The feature film adaptation of Don Winslow’s bestselling novel The Cartel is dead, but for good reason. While Ridley Scott had been planning on directing an adaptation of Winslow’s sprawling chronicle of the War on Drugs, it had yet to come to fruition following the project’s 2015 announcement. Today, FX Networks announced that it has landed the rights to not only The Cartel, but the two other books in Winslow’s The Cartel Trilogy: 2005’s The Power of the Dog and 2019’s The Border. FX will adapt all three books into a TV series, with Winslow serving as an executive producer alongside Shane Salerno (Savages), who will co-write the pilot.
Scott has an executive producer credit on the series, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be too involved. A writer and showrunner will be announced soon, and while Winslow and Salerno will not be day-to-day showrunners, they will be “closely involved in shaping and sustaining the series.” As for the plot, here’s how FX describes it:
The trilogy, massive in scope and ambition, follows a DEA agent, Art Keller, on a harrowing 45-year journey through America’s longest-running war: the War on Drugs. Shocking in its brutality, raw in its humanity – it portrays Mexican cartel power struggles, the narcos and cops on both sides of the border, the traffickers and drug mules, lawyers, journalists, junkies, teenage hitmen, children seeking asylum, and political corruption from poppy fields in Mexico to the White House.
This is a pretty great acquisition for FX, which has a knack for producing high-quality content that also pushes the boundaries of what you can do on television. From critically acclaimed shows like The Americans and American Crime Story to high-concept sci-fi like Legion, FX is home to some of the most striking stories being told on TV. And with Netflix, Disney+, and Apple on the horizon, FX is taking seriously the challenge to combat them in the content realm. In addition to The Cartel, FX also has the long-awaited Y: The Last Man TV series coming later this year, as well as Annihilation filmmaker Alex Garland’s sci-fi series Devs.
The Cartel covers somewhat familiar territory for FX—they did have The Bridge a few years back—but Winslow’s source material feels especially relevant in the era of the Trump Administration.
No word on how soon The Cartel will debut, but one imagines this is now a top priority for the network.