“Griselda” tries to temper the problem by making its primary detective, here Juliana Aidén Martinez as June, a Latina cop who eventually partners up with another Latino in the force to take down Sofia Vergara’s cartel boss, Griselda. Although she may give the show its title, we Latinas can hold other roles too.
It only partly works. This is a story of a drug-dealing, murdering Colombian immigrant and that clearly adds to a negative view of our communities. It doesn’t help that while June’s world is multicultural, Griselda’s is almost entirely Latinx. She may sell to “rich white people,” but her business partners are all Colombian, Cuban, etc.
There’s even a moment when the mother (Marlene Forte) of one of her slain lieutenants comes to talk to her, and it seems like this will be the show’s opportunity to portray regular community members—those of us who are neither cops nor criminals. Instead, the pearl-wearing, grieving mom praises Griselda, declaring she’d love all her sons to work for her. Even Latinxs who appear respectable are really just criminals in conservative clothes in “Griselda.”
But everyone going in will assume this focus on criminality from the beginning. This is a tale of one of the most famous Narcos of all time, up there with Pablo Escobar, whose words open the series. Sofía Vergara does well in the role. Early coverage may have declared her “unrecognizable” thanks to some prosthetics in the role, but she clearly brings her alluring star power to the role. More than once, male characters declare themselves confused, unsure if they’d rather kill or have sex with her, and some audience members may feel the same.
It’s a question the show toys with as Vergara inhabits the character through her traditional crime-boss journey. “Griselda” largely sticks to the beats you’d expect, following its protagonist through a series of snowballing decisions into a life of crime and cruelty. Her eventual fate of being consumed by paranoia and isolation is always waiting—these stories must end in tragedy to upload our social order after all.
But “Griselda” also doesn’t ignore that people do drugs for fun. The bacchanal scenes are delightful even as Griselda’s early capacity for violence foreshadows that eventually, these parties will go south, as one does in spectacular fashion in episode five.