don't always see eye to eye, but still stay together and support each other. At least until season two, when she's finally had enough and flies back to Miami.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam:
    • A few weeks after hiding on his father's farm and living peacefully, Escobar seriously contemplates retiring for good to raise his family in an adjoining farm. Once he brings up the idea to his father, however, he's bluntly told that he is a 'murderer' with too much blood on his hands to ever be just a peaceful farmer. Escobar and Limón return to Medellin not long after.
    • The whole plot of Season 3 is this. The leader of the Cali Cartel cuts a sweet deal with the Colombian government. He, along with his 3 business partners, turn themselves over to the authorities and surrender all of their illegal activity after six months of sowing up loose ends and getting their business in order. They do a little jail time. And in return get to keep all the billions they made over the years and direct it into legal businesses. In other words, going legit. However, each episode shows how this plan falls apart because of problems that happen both on the inside and outside of the organization.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A political one happens when vice-minister Sandoval falls on his sword to protect Gaviria.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Pablo and Gustavo. They bicker, but love each other other to no end. When Gustavo is killed, Pablo goes deep into mourning and becomes unhinged.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: A major theme in the series, particularly with how Peña and Murphy struggle with it. Carrillo has less qualms about it.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier:
    • Used several times to keep Murphy sidelined. He does eventually start to pick up Spanish, however, but never gets fluent.
    • Conversely, Carrillo staffs one of his command centers with men who don't speak English, so that he can talk to Murphy in front of them without worrying that one might be a mole.
    • In Season 3 when one of the Cali Cartel leaders, Jose, who operates out of New York makes a phone call in a diner, he noticed someone might be listen in. After the call he confronts the man speaking Spanish, but the man claims he doesn't understand. Thinking he is being paranoid, he leaves the man alone. Episodes later, after the meth lab he controls blows up by accident,the same man is the main reporter on television speaking Spanish and revealing that its the Cali Cartel who controlled the lab, not the Dominicans who he took it from. He confronts the reporter and offers him a bribe. After the reporter refused, he kills him an goes back to Cali.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • Almost everyone, but most notably Pacho Herrera, who in real life looked nothing like the dashing character he is portrayed to be throughout the show.
    • Steve Murphy also gets an upgrade. At the end of series two, when Pablo Escobar is finally killed, the real life photograph is shown immediately after one shot of the aftermath. In the photo he is an average, balding, middle-aged man, whereas his actor is - dated facial hair aside - quite good-looking.
    • Even Pablo Escobar, in series one, is prettier than his real life counterpart.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Helena, one of Peña's informants.
  • Homage Murphy's omnipresent narration mixing snark, incredulity and detachment is an acknowledged nod to Goodfellas.
  • How We Got Here: The series opens with a Colombian military raid (with American support) on a nightclub that results in some of Escobar's men being killed, as well as innocent civilians. The story (up until episode 8) is told in flashback.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Gustavo is described by one character as the brains behind Escobar's empire. After his death, it doesn't take long for Escobar to lose control. In his "conversation" with Gustavo in season two, Pablo admits that everything started to fall apart once Gustavo died.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Escobar. He says he works and listens to the people (and despite being one of the richest men in the world and head of the Cartel, never calls himself rich, rather "a poor man with money") and rails against the oligarchs, or "men of always." But it's ultimately revealed that he desperately seeks those very men's approval.
    • His mother is also an example. She is a devout Catholic and insists on praying and going to church regularly, even though she lives in luxury bought with the blood and suffering of tens of thousands of her fellow Colombians. When her real-life counterpart publically grieves Pablo's death and wishes for no mother to feel the way she feels, the intercut montage of drug war casualties makes it apparent her son did exactly that to many thousands of parents.
    • Los Pepes claim they're an army fighting against the communist, and that they hate drug cartels and are only working for Judy, to help destroy Escobar. During the season finalie, Los Pepes makes a business deal with the Cali Cartel selling drugs, gets Judy's Dragon on their side, and sell her to the CIA. A case of Laser-Guided Karma for Judy, because she was going to sell them all out to the DEA.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: In season 4, when Mexican drug kingpin Felix Gallardo realizes that he can expand his cartel's activities to transporting cocaine for the Colombians, he approaches the Cali Cartel first because of their more business-like reputation than the Medellin cartel, whose leader Pablo Escobar is known for his Hair-Trigger Temper. However, Felix is kidnapped by Escobar's sicarios, who threatens to have him killed as this move presents an existenial threat to Escobar's dominance of the cocaine market. Felix counters that he would have already had him killed if that was his intention, and he's right: it speaks to the importance of the Mexican corridor for Escobar's empire that instead he arranges an identical deal as the one offered to Cali.
  • I Have Your Wife:
    • In order to get extradition revoked, the cartel resorts to kidnapping the heirs of Colombia's richest and most powerful families, up to and including the only daughter of a former President.
    • In season two the Columbian government resorts to this when they put Escobar's family in protective custody (essentially house arrest). It is meant to put pressure on Escobar to surrender to the authorities rather than see his family suffer.
  • Imagine Spot: Pablo Escobar has one where he imagines himself being elected president of Colombia on the day of his death.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Escobar's sicarios are about to murder an infant, but our heroes arrive just in time to send them running.
  • In Medias Res:
    • The series begins with Murphy and Carrillo shooting up a diner to kill Poison. Chronologically, this takes place in episode 8.
    • One episode starts with Gustavo and Escobar fleeing through the jungle at night, shirtless, with gunfire behind them. The Search Bloc ambushed them as they moved between safe houses.
  • Inspector Javert: Carillo. His obsession with catching and killing Escobar is paramount in his life.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The DEA, CIA, and military are constantly bickering between themselves.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Valeria, a news reporter who seduces Escobar. While this initially provides her a unique insight into the Medellin Cartel, she eventually just becomes a mouthpiece for Escobar and ends up getting her killed by his rivals.
  • Ironic Echo: After Murphy feels guilty for indirectly contributing to the assassination of Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Peña tells him to "look on the bright side". Later in the same episode, when Peña learns about the killing of Barry Seal, he chews out Murphy for being responsible. Murphy sarcastically tells Peña to "look on the bright side".
  • Ironic Nickname: The Basque terrorist is called "The Spaniard", a name he would surely hate, being a nationalist separatist. It's like calling an IRA member from Belfast "The Briton".
  • It's All About Me: Escobar, especially towards the end of the series, where he starts taxing his associates to pay for his ongoing wars, the construction of La Catedral and the upkeep of his lifestyle.
  • It's Personal: For many of the members of Search Bloc who have lost relatives due to the violence of the cartel.
  • I Was Never Here: The DEA isn't really supposed to be out on operations with the police or military, so they claim to only be there "in an operational capacity" while assisting Carillo with raids. "CIA Bill" goes even further with this in season two.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Rafa in season 4 starts out as a relatively soft-spoken botanist who upbraids his men for excessive screwing around. Once his seedless marijuana makes him rich it doesn't take long for this newfound wealth and power to completely go to his head, and before long he's indulging in Conspicuous Consumption and going hog-wild on Hookers and Blow.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Major Wysession will do anything to defeat communists.
    • Colonel Carillo is obsessed with bringing down the Narcos, due to the fact that they've killed so many of his fellow officers.
  • Lady Macbeth:
    • Tata has shades of it. When in brief exile from Colombia, she urges Escobar to do whatever it takes to go home.
    • Moncada's wife pushes her husband towards dissent, complaining that Escobar's "war taxes" prevent them from buying a new house.
  • The Lancer: Peña to Murphy, and Eduardo Sandoval to Gaviria (and Gaviria himself was one to Galán).
  • Latino Is Brown: Averted. The diversity of Latin American phenotype is on full display.
    • One of Pablo's top sicarios is Afro-Latino. Nicknamed "Blackie".
    • Kiko Mocada is a pale ginger.
    • Several Colombian characters are natural blondes, including Eduardo.
    • While Tata and the kids are very olive skinned; Escobar himself despoite being dark haired is pretty pale; like the man himself.
  • Lemony Narrator: Murphy's dry and cynical narration of the events.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: A strong case can be made for Gilberto Rodríguez, almost near Anti-Villain levels. He's a quite reasonable and pragmatic kingpin who in some regards is the anti-Escobar. He keeps a low profile, which involves a very low level of public violence and not waging wars against civilians or the police.
  • Living Legend: By season 3, Peña has become the hero who bought down Pablo Escobar, but some resent him for his compromise with Cali and Los Pepes.
  • Loose Lips:
    • During a dinner with Herrera, Valeria lets it slip that Escobar's wife and children are holed up in an apartment complex while he goes about his business. A car bomb is detonated there shortly after, resulting in Escobar's young daughter becoming permanently deaf in her right ear.
    • Later, Moncada's wife (likely while drunk or high) mentions briefly that Moncado had complained about the war tax Escobar imposed. This contributes to his death.
  • Lucky Bastard: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the head of the Guadalajara Cartel in season 4. While it is his vision and diplomacy that creates a massive drug empire, many times he survives deadly encounters or stays out of handcuffs through sheer insane luck, such as Mexican government officials calling him to confirm their support and tipping him off literally seconds before he walks into a trap orchestrated by US law enforcement.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Escobar forces the Colombian government to allow him to build his own "prison," which is really just a gigantic mansion for him and his sicarios. However, despite the numerous luxuries and visits from his family, he does eventually grow tired of his captivity.

    M-R 
  • Mafia Princess: Maria Ochoa fits this trope to the letter.
  • Male Gaze: There are some loving shots when a U.S. drug laywer working for Felix admires his wife's body in a "Let's Get Physical"-type workout outfit from the breakfast table.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste:
    • The Ochoas are the most sophisticated members of the Medellin cartel. They're branded as "soft" by their peers, but they prove to have more teeth than others thought.
    • Pacho Herrera of the Cali Cartel is a sophisticated and stylish cartel don. He dresses well, goes to fine restaurants and makes exotic cocktails. His bosses the Orejulas also fit this.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Rodriguez brothers who are the real heads of the Cali Cartel, with Herrera handling operations and the public image.
  • Marry Them All: Gilberto Rodriguez is a polygamist with three wives. He has divied up his schedule between his three homes, spending time with each of his wives two days a week, except for the seventh day, when they're all together.
  • Meet Cute: Murphy's comrades trick him into believing that Connie was staring at his ass. When he tries to hit on her, she rebuffs him, but agrees to give him a "fake" number to show up his friends. He calls it anyway and discovers that it's her real number. In the next scene they're married.
  • Military Brat: Jorge mentions having an army father during his childhood.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Jorge Salcedo in Season 3. The season starts off with him wanting to quit the Cartel after giving them years of faithful service and hearing about the surrender plan in six months. However, he is forced by Miguel to keep working until the surrender plan is successful, ruining his personal plans with the family. After the main boss, Giberto, is arrested, his head of security and friend is murdered in front of him, along with his wife as by Miguel's son as a warning. Angered by this senseless murder and intimidation, he contacts the two DEA agents operating in Cali and makes a deal with them for immunity and protection for himself and his family. He succeeds in the plans after many close calls, and helps bring the Cali Cartel down. By the end of the season, he is put into witness protection and lives his life as a mechanic named Eddie, but his is miserable with his new life.
  • The Mistress: Valeria, to Tata's disgust. And Maria Ochoa to Gustavo.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe season two for Carrillo after he executes an underage prisoner and then follows it up by throwing prisoners out of a moving helicopter.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Fernando and Valeria serve as this to Escobar, meeting with Gaviria to talk him into renouncing extradition if he runs for President.
  • Mundane Utility: Ricardo Prisco, the doctor working for Pablo as an underboss mostly has his criminal side highlighted, but he also does an examination on a stressed out Pablo.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Peña's reaction once he realizes his actions might have gotten Murphy abducted or killed.
    • And again in season two, once he realises that feeding Los Pepes confidential information has led to even more violence and terror.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong:
    • Gustavo calls Escobar out on his decision to wage a terrorist campaign against the Colombian government. He still goes along with it, with the full knowledge that innocent people will be caught in the crossfire.
    • Blackie is clearly disturbed by Pablo's orders to detonate an enormous bomb in the middle of Bogata, killing several people, including women and children. He still refuses to give up Pablo to the police.
    • Limón develops this towards Escobar. He's fond of his Patrón, the man who built his childhood neighbourhood.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: The Ochoas don't take kindly to Gustavo messing around with their sister. They sell him out to Carillo in exchange for light jail sentences and an implied future partnership with the Cali cartel when they get out.
  • Name's the Same: In-universe. Messina knows Bill Heller, who Bill Steincher the new CIA chief in Colombia calls "DEA Bill." DEA Bill in turn calls him "CIA Bill."
  • Narrator: For the first two season, Murphy narrated and in the third season, Peña takes over.
  • Never My Fault: Hermilda, after her sneaking out to Christmas mass despite warnings leads Los Pepes to their hideout and gets around a dozen people killed. Pablo occasionally slips into this, but only briefly, until his paranoia and hampered mental health eventually cause him to blame everyone else (the police, the government, rival drug lords) for his situation.
  • Nice Hat: Gustavo's ever-present flat cap. And Gacha's sombreros. The police forces often wear a variant of the sombrero vueltiao, a national symbol of Colombia.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The founding members of what would become the Medellin Cartel: the cultured and savvy Ochoa brothers are the Nice, ruthless Gacha is the Mean, and Escobar is enough of both to be picked as the leader.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Gustavo is brutally beaten to death by Carillo's men.
    • Escobar delivers one to Galeano with a pool cue.
    • The Castaño brothers chain Chepe to a truck, then beat him with a shovel and their fists before shooting him four times.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Omnipresent and discussed.
    Murphy: It is often said there is no honor among thieves. That's doubly true of drug dealers.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: How Escobar has Carrillo killed, with at lease a dozen bullets, if not two dozen.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Old: No adult characters seem to visibly age throughout the 14 year period between 1979-1993 during which the series takes place. The only sign of age is Escobar getting gray in his hair.
  • Not So Different: Escobar attempts this with Sandoval, who denies it.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: After spending most of the season being the "softest" of the Medellin cartel, the Ochoas sell out Gustavo and get him killed.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Pacho Herrera makes a passion fruit cocktail for Murphy while being a gracious host to his (abducted by force) guest. Via narration, Murphy does say the drink was good.
  • Number Two: Trujillo, who serves as this for Carillo, Martinez, and Murphy and Peña.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse:
    • Pablo's specialty is giving these to cops: "plata o plomo".
    • President Gaviria pressures Colonel Hugo Martinez into leading the Search Bloc (a job no one wants by that point) by informing him that Hugo Martinez Jr. has volunteered for the high-casualty unit.
  • The Oner:
    • When Poison and other sicarios go to kill Jaime's widow and baby the camera follows them for a two-minute continuous shot as they walk into the house, check each room, climb the stairs, and end up on the roof.
    • A casual conversation between Pablo and his wife is interrupted by a car bomb, with the camera still not cutting as he runs out to check on his son.
    • Pablo walks from his house's pool to the kitchen overlooking it, educating the audience on the house's layout. The following episode has another one when Los Pepes attack the house.
    • The aftermath of the Orejula daughter's wedding being bombed is shown in one take, with the bride rushing back inside, searching the room for her father.
  • Only Sane Man: The Ochoa brothers aren't quite insane, but Gustavo is the one person in the Medellin Cartel who's fully pragmatic. Later, Don Berna for the anti-Pablo alliance.
  • Papa Wolf: As Murphy states, "You threaten a man's family and you find out what he's made of."
    • Pablo's few heroic actions in the show come as he protects his children.
    • Martinez is a sterner version of this, looking out for his son.
    • Gilberto finally decides to take on Escobar after he planted a bomb during the night of his daughter's wedding.
    • After a failed assassination attempt, Fernando takes his son out of school to protect him from the Los Pepes.
    • After they arrest La Quica, Murphy nearly beats him to death, because he was one of the sicarios who were about to shoot his adoptive daughter in season one.
  • Permanent Elected Official: Downplayed example. In real life, no US ambassador to Colombia has ever served over five years. The fictional Ambassador Noonan serves for at least 10 years.
  • Pet the Dog: Pablo is consistently shown as a caring son, father and husband. It takes a lot of ruthlessness in his business activities to negate what would otherwise become a Sympathetic P.O.V., and the show also makes it clear that the concern for his family is also the drive behind some of his most heinous deeds.
  • Playing Both Sides:
    • Navegante acts an informant to the DEA while working for Gacha. Later, the organization he joins, Pacho Herrera's Cali Cartel, tries to cut a deal with Escobar while also setting the DEA after him.
    • Suarez, the Corrupt Cop happy to sell information, for a price.
    • Technically, the US government. Even as the White House pressures the DEA for Escobar's capture and stopping the drug trade, the CIA is in league with the Cali Cartel due to anti-communist efforts.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A rampant sexism and a toxic mucho-macho culture is prevalent among the narcotraficantes and their sicarios, who deliver plenty of casual homophobic remarks. It's a bit downplayed by the English subtitle track, which often omits them. For instance, Escobar uses the word "marica" (fag, sissy) during his introduction, and is unsubbed.
    • This is played with in the Season 3 premiere. Pacho Herrera slow dances with and then kisses another man in front of everyone in a club to taunt his rival Salazar. Considering how homophobic the general culture is, this demonstrates just how feared and untouchable the "Gentlemen of Cali" really are.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Cali Godfathers under the leadeship of Gilberto Rodríguez actively avoid any kind of flashy violence that would draw the focus of law enforcement, being discreet in their wars with other rivals and preferring to quietly corrupt the Colombian elite instead.
  • Private Eye Monologue: DEA agent Murphy's narration style is a combination of this and Lemony Narrator.
  • Properly Paranoid: The few times Gacha's paranoia kicks in, his instincts are usually right on the money. Subverted horribly with Escobar.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: La Quica, who goes from lewd and murderous in one scene to whining about wanting ice cream.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • After being an important supporting character, Elena leaves the show two-thirds of the way through. Justified in part because, as a communist, she needed to escape the hunt for M-19 members to protect herself and the Murphys and Peña. However, since she was the one person who could link Escobar to the Palace of Justice attack, that thread dies as soon as she leaves. At least Escobar does something just as heinous to warrant attention.
    • Despite being founding members of the Medellin Cartel, the Ochoa brothers are last seen being given a slap on the wrist prison sentence for illegally importing bulls from Spain towards the end of Season 1.
    • Colonel Martinez returns in season 3 to help bring down the Cali Cartel but political backlash to the arrest of Gilberto causes him to be reassigned halfway through the season.
  • The Quiet One: Navegante in season 2, despite his prominence in many scenes.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Pablo's sicarios, including Poison, La Quica, Velasco, and Blackie. Fittingly, they're all taken down one by one.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Observed by the opening text of the first episode. It comments how the genre of Magic Realism was born in Colombia, a genre characterized by "something unbelievable" entering a reality-looking environment, and then notes that this is no coincidence. The story then proceeds to tell the bizarre and absurd tale of Pablo Escobar, much of which is based on true events.
  • Really Gets Around: Javier gets intimate with a lot of women, one of whom is an informant for him. Barry Seal, the cartel members, and quite a few other characters display this trope in spades as well.
  • Real Person Cameo: The real Javier Peña and Steve Murphy appear in the last episode of season two as two bar patrons toasting the news that Escobar has been killed. And technically many of the real people as the show's semi-documentary nature uses actual footage and photos of the major players in the series.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Diana Turbay gives one to Escobar as she's held hostage.
    Diana: What did you expect? To get into Congress like it was nothing? Without it mattering that you, in fact, traffic drugs?
    Escobar: I expected respect.
    Diana: You had respect when you built homes for the poor. But when you didn't get that respect from a herd of egocentric bureaucrats, you threw a tantrum.
    Escobar: ...I was going to do marvelous things for this country. If I have made myself a monster, like all of you say, that is the fault of people like your father and those politicians "of always." Those oligarchs and those people were never going to tolerate that little paisa from Medellin, who had more money and was more intelligent than all of them!
    Diana: ...Yes. You would have done marvelous things. And that is the saddest part.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Colonel Martinez. He's intentionally brought in by Gaviria to avoid Vigilante Man tactics and do things by the book, but he realizes the necessities of his job, hears out his men, and adapts to be more proactive.
    • Claudia Messina is specifically brought in by the DEA to curtail the free reign Murphy and Peña have been enjoying in Colombia, but she proves herself a fair boss with a sound judgment and a logical, independent thinking. It is implied she gets reassigned because she is not what the brass expected, a yes woman.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Carrillo gets shipped off to Spain after his tactics provoke political pressure.
    • Messina is reassigned and sent back home, "likely to spend the rest of her career busting meth labs in Indianapolis". The reason hinted being she was not hardass enough to control and railroad Peña and Murphy.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: From episode 3; though the camera is situated so we only see their faces, Pablo is heavily implied to be using the barrel of his pistol to stimulate Valeria's lady parts during foreplay. Very reckless indeed.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Valeria returns in season two, a far cry from the gold digger she had been in the last season, and goes out of her way to help Pablo communicate with his family while they're in protective custody. She even refuses his money when he offers to pay her. Her reward for this is to be brutally assaulted and murdered by Los Pepes.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gustavo is the blue to Escobar's red. Played With since Gustavo is more prone to raising his voice and acting out, but it's purely from a business perspective. The cautious, pragmatic Gaviria is the blue to Galán's red, and later Sandoval becomes the red to Gaviria. Also the dynamic with the Castaño brothers.
    • Feistl is the more headstrong one compared to his DEA partner Van Ness.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • After he and his wife survive an attempted assassination, Carillo decides to let Pablo Escobar know he isn't afraid of him. How does he do that? By calling Escobar personally on the satellite phone that they'd tapped, and letting Escobar know that not only does he know everything about Pablo, but everything about Escobar's family, too, down to where Pablo's mother was shopping that day. An enraged Escobar threatens to kill off Carillo and basically the entire Carillo bloodline, so what does Carillo do? He hangs up before Escobar is finished.
    • How does the seventh richest man in the world get around town after escaping prison and getting every single cop in the country on his case? Ride in the trunk of a cab driven by a friend of one of his men who has a spotless record.
    • While in a very light disguise of sunglasses and a beard, Escobar goes out to the streets of Medellin, buys an ice cream, gives a cop a lighter he dropped, and just has a casual stroll.
  • Refusal of the Call: Gaviria is hesitant to run as President on a pro-extradition campaign at first, especially since his predecessor was murdered for doing so.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction:
    • After Escobar murders Kiko Moncada, Judy Moncada and Don Berna break away from the Medellin Cartel and form La Oficina de Envigado. They ally with the Castaño brothers' nationalist paramilitary group and, briefly, the Cali Cartel to form Los Pepes and destroy the Medellin Cartel.
    • Due to Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela's surrender deal with the government and Pacho Herrera's murder of Claudio Salazar, Orlando Henao and Gerda Salazar split with the Cali Cartel and become the Norte del Valle Cartel.
  • The Remnant: In Season 3, Don Berna's La Oficina de Envigado has become this for the Medellin Cartel. By the end of the season, the Norte del Valle Cartel is this for the Cali Cartel.
  • Retired Badass: Crosby has a Navy background and worked in counterterror operations before becoming ambassador.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Lion's fate. After selling out Escobar's Miami operation to Cali, Cali kills him.
  • Revenge: The main motivation for the cops who join the Search Bloc.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • So much, on both sides. The entire first is basically the Cartel and the Colombian Police exacting increasingly bloody revenge on each other.
    • This becomes Los Pepes' raison d'etre in season two.
    • The Sequel Hook ending to Season 4. After Kiki was tortured and murdered, the DEA in Mexico form a secret group whose job is to find and assassinate the people they believe are responsible, as well as key members of the Mexican Cartel.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Despite having the latest in surveillance tech and U.S. intel support, Search Bloc is continually outsmarted by Pablo's use of human spotters, walkie talkies, and corrupt informants to tip him off.
  • Rule of Three: Government officials' views on bulletproof vests. First Lara refuses to wear one and dies for it. Galán wears one, even Tempting Fate by saying he'll be fine because of it, but is shot just below the vest and bleeds out. Gaviria and Sandoval express incredulity at the bulky, absurd bulletproof pants Murphy provides, but in contrast to the first two, are still heavily focused on security.

    S-Y 
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Lehder is the first narco to be extradited, highlighting the danger the cartel faces.
  • Sanity Slippage: In Season 1, La Quica is the sane man in his partnership with the sociopathic Poison. In Season 2, Limón is his saner partner, and La Quica acts as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Poison.
  • Sarcastic Confession: After Peña tells Elisa, when they are introduced to each other, that his job is to hunt down communists, she straight up tells him she is part of a communist paramilitary organization. They all share a good laugh with that.
  • Scary Black Man: CIA Agent Owen for the protagonists, Blackie as part of Escobar's crew.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: This would be the pro-extradition bloc's creed, but special mention has to be given to Carillo.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: If Escobar had a creed, this would be it.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • Fernando Duque tries this after Los Pepes goes after him. He's too inept to succeed.
    • La Quica tries this rather than go into the gang war, but is captured soon after.
  • Self-Made Man: Whatever else Escobar and his cronies are, there is no denying their entrepreneurship.
  • Sequel Hook: The last line of Season Two: "Agent Peña, how much do you know about the Cali cartel?"
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene in S3E3 where Salcedo notices a stray bundle of $100 bills on the floor in Pallomari's office during a police raid, and kicks it under a piece of furniture, is a shout-out to a similar sequence at the end of The Taking of Pelham 123.
    • In a jailhouse phone call to his brother Miguel in Season 3, Gilberto asks his brother, "¿Por qué no te callas?" ("Why don't you just shut up?"), echoing King Juan Carlos I of Spain to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in Real Life at the Ibero-American Summit in 2007.
  • Silent Credits: Mute, songless final credits are used in "Deutschland 93" after Escobar places a bomb near la Casa de Nariño, the Presidential Palace in downtown Bogotá, with bloody results.
  • Skewed Priorities: Initially the CIA and US intelligence groups are completely obsessed with anti-Communism efforts and neglect the ever-growing cocaine problem. It's only after the protagonists conclusively prove that Pablo was working with Nicaraguan Communists that the DEA gets the resources it needs.
  • Slobs Vs Snobs: The Medellin Cartel and the Cali Cartel, respectively. Murphy's narration even compares them to their respective primary markets: loose, hard-partying Miami for the Medellin and professional, sophisticated New York for Cali. Pablo also views his war with the politicians and oligarchs as this.
  • Smug Snake: Pacho Herrera.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Poison stands out in Escobar's organization as being particularly brutal, not even hesitating in his attempt to shoot a two-year old girl.
    • In season two, La Quica stands out as this.
    • Season 3 has David Rodriguez, son of Miguel Rodriguez who is one of the 4 leaders of the Cali Cartel. He treats everyone around him with disrespect, even his own men. Has a Hair-Trigger Temper that is a time bomb waiting to go off. He goes out of his way to make Jorge's life a living hell, just because his dad sided with him during a conversation. And he loves to torture and kill people.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: M-19, which at first seems to be less than a dozen people. Subverted later when they organize all of their forces to storm the Palace of Justice.
  • Take a Third Option: In season two, Judy Moncada becomes a target for the Castaños, and is faced with two choices: going to war against them or becoming an informant for the DEA. Her righthand man Berna instead sells her out to the CIA, keeping her alive and ensuring that the Castaños - and by extension the Cali cartel - continue to get CIA support.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Cali cartel leaders, especially Pacho Herrera, are not particularly fond of working with Judy Moncado.
  • Theme Tune: A song called Tuyo by Rodrigo Amarante. It's lyrics (in Spanish) seem to be something of a low-key Villain Song for Cocaine itself, boasting its power over the world.
  • The Purge: After the Cali Cartel leaders announce that they made a deal with the Columbian government to retire from the drug business, many of their business associates are not happy. However, the cartel has them all under surveillance and quickly discovers who is against the plan. Anyone who is not on board or might make trouble further down the line is murdered.
  • Those Two Guys: Since they aren't the leads that Murphy and Peña were, Feistl and Van Ness have this dynamic.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Moncada and Galeano, Escobar's lieutenants who run the outside operations after Pablo goes into La Catedral.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The main struggle for Murphy and Peña, who remain frustrated with the restrictions they're under. Both become relentless in taking down the cartel, but Murphy leans more toward lawful and Peña more toward good.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fernando Duque. Though a competent lawyer and negotiator, once he has to go on the run, he does a terrible job of hiding himself and his son. Pena lampshades this.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Carillo is badass from the start, but once the war with Escobar heats up and he gets to form the Search Bloc, he (and the police in a way) take a level.
    • Judy Moncada in season two. She goes from a hard-partying cartel wife to cruel and Revenge Before Reason head of part of the Medellin cartel.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: DEA Agent Murphy, who becomes more aggressive and violent as the war against Escobar goes on, much to his wife's growing concern.
  • Tragic Villain: When Escobar says that he could have done marvelous things for Colombia, Diana Turbay agrees that it's true, and that this is the saddest part of his story.
  • Tranquil Fury: If Escobar gets mad, he won't raise his voice or act out in an extreme way. Except for his initial phone conversation with Cesar Gaviria and when he loses it and beats Galeano to death with a pool cue.
  • Translation Convention: Notably averted, with likely more than half the dialogue being in Spanish.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Martinez's predecessor resigns when nearly a hundred of his cops are killed in one afternoon, turning in his Colonel's cap along with the letter.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Velasco, Escobar's primary Yes-Man. When captured by Los Pepes, he apparently endures extensive torture without giving Pablo up.
    • Limón in season two. He continues to work for Escobar even after the fall of his empire, staying with him until the end.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: A poor farmer finds millions of dollars buried on his property. Realizing that it is cartel money, he hands it over to the Medellin Cartel. The money does in fact belong to Escobar but the people who buried it there are all dead now. The increasingly paranoid Escobar suspects that his business partners are cheating him and they are the ones who buried the money after they stole from him. He murders them but Murphy and Peña find out about it and inform the Colombian government that Escobar broke the terms of his deal with the government by continuing his criminal activities. This restarts the Colombian Drug War.
  • Vigilante Man: The Search Bloc edges into this in the final episodes. And in season two, a Badass Army of far-right vigilantes and rival drug lords, Los Pepes, emerges.
  • Villainous Friendship:
    • Pablo and his cousin Gustavo are very, very close.
    Gustavo: So, do you miss me, you son of a bitch?
    Pablo: ...Every fucking day of my life, brother.
    • The Cali cartel kingpins disagree over their surrender, but they're still unified when they're all in prison at the end. Pacho considers Chepe and the Rodriguez brothers his family after they made him a partner in the cartel despite others' homophobia. He would rather surrender with them than accept Amado's business proposal.
    • Amado is quick to remind Pacho that he never judged him for being gay, and commends him for his loyalty to the other Cali godfathers.
  • Villain Protagonist: Pablo Escobar and the Cali Godfathers get at least as much focus as the people who are after him.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • For a while, Escobar enjoys quite a bit of popularity from the lower class for spreading his wealth around the poor, particularly in his home town of Medellin, where people revere him.
    • Los Pepes gets a lot of support because of how they go after Escobar.
  • The War Has Just Begun: Season 1 ends in this note-the war is resumed but this time there will be no quarter.
  • Western Terrorists: Escobar hires a Basque separatist, who's a master of bomb making, to help him in his ploy to kill Gaviria. This results in the bombing and destruction of Avianca Flight 203, killing over 100 innocent passengers. It launches Escobar himself into a Western terrorist, and helps create narco-terrorism.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: When Limon shoots Maritza, he leaves her daughter there. No mention is made of her fate.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Connie calls out Steve, or at least tries to, after he pulls his gun on a taxi driver during a traffic dispute and shoots the man's car.
    • In the Season 1 finale, Murphy reacts violently to Peña after he thinks his partner caused him to be abducted.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Moura does a good job as Escobar, but any native Spanish speaker can tell the difference between him and the real deal, especially when he's angry, as his vocalization gives away that the actor is a native speaker of Brazilian Portuguese.
  • White Male Lead: DEA Agent Steve Murphy serves as a subversion. He's one of the few American characters on a show with a primarily hispanic cast and looks the part of the square-jawed white lead leading the fight against the narco-terrorists, but for most of the series he's really more of a First-Person Peripheral Narrator with the Colombian characters getting more focus than he does.
  • The Worf Effect: Carillo is killed off midway through season two, showing how much Escobar is escalating the fight.
  • Worthy Opponent: How Don Berna views Peña.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The drug cartel and Los Pepes have no qualms about murdering women.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Carillo shoots a teenaged boy for helping Escobar move unseen in Medellin, and gives his traumatized ten-year old friend a bullet to give to Escobar.
    • The Los Pepes will even kill the children of Pablo's followers.
    • Later, Escobar has a car bomb set off near the Presidential Palace to strike at Gaviria, and many children are killed. It appears to be the breaking point for his loyal henchmen Blackie, who deserts him then makes a deal with the police.
  • Yes-Man: Velasco, to a T. To an extent, everyone holed up at La Catedral with Escobar.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: As Escobar and his family leave Hacienda Napoles, Murphy notes with a degree of smug satisfaction that Escobar would never set foot in his most opulent home again.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Escobar and his men murder the M-19 leadership after they complete the task Escobar hired them for.
    • Carrillo at his most ruthless throws suspects who claim to know nothing out of a helicopter.
  • You No Take Candle: Navegante's English is broken, but surprisingly understandable.
  • Your Cheating Heart: In season 4, there's a small subplot where Felix's wife Maria realizes that her husband has been having an affair with—and impregnated—a woman who works at an art gallery. She subtly voices her displeasure by buying a sister painting from the same gallery and prominently hanging it in their lobby for Felix to find.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Murphy gives a very brief rundown of both the far-right and communist "freedom fighters" in conflict with each other in Columbia. His tone presents both groups as murderous thugs with neither having the moral high ground.

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