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Griselda TV review — Sofía Vergara brings badass brio as a ruthless drug lord

When Griselda Blanco first arrives in Miami from Medellín in 1978, she has nothing but a stolen bag of uncut cocaine to her name. Her plan is initially to sell the drugs and start afresh with her three sons. Within three months she’s running a small, semi-improvised operation handling a supply of coke 100 times the size of that she smuggled with her. A couple of years later, she’s the leader of an empire worth untold millions. It’s still not enough. “I want the city, I want all of it,” she snarls at her rivals, high on power in a town hooked on her powder.

A tale of boundless ambition, Netflix’s Griselda is a biographical drama starring Sofía Vergara about a woman so ruthless and rapacious she could make drug lord Pablo Escobar’s moustache quiver in fear. Like Narcos — the hit Netflix series which revolved around Escobar — the new six-part mini-series has been developed by writer Doug Miro, producer Eric Newman and director Andrés Baiz. But where Escobar’s story was told with a certain documentary realism, this latest cartel saga is a stylised, pulpy affair driven by big, broad performances and a script that boasts such poetic lines as: “you keep dreaming, I’ll keep making coke”.

Griselda is eminently watchable but it struggles to be something more substantial. It’s not that the show is oblivious to how Griselda’s past traumas shape her brutality or the sexual politics of being a woman in a male-dominated underworld, but these compelling themes are too often lost amid all the high-stakes confrontations, daring powerplays, bombastic speeches and violence.

Vergara brings an abundance of badass brio to the part but rarely penetrates beneath Griselda’s pugnacious persona as the “Cocaine Godmother” to give a more detailed understanding of her complex, compromised humanity. Still, you can tell how much the actor, who made her name in anodyne comedies such as Modern Family, relishes the chance to play a baseball bat-wielding, fury-spitting anti-hero. When a character watching Griselda whip her troops into a frenzy observes that “she’s starting to like this shit”, he could just as well be talking about Vergara herself.

On Netflix from January 25

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