**SPOILERS FROM SEASON THREE FOLLOW**
With the death of Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) at the end of last season, the Cali Godfathers move in to pick up the pieces of his cocaine empire. Our favourite Martell, or Agent Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) wants to quit his stress-inducing job at the DEA. When we catch up with him in the season premiere “The Kingpin Strategy”, he’s deep in conversation with his ex, giving her a yarn of how sorry he is and how he’s going to quit smoking. Typically, this doesn’t last and by the end of the episode, Peña is back in Colombia, gun in hand smoking an awful ciggy and ready to take out the Cali Godfathers in the same fashion that he and Murphy did with Pablo Escobar.
“Cocaine cartels are about succession” says Peña. “The day Pablo went down, the Cali Cartel became public enemy number one”. And that’s how season three begins. However, they’re living it large, ready to go to prison in six months. Yet, we’ve seen how well drug lords are treated in prison in previous seasons. But the thing about plans is that they’re plans. They’re intentions and intentions don’t always come into fruition, like when Gilberto Orejuela (Damián Alcázar) is arrested (early) and subsequently jailed. His arrest was the first blow against the cartel under new management and then they began to fall, as shown via found footage of actual events.
I never had doubts that season three. Many said that the absence of Moura as Escobar would hurt the show. What is House of Cards without Frank Underwood? The Wire without Stringer Bell? The Godfather without Al Pacino or Marlon Brando? Breaking Bad without Walter White? To be honest, I don’t much like Breaking Bad but the notion still stands. Certain characters carry specific shows. However, season three of Narcos goes from strength to strenght, even without Pablo. I’d even say that this season is better than the last. Moura is irreplaceable as Pablo. Nobody could do that role as well as he did, but season three doesn’t not suffer in his absence.
After two brilliant seasons, season three is equally outstanding and switches from Pablo’s hometown of Medellín to the city of Cali and the covert men who now run what is now Cocaine Incorporated. Instead of one supposed villain (Pablo), we now have four villains to hate, or love to hate. We have brothers Gilberto (Damián Alcázar) and Miguel Rodriguez (Francisco Denis). Then there’s Pacho (Alberto Ammann) who I admit to loving to hate. Pacho is openly gay without it becoming detrimental to his character. But he’s also an action man (reminiscent of Sense8’s Lito), Then there’s Chepe (Pêpê Rapazote), who has a brilliant scene in a barbershop.
Donned as Cocaine Incorporated by Time Magazine, the Cali Godfathers were the polite faces of organised crime. Politicians, judges, taxi drivers and most police officers on the street were in their pocket. Information is power and these men were not like Pablo. Where Pablo wanted everyone to know that he had ordered that hit, these men didn’t. They killed when it was necessary, not because they enjoyed doing it. They would rather drain your bank account with lawyers than send an army of murderers. They were psychopaths with money. They knew exactly what they were doing and and their antics are nonetheless entertaining to watch.
Peña coming back to take down the Cali Cartel deviates from the facts, but watching Pascal commit badass acts is not something worth complaining about. It’s creative license, and it’s paid off. He’s the man! In reality, he was done with Colombia after Escobar. And Boyd (Steve Murphy) has left the production. Peña is a rouge who has no care for the politics that his DEA chiefs want him to follow. He’s gunning for Cali and constantly fighting with his orders from upstairs, regardless if that’s CIA or DEA. Not to forget to mention that the US government used Colombia as a tool to expand the CIA’s influence and to bring the war on drugs home (see 13TH).
Season three is just as bloody, just as political and just as intriguing and suspenseful as its predecessors. And it shows that even when you win, you still lose, as the system is crooked. The system is only as functional as your faith in it. When you cut off a snake’s head the body doesn’t always die. With excellent performances and photography to wow, Narcos continues to be great and with season three, it has made my top five Netflix shows of all time.