Monday, September 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Narcos' - Peña Partners With Questionable Allies for a Mission in the Jungle in 'Convivir'

Netflix's Narcos - Episode 3.08 "Convivir"

David seeks revenge on behalf of his father, putting Enrique in danger. Peña asks Don Berna for help on a rescue mission.

The protagonists of Narcos this season have never had perfect morality. That was clear way back in the season premiere. Peña was still haunted by the decisions he had to make in order to get Pablo Escobar. He never felt like a hero because he made several deals with the devil in order to win. He compromised himself to get that victory. Meanwhile, Jorge was working as a chief security officer for the Cali cartel. No, he didn't carry a weapon or intimidated people into cooperation. But he fully understood what the people he was protecting were doing. He created the systems that allowed them to stay in power for as long as they did. Both of these characters are responsible for the difficult situations they now find themselves. Their past actions are coming back to haunt them. But now, their morality is being compromised even further. They both need to cross over to the dark side in order to win. They are doing things for the right reasons. Peña needs to win the war on drugs while Jorge needs to protect his family. But the cost of those dreams are having such a huge impact on these two characters. They still feel bad about the actions that they must take in order to survive in this cutthroat world. But they are slowly being ripped apart because of them as well. It's absolutely brutal to watch. But it's also the show doing a really excellent job in drawing tension across this final part of the season.

So, things aren't as hopeless for the DEA as they appeared to be at the end of the previous episode. They failed to capture Miguel Rodriguez. They fully believe he was behind the wall and were stopped before proving it. They are in trouble with the Colombian government for not obeying the rules. They've had to leave Cali. They had nothing to show for their efforts. But now, Peña pulls out a ledger that was discovered in the apartment that details all of the business transactions that happened over the past few years for the cartel. It's a huge discovery. So, there is still some victory to be taken from this bust. It allows Peña, Feistl and Van Ness to keep their jobs. It's made the ambassador's job a whole lot more difficult. But they still have a promising lead that is worth investigating further. It's evidence that the Colombian government can't deny is important. The only problem is that the ledger is written in a special code that only two people can break. One of them is Franklin Jurado who is currently in U.S. custody but will only talk if Christina is returned safely to him. The other is Guillermo Pallomari who has decided to run after Miguel was almost captured by the DEA. Both of these characters suddenly become important and give Peña a way back into this investigation.

However, Christina isn't being kept in a Cali safe house. She's not being protected by their best security officers in order to keep her safe once Franklin returns to them. Instead, she's being kept alive out in the wilderness by fringe guerrilla warriors. The Cali cartel sends them people they need to disappear for a little while but whom they don't particularly care about. It's a brutal experience for Christina. She's traumatized because of it. The only way for Peña to rescue her is by making a deal with an old friend. This season has largely done away with all of the comparisons to the Pablo Escobar years of the war on drugs. But now, Don Berna needs to return to the narrative because he can help Peña connect with the right people for this mission. It just means Peña needs to compromise his values once more. He did that once with Don Berna last season to catch Escobar. And now, Berna is expecting to get a call from Peña should his name ever come up at the DEA for capture. So, Peña would become the kind of corrupt officer he has been fighting against. That's a brutal reveal. But it's absolutely necessary in order to succeed in this mission and take down the cartel. It's for the greater good. Peña stopped seeing himself as a hero a long time ago. But he still takes things personally when the demands of others corrupt his soul and morals.

But in the end, the mission is a success. Peña hates the private militia he is fighting alongside. They are thankful for the technology he has brought for them. They also tease that they've worked with the CIA in the past. That's not surprising given Stechner's mentality towards this type of fighting. But Peña wants there to be as little bloodshed as possible in this rescue. That's just not possible because of the organization he is working with. Their beliefs are completely different than his own. They believe these freedom fighters must die because it's for the good of the country. So, Peña needs to be okay with them executing all of the people they capture. It's a cost of doing business. It will all be worth it in the end. He doesn't care if he's liked. Christina sees him as a guy who wants to be called a hero. She doesn't see him like that. She sees him as the guy who got her into this mess to begin with. He just wants to reunite her with Franklin so that he will cooperate with the authorities. It's a plan that is seemingly going to work out as well. And yet, the Cali cartel knows that Franklin represents a threat to their safety. So, he is killed in prison. It's an absolutely devastating moment for Peña. It's hard to feel one way or another about this character death. But what it means for Peña is very brutal. He was counting on this in order to bring down the cartel. And now, all of this hard work and corrupting of his soul has been for nothing. All he has to show for it is a traumatized woman who has just lost her husband because of cartel violence.

All of this is intercut with Jorge's own struggle to survive. Miguel and David fully believe that there is an informant within their organization who is leaking secrets to the DEA. They even know that the DEA has a source whose codename is "Natalie." That shows the span of their influence even after a crippling, personal attack. They need to act swiftly and precisely. Every time Jorge goes into a meeting with his bosses, there is the potential that they are about to kill him. It's very intense. It's also incredibly personal because the show has put in the effort to make Jorge a multi-faceted character this season. His concerns in this world are genuine. Him being placed in this situation is compelling to watch because it means he has to act quickly in order to survive. He's a very smart and capable man. He knows that Miguel and David will want to talk with Enrique regarding his role in letting the DEA storm the building. He's smart to leave a recorder on when he leaves David alone in the vehicle. David has never liked Jorge. But now, it's clear that he really would enjoy killing Jorge now. He's just desperately hoping for him to be the rat. He wants to take pleasure out of killing him and his wife. That's absolutely brutal to hear. It's a little manipulative as well. The audience has to believe that the threat against Jorge is real. Miguel and David could know what he's been up to and could kill him at any moment. That's what creates urgency in this situation.

And yet, Jorge is still able to survive this ordeal. He just has to sacrifice a man who knows and respects. He hired Enrique and has trusted him as a part of the security team for Miguel. But now, it's a choice between him or Enrique. As such, he's going to do whatever it takes to survive. Enrique has been tortured by Miguel and David. He has given up that Jorge knew that the DEA were still in town and where their new safe house was. That's very incriminating. But Jorge puts on the performance of his life. He creates a situation where both parties are completely denying their involvement in this chaotic situation. Miguel and David don't know who to trust or belief. And then, Jorge plants the pager he got from Feistl and Van Ness on Enrique. He just has to wait for the DEA agents to send another message hoping for a response. They have no idea what happened to Jorge. They are hopeful that he's still alive but don't know for sure. They wish they could have done more to protect him. And now, they inadvertently have. He's alive because he was able to direct blame towards Enrique. Of course, that means having to watch an innocent man die. Sure, he's not that innocent given the work he is doing. But he's innocent of the crime Miguel and David believe he committed. It's absolutely destructive for Jorge to see that. The only catharsis he can get is storming in on his family and crying in his wife's arms. She's not happy with him at the moment but can see just how distraught he really is. He survived all of this but doesn't feel safe yet. He's willing to give the DEA one last chance at Miguel. If they fail again, then he really is a dead man. And yet, it's still a risk he's willing to take.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Convivir" was written by Andy Black and directed by Fernando Coimbra.
  • Gilberto and Miguel are continuing to fight over the direction of the cartel. Miguel is still all about violence and needing certain individuals to pay for the actions taken against the cartel. Gilberto is still far removed from the situation and his influence isn't as great as it once was. He can no longer convince his brother to listen to him. That's a huge break from how the cartel used to run.
  • The split between Gilberto and Miguel also means that Gilberto has to rely on his son, Nicolás, even more. He wanted to protect him from this life. But now, he's the only man he can trust to address the situation with Franklin. Now, Nicolás is the one giving the kill orders. He executes Franklin and doesn't seem all that conflicted about it later on either.
  • There's a moment where Don Berna asks Peña if he has seen Judy since they last worked together. That was a key partnership in the second season. And yet, I'm surprised by how little of it I actually remember. I know enough to still recognize names and faces. But not enough of the actual specifics. It's just important that Berna is now running Medellin - which is explained in the narration as well.
  • Navegante has a really twisted moment in talking about the love of his life to Jorge. It's such a strange scene. It's meant to keep the tension up even though Navegante has no reason to distrust Jorge like his bosses do. But it's still weird to hear him talking about the woman who almost turned him in finally returning to the city.
  • Pallomari is still alive. His wife was willing to go to a meeting for work while he was insisting that they run. He and his children have disappeared. Jorge is tasked with finding them. Of course, he then gets a little distracted by Miguel and David. But finding Pallomari will be a huge priority moving forward as well.

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.