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Investigating Discovery+

Michael Corleone Blanco's Evil Lives Here Episode Shows the Human Toll of Griselda's Sensationalized Story

Released in 2018, Blanco's revealing interview is an essential follow-up to the Netflix docudrama.
  • Michael Corleone Blanco opens up about his mother, drug lord Griselda Blanco, in ID's Evil Lives Here. (Photos: Discovery+)
    Michael Corleone Blanco opens up about his mother, drug lord Griselda Blanco, in ID's Evil Lives Here. (Photos: Discovery+)

    In Investigating Discovery+, Primetimer staffers and contributors comb through the Discovery+ catalog to identify hidden gems and take a closer look at breakout series.

    Of the dozens of people introduced in Netflix's Griselda, only one remains alive: Michael Corleone Blanco, the youngest son of notorious drug trafficker Griselda Blanco (played by Sofía Vergara). As the docudrama reveals in its finale, Griselda had her husband Darío Sepúlveda (Alberto Guerra) assassinated when he fled to Colombia with Michael, while her three eldest sons, Dixon, Uber, and Ozzy, are suspected to have been murdered by her rivals. The "cocaine godmother" faced a similar fate in 2012, when, after her release from prison, she was gunned down in Medellín by an assailant on a motorcycle — a style of killing she's often credited with bringing to the streets of Miami.

    These updates are an essential part of Griselda's history, but the limited series reserves them until its final act; instead, creator Eric Newman (Narcos) sensationalizes her career by portraying her as a tragic figure who girlbossed too close to the sun. The personal cost of Griselda's reign of terror is largely ignored in service of an oversimplified retelling of her rise and fall as a queenpin.

    With this context, as well as the recent lawsuit filed by the Blanco family against Netflix and Vergara, in mind, Michael Corleone Blanco's 2018 episode of Evil Lives Here becomes an essential follow-up to Griselda. In "The Last Blanco" (Season 4, Episode 3), Michael opens up about his lonely upbringing, the violence he witnessed throughout his childhood — including the gruesome murder of his father Darío — and the shock of discovering the truth about his mother. Though he insists he forgives Griselda for everything, even for ordering a hit on Darío, his candid interview reflects the fact that he, too, was a victim in all this, reinforcing the far-reaching human toll of the drug trade.

    As is typically the case with the Evil Lives Here franchise, "The Last Blanco" focuses primarily on the "signs" that Michael, who was just a child when Griselda was arrested in 1985, missed about his mother's line of work and her reputation for ruthlessness. He recalls that Griselda had a habit of "camouflaging herself" in wigs before leaving the house, kept a gun in her purse, and hid stacks of money around their home, but at the time, he thought she "was some type of celebrity" and believed her when she waved away his questions about their lavish lifestyle.

    Michael goes on to explain that his parents isolated him from other kids and rarely let him leave the house, intensifying his attachment to the "entourage of men" who ate dinner with him and accompanied his family everywhere they went. "I thought it was normal for men to walk around armed," he says as he looks at a photo of his family and their bodyguards dressed up in costumes at Disney World. "Do you think that's right? When you can't even go on vacation without being surrounded by evil? But this is normal. Not only is it normal, but I remember having a great time."

    As he got older, Michael came to understand that his mother "was to be feared," even if he wasn't quite sure why. He witnessed a verbal altercation between Griselda and a business associate, and though he was escorted out of the room before it escalated, he remembers hearing the man screaming before suddenly going quiet. "I had never heard anything scream like that in my life," he says. "Things kind of changed right then and there."

    Michael also recalls a moment in which he unknowingly contributed to the violence. He explains that he was raised by macho men who taught him it was "okay to squeeze a beautiful woman," so one night, he snuck into his father's party, "got up under [a woman's] dress," and "grabbed" her. When the woman's husband yelled at Michael, Darío retaliated, killing the man and lighting his body on fire in the backyard.

    "I knew that, somehow, it was my fault. I grabbed his wife where I shouldn't have grabbed her," Michael says, his voice breaking. "It still bothers me to this day. It's something I'll never forget."

    Michael maintains that he didn't realize the extent of his mother's criminality until after her arrest, when his cousin told him that Griselda was "the Black Widow," or "the boss of bosses to all the Colombians" in Miami. The revelation rocked Michael. "I realized that I was just like Michael Corleone in the movie," he says of his namesake, "Except there was no Godfather in my movie. There was a Godmother, and it was my mother."

    The episode's most powerful moment comes as Michael reckons with the carnage his mother left in her wake. Beyond the drug trafficking charges, Griselda was "suspected of ordering over 200 assassinations," he says, and he appears genuinely remorseful as he acknowledges the unspeakable harm done by his mother. Still, he admits it's difficult to square this knowledge with his loving memories of the woman who raised him: "When I found out the truth, it hurt me to know that she destroyed other people's [lives] and families, because I didn't know that Griselda. I knew my mommy." Even now, he's "glad" Griselda lied about Darío's murder — when he confronted her about it in prison, she claimed their "enemies" executed the hit — as "it might have set a seed of hatred towards her" if she had confirmed his suspicions.

    Michael's desire to hold these conflicting ideas in his mind and his awareness that he'll be wrestling with them for the rest of his life are indicative of the complexity of this story. There are no easy answers to be found here, and reducing her journey to just one type of narrative — in Griselda's case, the tale of a feminist underdog — does everyone involved a disservice. But Michael's willingness to engage with Griselda's messy legacy, both as a cartel boss and as a mother, makes his Evil Lives Here episode worth watching, even if viewers have to sit through a few cheesy reenactments to get there.

    Evil Lives Here: "The Last Blanco" is streaming on Discovery+ and Max.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Griselda Blanco, Discovery+, Max, Netflix, Evil Lives Here, Griselda, Michael Corleone Blanco, Sofia Vergara