Sunday, September 3, 2017

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - Feistl and Van Ness Meet With a New Informant While Peña Heads to Curaçao in 'Best Laid Plans'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 3.06 "Best Laid Plans"

Jorge takes a dangerous risk. An accident in New York threatens to expose Chepe. Peña travels to Curaçao to arrest a potential witness.

"Best Laid Plans" is all about carefully constructed plans going awry because of surprising circumstances. That's the overall theme of this episode. All of the characters have put a great deal of thought into their futures. And yet, they are all surprised by the actions taken elsewhere. It's a little lame that the show has to explicitly explain this theme to the audience with some episode-ending narration by Peña. And yet, it still leads to a very cohesive episode of big, climatic moments that are then destroyed by the unexpected actions of someone new. The characters need trust and loyalty in order to survive in this world. It's the only way that they can accomplish anything. Most of them believe they have put in the work to earn that trust and loyalty. They believe there is no way someone could betray them. But that's exactly what happens across the board in this episode. No one is safe. No one's plan is working how they wanted it to. This season has been on a downward trajectory after the optimistic way the season opened. The surrender deal is now completely off the table. The stakes are escalating because of an all-out war between Cali and the North Valley. It's a climatic decision that proves that things are about to get a lot worse before they can get better. And even then, there's going to be a high body count by the end of this season.

The hour opens with Jorge meeting with Feistl and Van Ness. In success, he wants this to be the only meeting that they share face-to-face. He has arranged this because he is willing to testify against his bosses when they get caught in exchange for immunity. He's making his intentions known now so that he has a way out of this mess when it eventually comes crashing down. He's not prepared to give the DEA any information though. He just wants them to know that he'll be open to communicating once the arrests occur. He doesn't want to be the one releasing the information about his bosses' locations to the DEA so that those arrests can happen. That really doesn't foster a level of trust in this arrangement though. Jorge believes it does. He believes the DEA should just accept that he's the new head of security. He's in a position of authority where he knows a lot of the secrets. But Feistl and Van Ness want something they can act on. They want Miguel Rodriguez. Fortunately, Jorge suddenly gets into a position where he knows where Miguel is going to be. It's the first moment of Miguel actually stepping out in public after his brother's arrest. There is a tradition to uphold for the start of the festival. Miguel needs to make an appearance. Jorge believes telling the DEA this information and that they'll need to arrest him on the streets is good enough. He believes they should listen to him without any doubts. And yet, that's just not true at all. Feistl and Van Ness have too many questions about Jorge and why he's doing this. They don't want to fall into a trap.

However, something completely different happens at the club. Miguel makes his appearance. He says a few words. But it's not the DEA who come after him. Feistl and Van Ness didn't bring anyone with them. They just wanted to see if Jorge's information was true. Instead, the armed men in the club happen to be from North Valley. They are making a move against Cali because they see them as vulnerable. Gilberto has been arrested and Chepe's future in New York is in question following an explosion and a reporter promising to reveal his true identity. So now, North Valley is attacking. It's an extremely tense sequence. It's happening on two fronts as well. Cali is being attacked in Colombia and Mexico. Both Miguel and Pacho are vulnerable. They are being attacked by multiple individuals. And yet, they both are able to survive these assassination attempts. Miguel survives because he is surrounded by an excellent team. No one of any importance is hurt at all. In fact, it shows Miguel that Jorge should be the one in charge of his personal security and not his son, David. That gives Jorge even more importance in the future. Now, he's in a position to actually give the DEA what they want. The pressure is only increasing for him. He tells his wife about the deal and she immediately thinks he's crazy. Meanwhile, Pacho is able to survive because of his own skills. He is outnumbered and only has real support from his drunk brother - who gets seriously shot. And yet, both of them survive. They just need to get out of Mexico as quick as possible.

This entire action changes everything for the Cali cartel. Gilberto started this season so confident that he would figure out the details of his own retirement. And now, he's been arrested. He's still in jail and the world is questioning whether he still has leadership over his cartel. They are striking and he's powerless to do anything about it. He doesn't want this to turn into an all-out war because it would threaten his plans for the future. The deal has already been compromised because of his arrest. He's now facing at least three years in jail. But now, a war will stop the government from wanting to negotiate at all. Gilberto is aware of that. He cautions against it. And yet, Miguel is the brother who is free. He has assembled the leaders of Cali once more. He is telling Pacho and Chepe to prepare for war. This is incredibly personal to him. The people he loves could have been killed. He needs to have his revenge. He needs the people responsible for this to die. It's the only way they can continue operating from a position of strength. He believes that if they don't take any action then people will keep coming after them. People throughout the country will no longer be loyal to them. They'll see this as an opportunity to take big risks that could compromise the entire operation. He believes that this is a necessary action in order to keep the status quo. He's not worried about the surrender deal. He's not focusing on the future. He's worried about what's happening in the present.

During the middle stretch of the episode, it definitely seems like the Cali Cartel is being attacked from all sides. The North Valley cartel is attacking their leaders while the DEA is attacking their money. Peña has traveled to Curaçao in order to arrest Franklin. He has figured out his location. Now, he just needs to track him down and arrest him. It's an intense chase sequence because the country has a rule of not arresting anyone at or near a bank. So, all Franklin needs to do is run into one in order to evade capture. But that doesn't seem to be a viable option for him. He spots Peña immediately and knows what's coming. He runs. It's a thrilling chase because it forces Peña to jump off a second story balcony. But it still ends with Peña's success. He's got his man. He believes he has it all arranged for Christina to fly to Miami. That will be a sign of good faith and make Franklin willing to cooperate as a witness. He is even open to the idea as long as he sees Christina again. But Peña has mismanaged the situation with Christina. He didn't have eyes on her when he was making the arrest. She was afraid of the police at her house and was scared to return. Even after she learns what's gone on, she's out in the open to be snatched by the cartel. She's naturally afraid for her life. But the situation presents itself as it ultimately being okay for her and Franklin. The cartel has her while Mr. Starkman is Franklin's lawyer in Miami. He is able to update him on the situation in Colombia while revealing to Peña that his elaborate plan has just been destroyed. So, the Cali cartel still has a lot of strength and influence in the world right now. Of course, Christina's safety could be compromised because of the pending war and Franklin being far away. But that's a complication for the future because everything is now up for grabs.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Best Laid Plans" was written by Jason George and directed by Josef Wladyka.
  • The one downside to this war is that the North Valley men really don't have a key face to identify with in the scope of the story. They are associates of the Cali cartel. Miguel sat down with their leader to ensure everything would continue according to schedule. They instead reached out to Amado for support in Mexico. That led to this strike. And yet, there are no characters on that side of the war the audience can easily pick out and care one way or another if they die.
  • Nicolás is taking a more active role within the organization despite Gilberto's objections. Gilberto wants to protect his son from the fallout. But Nicolás has become a form of communication between Gilberto and Miguel. Sure, Gilberto still has a phone. But Nicolás wants to be involved. It's gotten to the point that David is a little annoyed that his father is taking orders from his cousin.
  • Jorge has moved Pallomari and his family to a safe house because everyone agrees that he is a potential threat to the deal and to the organization. Everyone knows about him and the importance he has in handling the money. What he knows could be quite devastating if he starts talking. But mostly, he's just upset that he and his family are being forced to move to a shitty apartment that isn't up to their standards.
  • A drug lab in New York City blows up because the guys making the drugs are too distracted by the O.J. Simpson trial to watch what they are doing. They are taking about the infamous glove when chemicals spill on the ground and hit an electrical socket. It also happens to be the apartment being watched by the local reporter.
  • Of course, Chepe's identity is still a secret. He has to flee New York because it's getting too intense for him and he's needed in Colombia. But he's able to kill the reporter before he's able to release his story. And yet, that's operating under the assumption that no one else in the world saw the massive story he was able to break or knows where he kept 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.