This post contains minor spoilers for The Mechanism.
On the surface, The Mechanism, from Narcos creator Jose Padilha, has everything a crime drama fanatic like myself craves: corrupt politicians, cocky criminals, and completely unhinged law-enforcement officers. But after watching a few episodes of this new Netflix series, I started questioning my own sanity when I realized the plot just repeats itself over and over again like a bad song on loop. By the end, you find out it's intentional, an (unsuccessful) attempt to illustrate the absurdity of a case that has no end in sight. There is never enough evidence to nail master criminal Roberto Ibrahim (Enrique Diaz), so the government keeps releasing from prison. By the end of the series we’re told that that is the so-called mecanismo, a broken system serving the country's most villainous men. To illustrate this, The Mechanism takes eight episodes to go nowhere.
It’s unfortunate because the premise is intriguing (even if it's not all that original): Set in Brazil and "loosely based on actual events," the plot begins in 2003, at the onset of federal agent Marco Ruffo’s (Selton Mello) meltdown. When we find him, he’s just made a major breakthrough in the aforementioned case, discovering $39.6 million dollars in currency fraud linked to Roberto, a grade-A criminal, and his longtime enemy from high school. Marco has dedicated years to the case. He nearly lost his wife and child to it when they were ran off the road by one of Roberto’s men. He doesn’t bother hiding his satisfaction as he sits across from Roberto when he was being hauled off to prison -- despite Roberto’s smugness.
So, when Marco brings the mounting evidence of bank statements -- meticulously pieced together after being shredded -- to his superior, he thinks he has finally taken down the mobster. But Roberto evades sentencing with a plea bargain, revealing the names of all his cohorts. Marco loses... and loses it. He quite literally flips tables and breaks office equipment in the middle of the hearing, resulting in a 6-month suspension that soon turns permanent. Afterwards, he narrates his own downfall to the effect of "20 years in the police force and all I get is a rusty used car and a ranch in the countryside." Add to that, his social security isn’t enough to support his family. The show jumps ahead 10 years: After sinking into a deep depression and surrounded by a wall of documents in his basement tracing Roberto’s every move, Marco attempts suicide. Thankfully he’s unsuccessful, but even after waking up from a coma all he could think about is that Roberto is still a free man.