Griselda, the latest addition to Netflix’s crime drama genre, happens to be exactly what you would expect from a high-value production of this kind on the platform. The show is meant to be watched mostly for its gleam and shiny visuals, while the plot is intriguing enough to keep one hooked till the end. The six-episode-long affair is not to be confused with a lesson in history, though, as a few of the incidents and events in the narrative are fictional. However, if one expects tense drama and crime suspense with eye-catching visuals and convincing acting performances, Griselda is enough to be a great watch.
As is evident from the very title, the Netflix crime drama deals with the notorious Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco, who gained prominence in the Miami cocaine trade in the ‘70s and ’80s. The show begins at a crucial point in the woman’s life when falling out with her erstwhile husband, Alberto Bravo, forces her to leave Medellin and flee to the United States. An old friend, Carmen Rivera, who had also made a similar transition from a life of drugs and crimes in Colombia to one as an ordinary travel agent in the US a year earlier, helps Griselda arrive in Miami. The titular woman promises to stay away from the drug trade and any legal troubles, but the calm and simple life as a travel agent does not suit her at all. Very soon, Griselda brings out a stash containing a kilo of cocaine that she had smuggled over from Colombia and decides to make it a means to bring in extra cash. Once Carmen finds out about the situation, she turns her friend away in order to avoid any unnecessary attention on herself, and Griselda has to look for new friends she can trust. In an effort to keep the lives of herself and her three sons afloat, Griselda Blanco gets reeled back into a dangerous life, eventually becoming an infamous drug lord running Miami’s crime scene.
The disparity between the real history and the fictional retelling can be felt in this very early part of Griselda, for the woman’s first entry into the United States of America did not happen in such a manner. Although not directly mentioned, the show seems to suggest that Griselda came over to settle in the US in 1978, when the plot began. However, Griselda Blanco had already entered the USA much earlier, in 1964, gaining access through fake identity papers and setting up a drug trade business in New York. The woman was noticed by the American authorities at this very time, and she had to return to her native country in the mid-1970s. It was only later that she moved back to the US, this time settling in Miami, after her split from Alberto. Although some of these incidents and timelines have been played around with, the overall characters and their depictions can be taken as true to reality.
Griselda looks typically like the high-budget Netflix productions, with appropriate warm filters and a keen attention to detail in recreating Miami of the ‘70s and ’80s. Comparisons with “Narcos” are also quite natural, especially since its writer, Doug Miro, and director, Andres Baiz, were both involved with the 2015–17 superhit Netflix show. A connection between the two criminal protagonists, Escobar and Blanco, is also drawn at the very beginning, with a statement by the former that the only human he had been scared of was Griselda Blanco. It is evident that this particular team of producers cannot get over exploring the stories of such colorful characters involved in the drug trade of the past, and there are simply no complaints from the viewers’ side either! In some senses, Griselda can be called a Narcos spin-off as well, at least because of the similarity in genre and style.
Netflix shows of this kind typically possess the quality of being extremely popular because of the presentation, even if they are not the deepest or most complete offerings. Along with the plot and the narrative, the rich (in an economic sense) visuals and the style of unfolding also have a tremendous effect on the watching experience. Griselda passes all the tests in this context, and there is promise of it being one of the greatly-hailed shows for the platform in recent times.
In terms of performance, Sofia Vergara truly shines in a different role than she has been offered in the past, brilliantly acting out the gritty and cruel drug lord at the center of the show. The character of Griselda Blanco has been written quite well, as it gives a whole arc to the many shades on display. At the beginning of the first episode, the woman evokes sympathy, to a certain degree, for she genuinely comes off as a wronged figure, helplessly trying to escape the sins of her past. But with every new episode, the cruel and treacherously ruthless nature of her character comes out with the progression of the plot. Vergara brilliantly plays out the whole transition, and she is thoroughly convincing and enjoyable all throughout. While the other actors have done their parts, it is genuinely Sofia Vergara who steals the show here.
A noticeable negative of the show is the feeling that it suddenly slides to the end without too much anticipation. Although extra episodes were surely not needed, a few scenes on Griselda’s later life could have given the show a more complete form. Instead, the end does seem a bit abrupt, which could have still been balanced with real photographs and clippings of the incidents from the time. While stylistic choice might very well be the cause of this exclusion, another reason might be the lawsuit that had been filed by the only living son of Griselda Blanco, Michael Corleone. The man, who is in the process of writing an autobiographical book on his childhood days, which heavily includes information about his mother’s drug empire, has sued the makers, as well as Vergara, for not contacting him about the show and also for using his sources for information.
Despite the minor drawbacks, Netflix’s Griselda brilliantly delivers on the promise that it had shown in the trailers before release. Once again, the show should not be expected to raise any serious questions about the characters involved but is to be watched as an entertainer made only to thrill and excite. On those fronts, Griselda does not disappoint at all and is a recommended watch.