Seriously, will you ever look at another DEA agent on TV and not think of Walter White? Hank Schrader forever changed the landscape for future portrayals of DEA agents on TV. But what hasn’t changed is the very concept: what is a Drug Enforcement Agency? A special agency whose only job is to enforce laws associated with drugs? I mean there’s not a Corrupt Banking Enforcement Agency, right? Or, if there is, nobody knows about it because they have never actually enforced the law against any corrupt banker. One day in the future there may be a more memorable DEA agent on a TV show than Hank Schrader. In the meantime, however, these other DEA agents are the closest we are likely to see.
Yeah, that’s right, America’s most bizarre law enforcement agency actually had an entire show devoted to its alleged “war on drugs.” “DEA” lasted almost a year in the early 1990s and was notable less for its cast of actors than for its incorporation of real life cases to lend authenticity. Apparently, America or the Fox Network had a pretty incestuous relationship with Columbia and Mexico and Afghanistan because the show chose to focus its own particular brand of “war on drugs” excitement on a vicious cartel headquartered in Ecuador. Even the addition of actual footage from news and the questionable insertion of very real surveillance video was not enough to tap into the viewer the way that “Breaking Bad” would be able to do with its less realistic and more operatic conveyance of DEA “reality” would do later on.
“Painkiller Jane.” What a great name for a DEA agent. If you enjoy obvious irony, I mean. Kind of like “Honest” John Goodman for the name of the Chief of the LAPD. “Painkiller Jane” was not really about the Drug Enforcement Agency beyond the set-up for its premise about a renegade DEA agent who saw something she wasn’t supposed to but instead of being eliminated for knowing too much was recruited for knowing not enough. But if you penetrate into the comic book world that “Painkiller Jane” presents, you can see that it is clearly a metaphor for the “war on drugs” allegedly being fought by the DEA in real life. The drug users were the “neuros” who were endowed with superhuman abilities thanks to mutations. Kind of like the drug drug dealers who endow themselves with power that extends far beyond their intellect because a bunch of sub-humans can’t live without coke, meth and heroin. “Painkiller Jane” started out as a DEA agent and remained one through the short-lived series, regardless of what the synopsis tells you.
Pensacola: Wings of Gold
“Pensacola: Wings of Gold” was not actually about DEA agents. For that matter, it also had nothing to do with Pensacola. Not the real one. Heck, not even a fictional one that remotely resembled the Florida Panhandle town which gave the show its identity. And it is exactly that disconnect between reality and fiction that makes the DEA agents who occasionally show up on “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” so memorable. Pensacola is a military town through and through and the whole premise of the show was to tap into that reality, however fictionalized beyond recognition it may have been. And yet there was this little story arc that had the military working with the DEA to bringing down a South American drug lord. You could make an entire TV series showing how jurisdiction urinating contests between American military and law enforcement officials result in unrestricted growth of drug cartel influence. You could. But that’s one vision of the DEA you never will see on TV.