Monday, September 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - Time Constraints Could Possibly Ruin a Crucial Operation for the DEA in 'Sin Salida'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 3.07 "Sin Salida"

Peña plans another covert operation to take down a key Cali cartel member, but he risks running out of time during his search.

There certainly was the expectation that this season was building up to the DEA arresting Miguel Rodriguez. Jorge has been working as an informant for the DEA. He's been promoted to the head of security for Miguel. He has the knowledge to lead the agents to arrest him and deliver another blow to the Cali Cartel. The cartel is vulnerable right now because they are distracted by their war with the North Valley cartel. They are focusing on how to show the world that they are still relevant and powerful. The surrender deal and Gilberto's arrest change nothing regarding how they run business. In fact, the belief that they are about to surrender is now done. Miguel and his partners are willing to show everyone that they are still in charge of this industry. That becomes complicated because Miguel has to spend the entire day in hiding. The threat against him is very real. It makes "Sin Salida" feel like a very climatic episode of the show. But it still manages to surprise the audience as well. The show has done many close calls over the years. The DEA get close to catching their fugitive only to just barely miss him. This episode is another example of that. Miguel is still free. But the tension and uncertainty of what this episode means for the future of a number of characters make this one of the best episodes of the season so far.

The setup of this story is very intriguing because it establishes all of the various workarounds that Peña and the DEA need to do in order to carry this warrant out. They have the intelligence of where Miguel is staying at the moment. They have the inside man to help get access to his room. They have the strategy to arrest him. And yet, there are so many complications that they have to deal with. They need to get the support of the Colombian government in this mission even though they can't tell them who their source for this information is. And then, the rules for carrying out warrants in Cali has changed following Gilberto's arrest. The local police have now created a system where they can tip off the leaders of the cartel if the DEA is coming to arrest them. They have to file a warrant in a specific location and then carry it out. Plus, there's still the problem of which Colombian officers the DEA can actually trust. Peña, Feistl and Van Ness can't carry out this mission by themselves. They need allies. Fortunately, the show is able to introduce a new general who believes in duty to country and God. It's a broad character for sure. He only pops up to give the DEA the manpower they need for this mission. It's very expositional. And yet, it's still vital information to have that helps set the stage for what's about to come.

Of course, it wouldn't be much fun if everything went according to plan. There is the fear that Jorge won't be able to help the DEA in the way that he has promised. First, he's getting into a fight with Paola at home. She doesn't want to leave her home. She doesn't want to uproot her children. She doesn't want to go to America. That's not the life she envisioned for herself. Jorge knows that if his family moves away from him then the cartel will have the evidence they need to punish him for this betrayal. He doesn't want his family to suffer like Cordova's did. He wants a better life than that but fails to properly express that to the people he loves most in this world. He's a brilliant man as an engineer and security expert. But in interacting with people, he fails to get people to see the world the same way he does. It makes him a tragic figure in the season. Of course, he was also destined to be a tragic character. His story follows the familiar path of the guy who was ready to get out of the game only to get pulled back in and die because of it. That feeling of dread and uncertainty has been hanging over Jorge for the entire season. And now, that tension is incredibly palpable. He has put this plan into motion. But he's stuck inside the room with Miguel. His boss wants him to have diner with him and discuss the plan to tap Gilberto's phone in prison. It's just a normal conversation within the cartel. But Jorge has the stress of the impending raid. He doesn't want to get caught up in it. But he seems destined to nonetheless.

So, the DEA enters the building ready to execute the warrant and arrest Miguel Rodriguez. The cartel can hear the helicopter approaching the building. Miguel has the time to hide but not escape. As such, the episode spends the majority of its time on the DEA searching the entire apartment looking for Miguel's hiding spot. It's a sequence very similar to the one earlier in the season when Gilberto was discovered and arrested. But for the longest time, the show doesn't reveal to the audience where Miguel is. We are just as clueless as all of the characters. It seems likely that he is still in the building. It would be impossible for him to escape. And yet, time wears on. The DEA is here searching the place for a long time. They arrive at night and are there for the majority of the next day. It's a long and arduous process. The initial search turns up nothing. The agents are knocking on all of the surfaces of the apartment in order to find a hollow hiding spot. That turns up empty. They go to measure a corresponding apartment elsewhere in the building to figure out where the dimensions don't line up. That does produce a meaningful lead with a space in the wall of the bathroom. But there is no simple hatch that reveals Miguel hiding. Instead, they need to pull out a drill and start searching. It wears the agents down. They know Miguel is here. Their intelligence was solid. Jorge is still there to help them out too.

But all of this ultimately doesn't produce an arrest. The attorney general of the city is working for the cartel and arrives eventually to put a stop to this illegal raid. Peña knew that they were bending the details of the law. It's what the DEA deems necessary in order to catch the leaders of the cartel given the world they are operating in. In success, no one cares because they finally have a wanted fugitive in custody. In failure though, it could end all of their careers. In this moment, it's a failure. The DEA has found the spot where Miguel is hiding. The action cuts to his reactions to show just how close the drill comes to actually injuring him. And yet, he is able to keep it together. He doesn't break. He holds strong and is rewarded for that. But Peña, Feistl and Van Ness are on a plane back to Bogotá having failed. They are defeated. This is a devastating loss for them. It also means that they are off the case for good. They were risking it all to bring down the cartel. They just didn't have the time to find Miguel. They came out empty. And now, the consequences are affecting each of them in profound ways.

Jorge is incredibly worried about what this means for his family. Because the arrest wasn't made, he has no deal with the American government. He's now vulnerable within the cartel. He could be taken out just like Cordova with his family following a similar fate. His wife and children aren't even in the apartment anymore. He's all alone after this crushing loss. He basically seems suicidal. This was his way out of this complicated situation. And now, it's failed. He doesn't know what will happen next. He just has to decide if he's willing to die now himself or risk continuing the ruse with the cartel leaders. Right now, Miguel is more angry than he has ever been. He's had enough of Gilberto's talk for a peaceful surrender. That's not the dream he supports anymore. It's a fantasy that Gilberto is desperately holding onto in order to find peace in his current imprisonment. But Miguel is still a free man. He's now ready to lead the cartel and bring it roaring back to success. He's able to achieve that because he still has the support of his men. He's fragile because of this close call. But it's a very empowering time for him as well because he still has his freedom.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Sin Salida" was written by Santa Sierra & Clayton Trussell and directed by Fernando Coimbra
  • The episode kicks off with Pacho and his men attacking a church in North Valley territory. It's thrilling to watch as the men exit the building after gunfire is heard. They approach a car only to be quickly taken out once it explodes. It once again shows just how powerful Pacho really is. The only comfort he can give to the local parishioners is that they should pray.
  • The episode ends with Pacho and Chepe leading a strike at a port that North Valley controls which is the main import and export site for the region. It's what makes them a well-organized organization that can challenge Cali at the moment. Taking this location away from them returns the power to Cali. It seems like a done deal largely because Pacho and Chepe don't have to do any of the actual fighting.
  • The entire city seems to be watching the news that is detailing the raid the DEA is currently carrying out. Everyone is captivated by it and on the edge of their seats wondering if the DEA will be successful. It's then slightly amusing that everyone is watching this happen except for the one person who can actually put a stop to it. The attorney general needs to be pulled away from a tennis lesson to confront the DEA.
  • What exactly is Maria's motivation this season? Andrea Londo is a series regular this year. And yet, Maria hasn't really done anything to justify that contractual status. She's simply the woman in Miguel's life to provide him with comfort. But there's no reason why she wants to be intimate with him. It could be her survival instincts but the show hasn't really put in the effort to tell things from her perspective.
  • How much evidence could the Cali cartel find that would incriminate Jorge as the inside man for this close call? Paula and the kids moving away could be seen as suspicious. So could him wanting to replace the man on the ground and the walkies in the apartment being turned off. And yet, he was still in the apartment when the bust went down and has the mark on his face that he was beaten for information. So, it really could go either away.

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.