Narcos airs its finale as its first season comes to a close. Wait…what? There are still two more episodes to go? Oh.
Let’s bitch it out…
You’d be forgiven for assuming that ‘La Gran Mentira’ is the season finale of Narcos because nearly everything that happens has a feeling of closure and finality. In a twist of fate, the events from last episode are immediately resolved, in the most fatal of ways. A squad of men led by Carrillo (Maurice Compte) tracks down the safe house where kidnapped journalist Diana (Gabriela de la Garza) is being kept and she is accidentally killed in the ensuing fire fight. The death hits the Colombian people hard because they were so connected with Diana and the event galvanizes the peace talks between President César Gaviria (Raúl Méndez) and the narcos. In the end, César caves to Pablo’s (Wagner Moura) ridiculous demands: the end of extradition, a single trafficking charge and (most hilariously) a private prison constructed by Pablo and guarded by his own men.
The fact that Gustavo (Juan Pablo Raba) is killed and Pablo is taken into custody by the end of the episode makes this feel like a definitive turning moment in the season. So much of this inaugural season has played out as a battle of wills between the police and the narcos, and while the latter group has primarily been represented by Pablo, arguably his defining relationship has been the one he
has had with his cousin. The fact that Carrillo is willing to jeopardize the agreement to get a crack at Gustavo (and Pablo by proxy) makes it clear just how personal he’s made the vendetta against the narcos.
Gustavo’s death is probably the biggest shocker of the series thus far because the timing is so bizarre (why Carrillo? Why?!). The murder itself is also treated differently than the other ones. When Gacha was killed in 1×06 ‘Explosivos’, the shooting was front and center, including the head shot from the helicopter. Contrast this with the almost delicate way that Gustavo’s murder is visually depicted: the vigilante justice administered is barely glimpsed before the camera cuts away. The exact same thing happens after the beating; Gustavo yells at them, then a quick cut reveals his lifeless body, lying on its side. It’s clear from the way the death is filmed and the resulting reactions by Pablo, Tata (Paulina Gaitan) and Pablo’s that Narcos wants to make this death less about the gore and more about the emotional impact. The time and energy spent on Gustavo in his swan song confirms that this is a murder that will resonate in the remaining two episodes.
Gustavo’s betrayal is the focal point of ‘La Gran Mentira’. Not only does his affair with Marina (Laura Perico) finally come out (to both Pablo and her family), it provides the ammunition that the Ochoas – in collaboration with Pacho (Alberto Ammann) – need to finally make a move on Pablo. And while they are ultimately responsible for sending Gustavo to the grave, there’s a suggestion that Valeria (Stephanie Sigman) also plays a role. Her dinner date with Pacho smacks of opportunism and even though she clearly sees through Pacho’s flattery, she’s still flirting with danger. Her only saving grace is that she confesses her sins to Pablo and provides him with intel. Otherwise I wonder if she would have ended up in a body bag herself (in fact I’m not convinced that she still won’t).
The episode ends on a pessimistic note. Despite finally apprehending their nemesis, neither Peña (Pedro Pascal) nor Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) can consider it a victory. It’s hard not to consider Pablo’s deal a concession – it is temporary appeasement for the sake of “peace”. This disillusionment is what brings us back to the opening scene from the first episode: the attack on the Dispensaria and the shooting death of Poison (Jorge A. Jimenez). With only two episodes left to go and yet another member of Pablo’s inner circle taken out, where will Narcos go left? My guess: a time jump.
- The bombing of Pablo’s house in Monaco is well done. While I doubted whether any of his family would be killed, the explosion itself is unexpected and the sound design in the aftermath – a near silence as Pablo runs from room to room – is effective at conveying the terrifying uncertainty.
- The other reason I suspected that Valeria’s head is on the chopping block is because when she tries to distance herself from Pablo, the camera slowly pans around them to highlight how many armed men surround them. In hindsight, this may have been foreshadowing since Gustavo is the one framed in between them in the background, reinforcing that he is the one who is in the crossfire due to Pablo’s deal with the authorities.
- Pablo (when Augusta accuses him of getting away with it): “Geniuses…are always branded as crazy.”
Your turn: what did you think of this significant episode? Were you surprised that Diana died? What about Gustavo? Do you think Valeria poses a threat or will be killed? Will the next episode jump ahead? Will Pablo extract further revenge on the Ochoas and Pacho? Sound off below.
Narcos is available entirely on Netflix. Check in Tuesday for our review of 1×09 and Thursday for our review of the finale.