It’s a prison siege as Pablo (Wagner Moura) takes Eduardo (Manolo Cardona) hostage in the wake of the newspaper leak of his illegal activities at La Catedral.
Let’s bitch it out…
So much of Narcos‘ first season has been about escalation, it’s hardly a surprise that the final episode of the season plays out like a game of one upmanship*. After Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Peña (Pedro Pascal) leak the records of Pablo’s gambling, prostitution and murder inside his self-made, self-manned prison, there’s an inevitable tic for tac escalation of stakes. Moving the army into place outside of the prison walls? DEFCON green. Taking Eduardo hostage? DEFCON yellow. Sending in the Special Forces to effectively wipe Pablo’s men out? DEFCON red. It’s no wonder that Murphy’s final voice-over promises “no surrenders, no deals” – just Pablo’s death. If S1 has been the back and forth swipes, drawing blood and testing defenses, then S2 promises to deliver on the repeated claims that all out war (aka DEFCON white) is going to break out between the DEA and the narcos.
*Let’s not forget that the episode title itself infers just this. Spanish to English Internet translations (in they can be trusted) show that the episode is called “takeoff” or “lift off”, which pretty much suits recent events to a T.
I’ll admit that I wondered if Narcos would clear the slate by killing off Pablo and promoting Pacho to Big Bad status (Side Bar: Being ignorant of history allows this kind of fictitious brainstorming, though it’s not outside of the realm of the possible for biographical series to fudge the truth for dramatic purposes). Especially during the latter parts of ‘Despegue’, when the Special Forces storm the prison (which has never looked as much like the playboy mansion than when it is filled with smoke) and Pablo’s men are mowed down, it seems like the odds are finally against the self-made criminal mastermind. Of course El Negro’s (Julián Díaz) earlier mention of tunnels planted the seed for Pablo’s survival, but it still seemed possible that he might stay, fight and die.
Pablo’s initial approach – unsurprising considering how his attitude throughout the first season – is to be “clever.” That means using a visit from Eduardo, the Vice Minister of Justice, as leverage to get President César (Raúl Méndez) to back off. Sending Eduardo into that prison in the first place is a huge error in judgement on César’s part; the despair is written all over Eduardo’s face when his friend asks him to deal with the situation personally. It’s more of a confirmation of suspicions, rather than a surprise, when Eduardo is taken hostage. If anything, the surprise is that he makes it out alive. I fully expected another Diana incident, especially when the Special Forces burst in. Everything about the framing and the camera movement makes Eduardo’s escape a harrowing experience, one I expected to end with a bullet to the head up until the moment his escape is confirmed in the President’s boardroom. As it stands, both Eduardo and Pablo survive another day, promising more opportunities next season to retaliate and seek vengeance.
Lift off, indeed.
- One of the biggest surprises of the finale is how much it sidelines our protagonists. Murphy nearly get his own B-plot when he is abducted early on. His first assumption is the same as mine: he’s been taken by Pablo’s people. Instead the perpetrator turns out to be Pacho (Alberto Ammann), who arranges a clandestine meeting to propose a partnership using photographic evidence from the raid at La Dispensura as blackmail. It will be interesting to see if this really turns into something in S2 since the Cali cartel is nearly as bad as the Medellin cartel. Clearly Pacho cannot be trusted.
- I’ll admit that I got frustrated when Murphy and Peña once again find themselves at odds by the end of the episode. While it’s true that Peña isn’t entirely squeaky clean, he does spend the entire episode searching for Murphy, fearing the worst in his absence. Heck, he even goes to Major Wysession (Patrick St. Esprit) for help! To see Murphy and Peña not trust each other after all they’ve been through over the years is disappointing.
- Connie’s (Joanna Christie) petulant refrain that she wants to “go home” is at odds with the man that her husband has become. Murphy’s shift in attitude does seem a little sudden, but it’s important to remember how many years have passed at this point (remember that Pablo had no children when we began and now his elder son looks about 10
and prematurely bald). Still, it’s hard to argue that Murphy is being insensitive when he returns home after being kidnapped and barely reassures Connie before candidly reminding her that Colombia is their home. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this marriage hit the skids in S2.
- Not much Tata (Paulina Gaitan) or Mama (Paulina García) in the episode aside from a desperate call to warn Pablo and some frantic moving the money after he escapes. Will they join him on the run now that he’s disappeared into the ether?
- Pablo (commenting on Eduardo): “I turned myself into that man, he is the vice minister of justice. But since there is no justice in this country, he is the vice minister of nothing.”
- CIA guy (walking by in the middle of Pena and Murphy’s tense conversation): “Hey”
- Connie (after Murphy returns home safely): “I just want to go home.” Murphy: “This is home.”
Your turn: what did you think of the first season? Did the finale give you an idea of what to expect in S2? Are you surprised that Eduardo made it out of the prison alive? Are you surprised that Pablo escaped? Has Murphy’s realization that Colombia is now his home feel like a new development or something that has been a long time coming? Sound off below.
Narcos has been renewed for a second season by Netflix. No return date has been set, but it will likely be late next summer.