Stream It Or Skip It: ‘World’s Most Wanted’ On Netflix, A Docuseries About The Planet’s Most Notorious (And Elusive) Criminals

The five-episode first season of World’s Most Wanted discusses five notorious criminals from around the world, the heinous crimes they committed, and why they’ve been so hard to capture. The first segment, directed by Paul Moreira, is devoted to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, the brains in charge of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Opening Shot: “SINALOA MOUNTAINS, MEXICO.” A shot of the brown and green terrain of the Sinaloa Mountains. “FEBRUARY 13th, 2014”.

The Gist: Most people know about the Sinaloa cartel, based in the Mexican state of the same name, from Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is currently serving a life sentence at a supermax federal prison in Colorado. But El Chapo was merely the face of Sinaloa, the salesman who went out and made the massive deals that sent the cartel’s product throughout North America. El Mayo was the one who was in charge of the cartel’s business affairs, and kept a far lower profile than his literal partner in crime.

Through interviews with retired DEA agents that were assigned to bring down Sinaloa, as well as Mexican journalists who covered the cartels closely, we get a picture of El Mayo, who never did anything that could directly tie him to a sale or any other criminal activity, often acting through intermediaries. He drove pickup trucks, and even soldiers who are in the field — some of which are also interviewed, albeit with their faces covered — never were even allowed to refer to him by name.

The first episode documents how both El Mayo’s brother and son managed to get captured by Mexican authorities, and how the DEA pretty much put Mayo’s son, Vicente Zambada Niebla, between a rock and a hard place: A life sentence or give up operational details of Sinaloa. Through intermediaries, the feds got El Mayo on the phone, who told his son to do what he has to do to preserve his family. That’s why Vincente got only 15 years. But hundreds of Sinaloa bigwigs got rounded up, and Vincente’s information led to El Chapo’s recapture. However, El Mayo is still at large and Sinaloa still operates, to the point where, in 2019, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that he was looking for peace with the cartels instead of war.

World's Most Wanted
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Our Take: We were wondering why the first episode of World’s Most Wanted was about El Mayo; after all, it’s not like Netflix isn’t full of shows, both fictional and factual, about Mexican narcos and the law enforcement officials who were after them. It felt like the episode was running over information that can be found elsewhere. In fact, we’re pretty sure that one of the ex-DEA agents interviewed, Jack Reily, has been on other docuseries explaining how the feds went after the cartels.

Because of this, the first episode held little in the way of surprising information. But the episode moved quickly, with lots of archival shots of bloody bodies and shootouts, including the raids that got various cartel bigwigs. What we’re hoping is that the combination of fast-paced editing along with well-sourced archival footage will help the show’s other episodes shine.

The other episodes examine the man who was the financier of the Rawandan genocide, the last boss in the Cosa Nostra crime organization, the White Widow, and a notorious Russian mafia boss. Those four cases are a bit less familiar to North American audiences than El Mayo’s case was, and it should elicit more interesting and informative episodes than the first one was.

Sex and Skin: Nothing.

Parting Shot: El Mayo’s soldiers make meth, and the leader says that no matter who gets arrested, someone else will always be there to take his place, and SInaloa will just get stronger.

Sleeper Star: None.

Most Pilot-y Line: For a show that’s rated TV-14, there is an awful lot of archival footage of bloodied bodies and people hanging from bridges. Not sure how seeing that much gore only rates a TV-14.

Our Call: STREAM IT. We’re giving World’s Most Wanted a marginal recommendation because it’s slickly edited and does have great archival footage. We’re hoping, though, that the other episodes are more interesting and less repetitive than the first one was.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast,, Billboard and elsewhere.

Stream World’s Most Wanted On Netflix

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