Extradition and Communism is the name of the game as Narcos powers forward.
Let’s bitch it out…
Literally one episode after I commented about how the DEA had receded into the background, the focus shifts back to the cat and mouse game between them and Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura). Episode four feels like the Netflix series hitting the gas as things escalate quickly in the wake of Minister Lara’s murder in 1×03. Last episode Pablo was running for public office and living a life of luxury; by the end of ‘The Palace In Flames’ he’s one of the most wanted men in Colombia and he’s gone into hiding. What a difference an episode makes.
The murder of Lara proves to be a game changer in that it establishes Escobar as a significant threat. Lara’s assassination prompts talk of extradition to US jails for narcos, which is a far cry from the laughably plushy experience in Colombia. With a warrant out for his arrest, Escobar attempts to buy, then threaten presidential hopeful Carlos Galan (Juan Pablo Espinosa). When his efforts are rebuffed and Galan opts to support extradition, Pablo turns his attention to the judges who enforce the new extradition laws – proving once again that it is the people caught in the middle of the conflict that pay with blood.
Unfortunately for the DEA, there’s another hot button topic in the 80s that supercedes drug trafficking: Communism. It’s hard to fathom a time when red and pink terror swept North America with such vitriol (the footage of Reagan’s address comes off as laughably antiquated), but this was the reality of the Cold War. Without a link to communism, support for the DEA’s search for Escobar cools considerably.
Heading into the mid-point the episode, the writers lean a little more heavily on the procedural aspects of the investigation. This keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, but this section also feels like a slightly convoluted episode of CSI. One piece of evidence – Carillo’s (Maurice Compte) torture of an informant – leads to another – the location of Pablo’s estate – which reveals another – a partially burnt address – which leads them to Blackbird, the accountant. His knowledge of the money laundering provides enough evidence to put Pablo away for 100 lifetimes. The final ace in the hole is a picture provided by a dirty CIA agent named Barry Seal (Dylan Bruno) that connects Pablo to both drugs and Communist countries.
Despite Peña’s (Pedro Pascal) desire to protect Barry’s identity, Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) throws the crooked cop to the wolves in order to secure more money and support in America. As expected the snitch is promptly killed in Baton Rouge. Peña is unimpressed (clearly he and Murphy are still ironing out the kinks in their partnership), but Murphy’s tactic works: Pablo’s Communist connection nabs them planes, helicopters, and whatever other resources they desire. Once again Pablo’s apprehension becomes a priority.
In retaliation, Pablo enlists Ivan (Aldemar Correa) and M-19 (last seen in 1×02) to do his dirty work. He makes an incredibly simplistic argument that they storm the Supreme Court as part of the revolutionary effort, proving a) how masterful a manipulator he is and b) how dumb M-19’s agenda is. The DEA learns about the plan too late: half of the justices are killed, and – more importantly for this narrative – all of the Blackbird evidence against Escobar is burned. Add to this Ivan and the others are gunned down shortly thereafter, leaving only M-19 survivor Elisa (Ana de la Reguera) with the ability to connect the palace siege to Escobar. Having learned how easily informants disappear from the Barry Seal incident, Murphy and Peña jointly decide to keep her identity secret.
All in all, ‘The Palace In Flames’ is the most fast-paced episode of the series yet. It helps that the writers have a solid historical frame on which to hang their story, but the rapid escalation in the war between the DEA and Pablo makes me wonder where else things will go. After all we still have six episodes to go before the end of the season (and the series has been renewed), which means there is still a substantial amount of story left to tell. How will the two sides hurt each other next?
- As predicted, Elisa’s connection to Connie (Joanna Christie) at the communa ends up paying off, though it occurs in an unexpected (and expedient) fashion. Things really are moving quickly!
- The scene of Pablo gently prodding wife Tata (Paulina Gaitan) to abandon her party prep so that they can vacate the mansion before the DEA arrives just reinforces how ridiculously privileged they are. Not only do they have informants everywhere to warn them of the DEA’s every move, they can just abandon an entire mansion and all of their servants in the blink of an eye and set up shop elsewhere. Sure a life on the run sucks, but clearly they’re not hurting nearly as much as Murphy’s voice-over hopes.
- I love that Barry Seal, the CIA pilot who flies the drugs into the US, uses the alias Ellis McPickle. That’s just ridiculous.
- One big score for the DEA occurs when they nab Carlos (Juan Riedinger) at a processing plant. The sole member of the narcos to get caught thus far is extradited to the US and eventually dies in jail.
- Horatio: “Escobar will not go lightly. He will make Colombia bleed.”
Your turn: what did you think of the M-19 raid on the Supreme court? Did you find the mid-section investigation pieces a little difficult to follow? Are you surprised at how quickly Pablo had to go on the run? And will Connie continue to be involved in the investigation now that Elise has been brought into custody? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers if you’ve watched ahead.
Narcos is available in its entirety on Netflix. Check back Tuesday when we tackle episode five.