Somewhere halfway between documentary and fiction is apparently the right place to be!
The sad reality of the onscreen events is reinforced by recurrent cuts to authentic, familiar images of Bush, Noriega and even the real Escobar and DEA agents tracking him. It's actually quite a ballsy move, as it is a bit disconcerting to have a second - albeit real - face given to the protagonists.
But then, these cuts are not the only ballsy move here; a good 40% of the dialogue is in Spanish, forcing audiences to read subtitles in English. The benefits on the veracity of the storyline are obvious and enormous.
Notwithstanding the talented storytelling, this is also a powerful and important report on a commerce that wreaked havoc on a whole country, helplessly struggling with both the narcos and US interference. (Yep, that's a third ballsy move for an American series!)
The downside, however, (why does there always have to be one??) to the documentary take is that some of the characters lack depth and motivation. Despite DEA agent Murphy's status as one of the main characters and definitely the only one you like to identify with, I never felt close to him or thought I understood what pushed him to go to the lengths he did. I suppose that is a consequence of the producers' refusal to fictionalize him (although the real Murphy did cooperate with the production).
Another downside, of a more unexpected nature (not to say tacky, distasteful, shameless) : Dutch retailer C&A marketing these classy t-shirts. I can only assume no one at C&A has seen the TV show and/or have any idea of how cocaine has affected Columbia, not to mention millions of users? (Thug life, C&A?..)