Friday, September 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - Jorge Helps David Cover Up a Crime That Could Jeopardize the Deal in 'The Cali KGB'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 3.02 "The Cali KGB"

A gas incident threatens to disrupt the Cali-government deal and Jorge is asked to help out. Peña grapples with his former Los Pepes connection.

Narcos is still primarily in setup mode in its third season. Right now, it's still just revealing how terrifying and lethal this new story is capable of being. The Cali Cartel is negotiating a surrender. Everyone is operating under the assumption that in six months time this will all be over. But there's still a lot of damage that can be done in six months. That comes both from the amount of product the cartel can create and export in that time as well as the actual violence. It's a precarious situation because any wrong move could take this deal off the time. Then, the United States government would be right back to hunting these people down so they can serve the maximum amount of time for their crimes or get killed. So, everything has the perception of teetering on the edge. And yet, the world keeps on spinning. Agent Peña is being asked to do nothing. That's infuriating for him especially when he continues to see the violence in the streets. Cali is just as dangerous as it has always been. The cartel is doing their best to cover up their crimes so that nothing risks their deal. But it seems inevitable that it will all go awry somehow. Whether that comes from the cartel's own leaders who don't want to exit the game so soon or because Peña takes it upon himself to continue an official investigation with the desire to arrest these criminals. Figuring that out over the course of the season should be very interesting to watch.

"The Cali KGB" opens with mass murder. It's an action that could immediately ruin everything for the cartel. Gilberto made his big speech announcing this deal. It's not what any of his lieutenants were expecting when they were all brought together. They were hoping for an expansion given the sheer amount of product they are selling throughout the world. Instead, they were given orders to go out big because the end is coming soon. Not everyone agreed on that and the cartel leaders took them out one by one. This is a very efficient and effective operation. Everything is running smoothly. The leaders are sitting comfortably at the top because they know they can control everything. But one problematic action from an underling has the potential to destroy everything. David's actions in using poisonous gas to attack an entire street and not just his one target have consequences. He's still allowed a seat at the table because he is Miguel's son. He has the confidence in his demeanor if not the smarts to know exactly how things will play out and how they'll potentially be bad for his father and the other leaders of the cartel. That's the starting off point for this episode.

From then, the story becomes about Jorge who is brought in to clean up the mess. He is coming across as a really sympathetic character for the season. He's reluctant to carry out this mission for the cartel because he just wants to start living the life he has always wanted. That's a feeling that is incredibly relatable. And yet, he still ultimately blackmails an inspector and covers up the innocent murder of children. He may be more reluctant than the cartel members who take pleasure out of violence and murder. But he still condones that behavior. His story has the looming sense of irony and dread to it as well. He's planning for his future. He wants to build an extravagant house on the hill for his family. He wants to keep this job a secret so that no one knows what he does for a living except for his wife. But it's bound to compromise him. It's already doing that. Because he chose to stay, the leaders now believe they can rely on his expertise even more. He's needed in order to clean up this mess that David created. He has the capability to properly surveil this inspector and discover where his personal failings are. It's a familiar story of someone delivering blackmail because a person in a position of authority is having an affair. But David is just so smug about the whole thing and pushing for Jorge to be the one to deliver the news and end this problem. He ultimately does just that. He goes into the office and delivers the menacing message. It's very effective in the end. But it's slowly corrupting his soul. He can play this game and get things done. He knows how people will react to every situation. But it's going to cost him in the end as well. When those consequences come, it will be truly dynamic to watch.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the operation happening up in New York. That portion of the story reveals that the show will be spending more time outside of Colombia this season. Colombia is where the cartel is based and where the main investigation is happening. But it's important to see the effects this operation has in the rest of the world. It's important to see a Colombian leader in New York making sure the deals remain stable for the foreseeable future. Things are going very well up there. Chepe wants to increase production even further to get as much product out there as possible in the remaining six months. He's not happy about the exit strategy but he's going along with it because it's what Gilberto is asking of him. He has accepted that. But it also creates an uncertain future because the associates he's dealing with for supplies are already moving on from the Cali cartel. Chepe wants to increase production only to learn that he has a new competitor for profit. That means he has to sit down with this competition. It's a very brutal sequence as well. It's once again a scene that ends in a ton of death. This show is incredibly violent and brutal. Chepe shows no remorse or emotion regarding this action either. He simply sees it as something that needs to get done. He gave these young upstarts the opportunity to leave and they didn't take it. They were instead completely wiped out by a machine gun none of them were even aware Chepe was carrying.

All of this produces a very action-oriented episode that focuses on the changing decisions the members of the Cali cartel have to make knowing they only have six months left. It also largely leaves Peña with nothing to do for the hour. He's now just the lead agent in charge on the ground with an office. He's still coping with the decision he made in his hunt for Pablo Escobar. But now, his hands are tied and there is nothing for him to do on the ground. He has to betray his friends who were running an operation in Cali. Those agents are sent back to the United States simply because their covers were blown which created a mess with the Colombian government. Moreover, Peña won't be sending any replacements to Cali to continue the investigation. That's a break from normal procedure that others in the office note right away. It's strange and makes it seem like Peña isn't doing anything at his job. He's in a compromising position right now. He has to honor the wishes of his government to simply allow the cartel to surrender. But his morality is questioned when he learns about the gas leak and the deaths of innocent children. He has to decide if he can handle six more months of news like this. He still may not be able to do any good in this world. But he comes to the decision to send agents into the field once more. In that regard, this hour is still pretty expositional because it's introducing the audience to these two new characters - Chris Feistl and Daniel Van Ness. But they are bound to become more important in the future as Peña is determined to actually do something and not just sit around for a surrender.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Cali KGB" was written by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro & Eric Newman and directed by Andi Baiz.
  • The show has definitely upped its game in terms of casting this season. There are many more recognizable faces this year. Shea Whigham and Nicholas Gonzalez play the DEA agents in Cali who are forced to return to the states. Arturo Castro from Broad City is giving a completely different performance as David. And Gabriel Iglesias just plays one of the gangsters in Queens who dies quickly.
  • Maria is trying to figure out what happened to Claudio. She learns that he never came home from the previous night. No one seems to have seen him. She's creating a lot of noise that the cartel doesn't need right now. And yet, she doesn't become collateral damage. There's the fear that she's about to die when Miguel picks her up and tells her truth. But she is kept alive - for now at least.
  • Jorge's father has no idea that he's working for the cartel and that's how he'll be able to afford building a house on a hill. He believes his son is working for a bio-fuel company which is trying to make gas better for the environment. He doesn't believe in that but is still proud of what his son has built with his life. It's going to be a crushing realization when his father learns the truth.
  • Gilberto doesn't believe in bringing one's children into this business. He's upset with David because he's so inexperienced but in a position of power solely because of who his father is. Gilberto is shielding his own son from this life. He's purposefully not telling him anything. He wants a better and clean life for his son. That's what he wants to give him. Not more violence.
  • Pacho is being sent to Mexico in order to ensure that the deals made with the cartels there will hold for the next six months. Of course, Gilberto is also asking Pacho to leave now in order for him to lay low for awhile after what he did to Claudio. Pacho is reluctant but is still loyal. He does this for Gilberto which will perhaps introduce another new location for the season.
  • Peña only knows to look at the gas leak with suspicion because a reporter named Carolina tips him off to that fact. She's there on the scene in the aftermath of the chaos. She sees the newly discovered canister nearby. She knows a cover up is likely. She wants to know what the DEA will do about it. That motivates Peña into action even though he can't say anything to her about it.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, 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.