Just when you think you have a handle on the streaming wars, a new twist emerges! Free streaming service Pluto TV has announced today that the Netflix original series Narcos (and its spinoff Narcos: Mexico) will begin airing free and unedited (though with ad breaks) starting October 20th.
So: Netflix in syndication?
As Netflix has ramped down production on its under-performing series (so they tell us; there is no independent data to support it), blaming COVID for the cancellation of series like The Society and GLOW, which also come on the heels of axing Emmy-winning series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, it seems like the streamer is now licensing out its own series. So the once-savior of cancelled series is now the canceller, and the breadth of licensed material on its service is now flowing in the other direction … interesting. (Of note, Narcos / Mexico will remain on Netflix while also streaming on Pluto).
Back to Narcos—if you haven’t had a chance to watch the series on Netflix (or don’t have Netflix), now is your time. Here’s what Shane Ryan and I have written about it at Paste:
One popular line of criticism has it that Narcos romanticizes the violence and degradation associated with the Colombian drug wars—and drug culture in general—and I would agree that the excellent Wagner Moura plays kingpin Pablo Escobar so engagingly that he becomes a sort of Walter White-esque antihero. And the rhythms of the documentary-style narration are fast-paced in a way that’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie, whipping us along at an almost breakneck speed. Nevertheless, this valid criticism misses the important point that we are watching a work of fiction based on historical figures—not a realdocumentary. And when viewed that way, Narcos was one of the most successful shows on TV in how it managed to flesh out some very dark characters and tell a complicated story with such urgency and clarity. This is not the hyper-realist drug fiction of Traffic or even 2015’s Sicario, but as conflict entertainment goes, it succeeds wonderfully.
Similarly, the spinoff/companion series of sorts, Narcos: Mexico, investigates the rise of the powerful Guadalajara Cartel that began by selling cannabis and quickly escalated into cocaine and heroin. The cartel, and the story itself, is led by the conflicted figure of Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna), who wants to make drug selling a business (shades of The Wire’s Stringer Bell are evident everywhere in this portrayal), but must ultimately embrace a ruthless nature to make it work. Gallardo is being hunted by DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Michael Peña), whose fledgling organization doesn’t understand how dangerous these cartels and their growing network are becoming. Anchored by outstanding performances, like the original series, Narcos: Mexico is a deeply compelling dramatization of the drug gangs that continue to plague Mexico (and to some extent, the United States) today, and concludes with a major reveal that sets up a whole new game that plays out in Season 2. Filled with emotional twists and turns, Narcos: Mexico perhaps even eclipses its predecessor with outstanding characterizations and a tense story told at a rapid, tantalizing pace.
According to a press release,”presented in both English and Spanish, Narcos will be programmed across Pluto TV’s Crime Drama and Narco Novelas channels and its own branded single-series, marathon-style channels – Narcos and Narcos en Español. Spanish-speaking versions of Narcos will stream with English subtitles, while English-speaking versions of Narcos will stream with Spanish subtitles, catering to multilingual audiences. Season One of Narcos will stream weeknights at 10pm ET, with catch-up episodes the following day beginning at 8pm ET.”
And if you’re not familiar with Pluto, as Alexis Gunderson wrote in our Streaming TV Guide:
Another ad-supported free streaming service, Pluto TV is a ViacomCBS subsidiary that launched in 2013 and features both a huge library of on-demand TV and movie content and over 250 “live” channels (some networks, many series-specific), all from more than 170 content partners. With bingeable gems like The Addams Family, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Kevin Hart’s Comedy in Color stand-up series, not to mention 13 seasons each of Degrassi: The Next Generation and Midsomer Murders, there’s enough solid television available on demand that you might not even need the live element, but these are strange times! Maybe a bit of old fashioned mindless channel surfing is just what the pop culture doctor ordered.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.