Griselda is a thrilling offshoot of Narcos that is both entertaining and shocking.
Pablo Escobar’s quote about Griselda Blanco, the only woman who ever scared him, appears on the screen. The team responsible for Narcos, including writer Doug Miro, producer Eric Newman, and director Andrés Baiz, decided to tell her story in their new six-part Netflix series Griselda. The series follows Sofia Vergara, who also serves as executive producer, as she portrays the woman who would eventually become the infamous drug lord known as the Cocaine Godmother. This role is a departure from Vergara’s comedic work in Modern Family and allows her to showcase her talents in a bold and dramatic way.
Miro takes some liberties with the true story of Griselda, altering the timeline of events. The first episode shows her in 1978, injured and preparing to escape her husband, a drug dealer in Medellín, Colombia. She takes her three sons and moves to Miami, Florida. A friend named Carmen (played by Paulina Dávila), who had also made a desperate journey in the past, offers them a place to stay and gives Griselda a job at her travel agency. However, this comes with the condition that Griselda must leave her life in the cartel behind and start fresh. Unfortunately, Griselda had taken a kilo of uncut cocaine with her in order to support her family, and the temptation of making more money than a receptionist’s salary is too strong for her to resist.
Actually, Griselda arrived in Miami to avoid facing federal charges. This was after she had established and successfully operated a drug enterprise in New York City for 10 years. However, a story of overcoming adversity is more appealing, so the facts have been altered to make it more acceptable.
In the near future, the distinction between truth and fiction will become insignificant. While Narcos portrayed Escobar’s story in a serious and realistic manner, Griselda takes a more stylized and loose approach, with elements of both fact and fiction. The direction of the show is just flashy enough to be effective. Despite the devastating consequences of her actions, Griselda’s story is still thrilling and entertaining.
In the initial episodes, there are hints that it may evolve into something more than just entertainment. The negative attitudes towards women, demonstrated by the treatment Griselda receives while trying to sell her cocaine in the new town, are portrayed as a hindrance that she must overcome. However, at times these attitudes actually work in her favor due to low expectations from others. The bond of sisterhood among the women she brings from Medellín is portrayed subtly and never exaggerated. They hide extra cocaine in their bras and add it to their stash in the motel room. Griselda knows these women from her past where they worked together in a brothel. Vergara’s performance is not only impressive, but also highlights how early traumatic experiences can shape a person’s survival instincts and even bring out violent tendencies that were previously dormant.
The text highlights the prevalent sexism during this time, even in the supposedly more sophisticated workplace. June (played by Juliana Aidén Martinez), a Latina police officer, is the first to suspect that there may be a new player in town rather than just a new girlfriend who constantly ends up in the wrong, and often blood-stained, places. However, her attempts to bring attention to this possibility are overshadowed by the humorous pranks her colleagues play on her. These include turning up the air conditioning to make her nipples visible through her shirt and filling her office with crumpled copies of a memo she sent about the new woman.
Subsequent episodes fail to capitalize on the opportunity to explore unique storylines that would have set the series apart from other drug cartel media, such as Narcos. Instead, the focus becomes overly fixated on dramatic set pieces and graphic depictions of Griselda’s ruthless tactics in her quest for dominance and wealth. While her swift ascent and downfall follow a familiar pattern and incorporate common tropes, the series does not live up to its potential to offer a fresh and profound perspective.
However, it continues to be extremely pleasant, with a good tempo and visually stunning from start to finish. Every performance is strong and it consistently serves as a well-deserved platform for showcasing Vergara’s talents. It serves as a reminder that both casting directors and audiences may have their biases and preconceived notions about women and comedic actors (especially those who are beautiful), but it can be gratifying to see these expectations challenged and overturned – even if it means destroying many bras and having numerous violent deaths along the way.
Griselda can be found on Netflix.