Narcos is synonymous with Wagner Moura’s depiction of Pablo Escobar. From the moment he appeared on screen and delivered the spine tingling phrase, “Yo soy Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria” (“I am Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria”), that grabbed the attention of not only all the characters in the scene but even every single viewer, to the moment when he died atop a roof in what can be called, a manner not befitting the biggest narco drug lord of his time; it was just Pablo. So when you kill off your central character in the second season, what hope do you have for the show to go on? Quite a bit, apparently. After all, that’s why the show is called Narcos and not Pablo. Season 3 on Netflix focuses on the Cali Cartel headed by the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers and does live up to the previous seasons. We’ve mostly kept this spoiler-free, however, a few plot lines are discussed.
Spotlight: Agent Peña and Jorge Salcedo
We bid goodbye to Holbrook’s Murphy in Season 3 and focus on Pedro Pascal’s Agent Javier Peña who has after putting the cuffs on the biggest Narco (read Pablo Escobar) in the world received a pretty decent promotion. And not just from the point of view of the character but even the show because now the narration happens from Agent Peña’s perspective. The real life Peña might have left Colombia after Pablo’s death but in the show, there would have been no central character had that been the case. And frankly, we prefer Peña to Murphy any day. Probably because we are huge Game of Thrones fans and the prince of Dorne who was also known as ‘The Viper’ was one of the most liked characters. Peña’s methods, however, have become more calculated and he’s finally learnt to play the system in order to get things done even if it means giving up really good leads just to be in the green. Aside from Peña, there was one character who managed to gain a lot of screen time – Jorge Salcedo, Head of Security for the Orejuela brothers.
While Peña’s character might have disassociated with real life events, it’s Jorge Salcedo who’s stayed true. Salcedo is a peculiar character, he handles security for some of the most high profile gangsters in the show, the leaders of the Cali Cartel but he does so without carrying a gun. You’d imagine such a guy to be tough as nails, to evoke enough fear that even your unconceived child would start sweating profusely, but that isn’t the case. His is a character that’s about putting his brains to work while utilising tech that wasn’t even available to most militaries in the world at that time. It’s a wonder that he is based on a real person.
The Cali Cartel
Left in the wake of Pablo’s untimely exit from the drug trade, the Cali Cartel move in and take over in a manner that would put to shame some of the most hostile takeovers that Wall Street has ever seen. And that alludes to the way that the Cali Cartel operates. Compared to the autocratic brutality that underlined Pablo’s Medellin Cartel, the Cali Cartel has taken a more professional approach, after all, they saw what Pablo had to go through despite his enormous wealth and influence over the Colombian government. There was no way in hell that the Orejuela brothers (Gilberto and Miguel), Pacho Herrera and José Santacruz Londoño would want their brains to adorn the terrace of some low down hutment in Colombia. Instead, they grew their business, kept their “friends” happy and entered into an arrangement with the Colombian Government for an easy getaway.
Essentially, the Cali Cartel is smarter since it no longer revolves around the ego of just one hot-headed narco. Damian Alcazar as Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and Francisco Denis as his brother Miguel don’t end up living up to the persona of Pablo, not in the least manner. And in a way, that’s an attestment to the two actors. From whatever we could find on the two brothers during their heydey, their onscreen persona seems to echo the same. Two calculating minds at work, but held back by each other. A quality that worked in their favour. For the aggression that’s signature of any cartel, we have Pêpê Rapazote as José Santacruz Londoño, who manages to pull that off quite well. The trailer scene where he’s confronting the competition in a salon manages to capture the violence that he is capable of. Yet, compared to Pablo, it didn’t seem the same. Lastly, you have Pacho Herrera played by Alberto Ammann who we’d gotten quite familiar with in the previous seasons. Like the real Cali Cartel, he remains an outsider with a few moments of glorious screen time.
The North Valley Cartel
If you’d observed the first two seasons of Narcos, The Cali Cartel don’t end up taking a lot of screen time, they’re always in the background as a looming threat, never taking centre stage. In Season 3, it’s the North Valley Cartel (Norte del Valle Cartel) that are relegated to that role. So you can be pretty certain that Season 4 is going to have a lot more of Orlando Henao as the head of The North Valley Cartel.
As of now, it seems that like the North Valley Cartel is eager to take over whatever business the Cali Cartel stands to lose should anything happen this season. And for the sake of not spoiling it for you, we won’t say much.
Narcos Season 3
For some, Season 2 was a downer because of its slow pace and the impending doom that awaited the central character. Which is why Season 3 feels so much better. However, the characters are simply not strong enough for there to be more than one season to be devoted to the Cali Cartel. We’d say Season 1 was the best so far with Season 3 coming in at a close second. The violence has been significantly toned down compared to the previous seasons because of the businesslike manner in which the Cali Cartel ran things. Pablo would make you s**t your pants but Cali would prefer to keep things low key as long as the money kept coming in. What needs to be commended is that this season has a very consistent pace throughout the season so there are no episodes that feel like a drab or appear hastily done. What’s gotten us excited is that the next season promises to focus on something a lot more sinister and violent compared to what we have seen so far.