Sunday, September 4, 2016

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - A Familiar Face Returns to Change the Search for Pablo Escobar in 'Our Man in Madrid'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 2.03 "Our Man in Madrid"

President Gaviria has a new job for an old colleague. The Search Bloc's new tactics shape up Pablo, but also unsettle Murphy and Peña.

The Colombian government has suffered another crippling defeat at the hands of Pablo Escobar. He is responsible for the deaths of dozens of police officers. Everyone who patrolled the streets of Medellin suffered some kind of injury. All Pablo had to do was give the order. His organization is so strong and wide spread that that's all it took to deliver this crushing blow. It's a key breaking point for so many people. It's a loss for the country and the families left behind to mourn the young officers slain in this horrific event. But it also puts the pressure on President Gaviria. He can't just walk away from this chaos. He's the one leading this country. He needs to put a stop to Pablo Escobar as soon as possible. Otherwise, police officers will continue to be killed and the drug trade will flourish throughout the entire world. He's pushed past his breaking point and comes to an important decision early on in "Our Man in Madrid." He decides to bring back Colonel Horacio Carrillo to lead the Search Bloc. It's a decision that ripples throughout the entire world over the course of this episode. It changes everything which forces every character to contemplate how far they are willing to go to get what they want.

The government is long past trying to negotiate with Pablo. That was the tactic used last season. They believed they could work with him and eliminate this threat without any bloodshed. That didn't work at all. Pablo has escaped and is more dangerous now than ever before. This season is about the violence necessary to combat this harsh and ever-changing world. To the people on the ground, it seems like violence is the only way to handle these problems. Violence is how the people of Medellin were heard by their government. It is through the act of killing dozens of officers that they believe their outrage and love for Pablo is being taken seriously by President Gaviria. So, it's not surprising at all that the changing of the guard with the Search Bloc embraces this need for violence as well. It's how Carrillo believes he's been successful in the past. He left under troubling circumstances. The government just couldn't back his controversial decisions. But now, they need him and his methods because this war has to end at any costs. Things have just gotten too bad for them not to have him in charge.

Carrillo leading the Search Bloc means Peña and Murphy are valued once again by the Colombian government. Pinzón didn't take them seriously. He didn't believe he needed help from the Americans. But now, Carrillo understands they need all the help they can get in order to catch Pablo. The situation is just that dire. He's a smart tactician too. He doesn't put on a show like Pinzón did. He understands that stealth is very important especially with the enemy they are facing. Pablo has eyes everywhere. That's how he's able to stay one step ahead of the police. That's how he was able to kill so many in a single blow. He's beloved by the community. They will do anything to protect him. Some of these spotters are just young kids. They do what they do because it's the only direction they have ever been given in life. But here, that proves to have some pretty dangerous consequences. Carrillo isn't above killing one of the young spotters in order to send a message to the whole organization. He knows that Pablo is afraid of him. He flaunts that at first. But he also makes sure to get down to the business shortly afterwards.

Murphy and Peña have interesting reactions to the new tactics Carrillo is employing. They are able to see it firsthand because Carrillo trusts them and values their intel. But it's still horrifying and despicable to them whenever they see Carrillo kill just in order to find Pablo. That's a line they aren't willing to cross yet. Peña has been in Colombia for much longer. He already has Carrillo's trust. That's why he's invited to the roundup of the spotters to deliver a message. And yet, he is shaken to his core when Carrillo kills one and lets the others go to spread the word of what happened. It's something that physically shakes him. Meanwhile, Murphy believes he wasn't invited because he's the gringo with moral superiority on the subject. He doesn't believe he is. However, when the time comes for it, he too is shaken when Carrillo just pushes two of Pablo's men out of a helicopter. Neither Murphy nor Peña are responsible for these deaths. They just watch it happen. But it does affect them. This is the man they are now working for. These are the actions that actually produce results. The two characters have always been more interesting when they focus on the work. Seeing them rattled by this and retreating to their personal lives isn't all that great. Their lives outside work aren't compelling. And yet, this still marks a crucial turning point in the fight against Pablo Escobar.

Pablo and his family know this as well. The return of Carrillo could jeopardize their lives in Colombia. It's enough to make Tata worried all over again about the safety of her family. She believes they need to leave right away. Carrillo killed Gustavo. He's coming for Pablo as well. She doesn't want him to die and leave her children without a father. And yet, he is still surprisingly calm. He believes he's still in control of this situation. He doesn't think it's time to worry just yet. He's still able to persuade Tata into not leaving. Things haven't gotten that bad yet. In fact, he may still be able to put a new spin on this story with Carrillo. He believes Carrillo killing a young man is even more evidence of the lengths the Colombian government will go to persecute one of its citizens. It's a horrifying display of violence. Sure, it comes on the heels of Pablo doing the exact same thing to dozens of police officers. But to the people of the country, that was an act of empowerment. They were showing the government that they can't be controlled. Their voices matter. Killing a child is evil and cannot be tolerated. Pablo getting Valeria to release this story with this particular spin on it could spark even more outrage against Carrillo. He's not the most beloved man in Colombia. President Gaviria brought him in to do a job. He's here to kill Pablo Escobar. But Pablo is making sure that the government can't do that without risking an uproar from the people. Pablo knows how to play the media to his advantage. He's very vocal when it comes to delivering his message. And now, this violence could change everything for the government.

Of course, Carrillo is only able to raid one of Pablo's biggest labs because Peña gets a tip from Judy's right-hand man. She is obviously going to be a key part of this season. She's the one member from the Medellin Cartel who refuses to work with Pablo again. And now, she's being hunted for that action. She's forced to seek a partnership with the Cali Cartel. "Our Man in Madrid" does serve as an introduction to the two men running the rival cartel to Pablo's - Pacho Herrera and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela. Much like Pablo, they share an affinity for the luxurious and eclectic. They run an effective business and take a potential war with Pablo very seriously. They know the future of the drug trade but are very aware not to step on any of Pablo's territory. They also don't enjoy the spotlight like Pablo does. They like being able to blend into normal society as bankers. That gives them more excitement for their criminal endeavors. All of this is key in understanding the state of the drug trade beyond Pablo Escobar. Pablo is a huge component of it and is the man being hunted down at the moment. Judy and the Cali Cartel could be instrumental in that endeavor. They are certainly being set up that way. But right now, it's just important that they are coming together and are thinking very carefully about how best to deal with Pablo. A not so easy task that could be very enticing should they be successful in the end.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Our Man in Madrid" was written by Zachary Reiter & Steve Lightfoot and directed by Andrés Baiz.
  • Quica is still on the search for Maritza. It's just a very brief story here with him being unable to find her at the market where she works. And yet, its inclusion indicates that it's something that will have quite an impact later on this season. She won't be in hiding forever.
  • Also, Quica is hunting someone down. He's trying to find Maritza for the sole purpose of killing her. And yet, he also wants ice cream. He needs something cold after failing to find her. Death means nothing to him anymore. But ice cream is still nice.
  • The reveal that the lab Carrillo, Murphy and Peña take down is actually one of Judy's is very effective. It plays so well because of the earlier scene where Pablo is explaining how everyone who works for Judy technically works for him instead. Without that knowledge, it would seem dangerous and pointless to lose a lab while forming a partnership with the Cali Cartel.
  • Tata doesn't want Pablo to read any more scary stories to the kids. She's reading enough scary stories in the actual newspapers. First, it's Pablo's killing of all of those police officers. Next, it's Carrillo returning as the head of the Search Bloc. Real life is much scarier than any fiction.
  • Davíd is perhaps the youngest spotter that Carrillo rounds up. And yet, he's the one tasked with delivering the message to Pablo. However, the fear of death isn't enough for him to lose any love for Pablo. So now, he's appearing on camera and telling the world his story.

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, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.