Thursday, September 3, 2015

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - Murphy and Peña Raid the Labs While Pablo Plots a Major Attack in 'The Palace in Flames'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 1.04 "The Palace in Flames"

Despite a new extradition treaty, the U.S. puts more money into fighting communism, creating new challenges for Murphy and Peña in the hunt for Pablo.

The story of Pablo Escobar has always seemed miraculous. Something that actually did happen in the 1980s but has seemed too impossible to be real. It was and that has always been the biggest storytelling point in this narrative. Pablo was able to thrive in an environment where he could build the biggest drug trafficking ring without fear of prosecution. He had the money to manipulative every event in his favor. He was able to get out of any situation because he had the money to do so.

At times, this narration has felt like Murphy and Peña are the only two law enforcement officers actually trying to arrest Pablo for his crimes. The government of Colombia is corrupt. Even Pablo himself was able to get elected into Congress. It didn't last long because of the skills of his opponents. But it was still something that actually happened. He has so much control over this entire region. He owns over 800 houses. That's impressive. Things are slowly starting to turn against him. But he still holds so much control over the situation. He has the resources to make any witness and evidence disappear. It's an uphill battle for Murphy and Peña. But it's also one that they have to prove to the rest of the government is worth fighting for.

The new extradition treaty between the United States and Colombia certainly gives Murphy and Peña a new weapon to use in this war against Pablo and the drug trade. It creates severity for the crime the traffickers are doing. The threat only becomes real once the audience sees how vastly different the prisons are in each country. In the United States, it's a solitary cell. In Colombia, it's like an ongoing party with loose rules. A sentence in the United States is something the narcos should all fear. It gives everyone in law enforcement more reason to capture them.

But that's not enough to get the actual resources to Murphy and Peña in order to make it a reality. Throughout these first few episodes, the narrative has made it seem like drugs is the biggest problem facing America during this time. It wasn't. This was a time where everyone feared that the Communists of the world could cause global destruction. Every important resource is being directed to fighting communism - which is seen as a much more noble cause than fighting Pablo Escobar and the narcos. Murphy and Peña know the severity of the situation in Colombia and how the drugs are actually effecting the people around the world. But the other US agencies don't.

Murphy and Peña can't seem to keep any witness alive long enough to make a dent in the narcos' operation either because of the lack of resources. The politician in the previous episode was only able to get Pablo out of Congress. After that, he was dead. One of Pablo's pilots, Barry, gives Murphy and Peña a picture of Pablo in communist-controlled Nicaragua. That was a huge turning point for the case. But Barry still wound up dead even though he fled the country to find safety in Baton Rouge. Murphy and Peña are making progress when it comes to battling Pablo's operation. But Pablo still has too much influence and control over Colombia for that to be much of a difference.

Because of the Pablo picture, Murphy and Peña are able to go more backing from the intelligence community back home. They are able to make raids on several of Pablo's key laboratories in the Colombian woods. That leads to Carlos' arrest and a life sentence plus 135 years in the United States. The DEA is sending a message to the rest of the narcos. This is the fate that they will be met with if they should get caught. That does worry the people of Pablo's organization. Each of them addresses it in different ways. But they all have the same fear: that they will spend the rest of their life confined in a small cell in a foreign country.

It's in that necessity to act that shows just how much Pablo can make happen in his country. He has been very smart so far. He has avoided capture because he continually gets tipped off by corrupt police officials that the Americans are coming his way. He may never feel save but he can survive knowing that people will do anything to keep him that way because they fear what he is capable of doing should they betray him. Pablo is able to make a huge display of power when it comes to the government officials who support the United States in the extradition deal. He has judges so afraid for their lives that they have to wear masks while making their judgments. When that isn't enough, Pablo organizes M-19 to launch a full-on assault on the Palace of Justice to kill the people arguing for the deal as well as to destroy all the evidence Murphy and Peña have collected against him.

It's a crushing blow to Murphy and Peña. They won't be able to use any of that monumental evidence in any future case against the narcos. They have to start over. But all is not lost for them. They have a new witness to Pablo's crimes - Elisa, a communist in M-19 who wasn't a part of the big attack. She isn't able to share her vague information before the attack happened but she did expose herself as a crucial piece of the puzzle who may continue to be helpful as Murphy and Peña build their case against Pablo and the rest of the cartel. There's no guarantees that she won't meet the same fate as the other two informants they had. But both have guilt about those two deaths in a way that makes them even more committed to keeping Elisa alive. That may not be enough. But it's the only thing they have at the moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Palace in Flames" was written by Chris Brancato and directed by Guillermo Navarro.
  • A presidential  election is also happening in Colombia at the moment. One candidate - Luis Carlos Galán - supports the extradition deal in a time where that is becoming the biggest issue of the election.
  • On top of Carlos, Murphy and Peña also got Blackbeard, Pablo's best accountant. His absence could create a problem for the narcos' operation moving forward.
  • Horacio Carrillo was hesitant to continue investigating Pablo for the amount of control he has in Colombia. But Peña went over his head with the $100,000 they did get for their operation to make sure that he continued leading the case.
  • Connie and Elisa formed a friendship. That's why Elisa sought her out in order to share the news of what was happening with Pablo and M-19. But it was a connection created hastily and with no real nuance to it. Also, it's amusing that the show keeps having to remind the audience that Elisa is a communist.
  • Pablo was smart to keep Ivan and his friends alive long enough to handle this attack on the Palace of Justice. But he's also wise to kill them now because of the amount of power he has just given them. Again, Pablo is a very smart and cunning manipulator of events. 

As noted in previous reviews from this series, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments section, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.