Real Vs. Reel: Steve Murphy 

The King Of Cocaine was a god amongst mortals. However, two DEA officers, Javier Pena and Steve Murphy, brought the god down to its knees and made him beg for his life. Let us unmask the true faces that inspired Narcos. Let us dive right in.

Who Is Steve Murphy?

Who Is Steve Murphy 

We all have seen the exhilarating Netflix series Narcos. But how much do we know about the real events and the officers who made it happen? Well, how about we change that? Welcome to my real vs. reel analysis of Narcos’ Steve Murphy. 

Stephen E. Murphy was born in 1957 in Tennessee, Louisiana. Murphy is an ex-DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) officer. Murphy, along with Javier Pena, took down the infamous Medellin Cartel that Pablo Escobar headed. This changed the very course of history and made Murphy an American hero. 

Law Enforcement  

Murphy joined the force as an intern at the age of 19. He started out his career in a small West Virginia town called the Bluefield. Subsequently, he joined the Sheriff’s Department of Mercer County. Later, he joined as a patrol officer in Norfolk, Virginia. Finally, Murphy joined the DEA after serving 12 years in the force.  

Steve Murphy was stationed all over the world during his long and illustrious career spanning three decades. During this period, he spent his time and energy to stop the first-ever Narcoterrorism group headed by Don Pablo Escobar.  

In an interview, Murphy said that apprehending Escobar was one of the toughest jobs he has ever done. This helped Murphy to rise in the ranks of the DEA and win commendations for his service.  

Post Escobar 

People thought that Murphy would have taken a backseat after apprehending Escobar. However, Murphy continued his aggressive pursuit of local and international drug traffickers. As a result, he spent considerable time abroad. Murphy retired from the force in 2013. 

After retirement, Murphy spent his time researching and Lecturing. Subsequently, he was approached by Netflix as a subject matter expert and senior consultant for their popular Nteflix series Narcos.  

However, his biggest case is yet to be unveiled. Apparently, Murphy and his old partner, Javier Pena, are working on a decades-old cold case of the missing Pan Am Airways flight 229. The flight mysteriously disappeared and is believed to hold key information about the beginning of WWII.  

Pop Culture Representation 

Steve Murphy is widely considered to be an American hero. He, along with his partner, managed to do something that many people tried but failed. As a result, Murphy and his partner have been eulogized by the media.  

Narcos by Netflix is one of the biggest and most prominent pop culture representations of Murphy and Pena. Subsequently, Murphy was also represented in a 2017 movie called Loving Pablo. The movie starred Javier Bardem as Pablo Escobar and Peter Sarsgaard as Murphy.  


After retirement and before Pan Am Airways flight 229, Steve Murphy worked as a subject matter expert and one of the senior consultants for Netflix’s character Narcos. The makers wanted to bring something authentic to the table. As a result, they wanted Steve Murphy to work closely with the project. 

Narcos originally aired back in 2015. The show became an instant hit and has one of the highest IMDb ratings of 8.8. The final season of the series aired on September 1st, 2017. The series has three seasons, and each season contains ten episodes.  

The whole series functions like a factual recollection of Steve Murphy’s life. In other words, the whole series is told from Murphy’s perspective. 


Season 1 of Narcos deals with the rise of Escobar. The show documents the events that happened between the 1970s and 1992. The first season chronicles Escobar’s journey from a lowly criminal to Don Pablo Escobar.  

The second season is all about cat and mouse chase between the DEA and Escobar. After breaking out from a high-security prison, Escobar went into hiding. One of the biggest and most prominent moments of season 2 was Escobar’s execution. 

The future of Colombia was the focus subject of the final season of the show. Escobar’s death left a huge void in the Colombian drug industry. As a result, several small cartels popped up. However, one of the most prominent among them was the Cali Cartel.  

Reel Vs. Real Moments 

Makers of Narcos tried hard to stick to facts. However, they did take some creative liberties. As a result, I think that we need to take a deep look into the reel vs real discussion in order to have a better understanding of what actually happened.

Here are the top xx reels vs. real moments that every Steve Murphy and Narcos fan must know.  


Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia played a seminal role in the second and third seasons of Narcos. However, the show misjudged the timeline of the group’s existence. AUC played a major role in enforcing the cartel laws, but it was formed in 1997.  Therefore, the makers of the show got the timeline wrong. Still, the existence of AUC played a major role in a lot of narcoterrorism activities. As a result, the makers decided to involve them in the second season of the show.  


The final episode of Narcos Season 2 beautifully encapsulated the final days of Escobar. The episode tried showing Escobar’s final days. The episode depicted that Pablo spent his final days alone and with his aged father. However, this is far from the truth. Escobar was celebrating his 44th birthday at the time of his apprehension and execution. In fact, the King Of Cocaine spent his final day as the King.  


The Cockroach is not the nicest of characters in Narcos. In fact, he was the one who ratted Escobar out. However, he is not a real character. Mateo Cockroach Moreno is a fictional character whom the Narcos creator made. Similarly, the Lion is also a fictional character. However, sources suggest that Lion is based on George Jung. Jung used to sell drugs on behalf of the Medellin cartel in the USA during the 70’s.  


The show left out one key detail. Roberto Escobar, Pablo Escobar’s elder brother, played a major role in the formation of the Medellin Cartel. Roberto Escobar was one of the founding members of the Medellin Cartel. Roberto was in charge of the books in the initial days of the cartel. However, the Netflix series did not highlight Rioberto’s involvement in the whole thing.  


After the second season, Pedro Pascal’s character, Javier Pena, was shown to get after the Cali Cartel. However, this is a fabricated situation. Javier Pena was never involved in investigating the Cali Cartel. In an interview with the Grazia, Pena confirmed that he was just part of the Medellin investigation and not the Cali Cartel. Therefore, Pena’s involvement with the Cali Cartel is a mere fabrication of real events. 

The Closing Thought 

With that, you have reached the end of my article about the real vs. reel of Narcos and Steve Murphy. Even though Narcos is a great show to watch, there are some discrepancies. Therefore, use this guide as your Northstar. Keep following our page for more such content. 

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Samik has been a literature student all along and uses his fluidity to write about multi-niche topics. Aspiring to be a professional writer, he tries to analyze his topic from a critical standpoint but still adds a hint of personal perspective to the end product. Being a person having a general inclination toward global politics and documentary filmmaking, he also wishes to write and document more about numerous conflicts that are brewing in the different corners of the globe.

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