Saturday, November 24, 2018

REVIEW: 'Narcos: Mexico' - Kiki and Félix Descend on Guadalajara to Build Better Futures in 'Camelot'

Netflix's Narcos: Mexico - Episode 4.01 "Camelot"

When the army pillages Sinaloa, an ambitious pot farmer pitches a plan to build a drug empire in Guadalajara. A young DEA agent transfers to Mexico.

In 2018, it makes no sense to provide full-length reviews of each individual episode for shows released all at once on the streaming services. Sure, there are some shows out there that value the power of the episode. They do make a point in differentiating each episode to ensure it's not just one big slog to the finish. However, the ability to watch the entire season at one's own viewing pace has largely changed the way we consume and discuss these shows. So, some brief summary thoughts are really all that's actually necessary with these seasons. As such, here are my latest thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Narcos: Mexico.

"Camelot" was written by Eric Newman & Clayton Trussell and directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka

Narcos is back for another season of drug wars. Now, it's easy to see this as the fourth season of a wildly successful and popular show. However, Netflix has rebranded it as Narcos: Mexico and essentially released this as a brand new show altogether. On one hand, that's certainly understandable because this season features an entirely new set of characters and a brand new location. The story of Colombia's role in the drug trade has been told. Now, it's time to refocus on Mexico to see how it's humble beginnings led to it becoming one of the major players in this illegal enterprise which lasts until the present day. On the other hand though, it's still basically the same show that follows the same narrative ticks in order to tell its stories. It still features an omnipresent narrator who details a bunch of background information to the audience in the hopes that we understand all the various nuances of the local environment. It's told in a very blunt way. It also feels as if this could be seen as an entirely new show to some viewers who somehow missed the three previous seasons. The narrator is talking about how drugs are bad even the ones that have become legal in certain portions of the world. Moreover, he talks about how it's such a difficult war to fight because of the changing tactics and different approaches to its coverage and execution. Of course, this premiere also has the heavy lifting of introducing the two major players in this world. Michael Peña and Diego Luna are some fantastic actors to be the stars of this show as well. They immediately present as the same archetypes the show has used in the past as well. Peña's Kiki Camarena is eager to prove himself and goes to the front lines of the drug war to hopefully make a difference. Of course, he gets the position in Guadalajara mostly because it's the only place in the world that can hopefully give him some more experience with the DEA. He still wishes to make a difference even though his new boss and colleagues tell him that they are mostly just collecting data here and passing it up the chain of command. They aren't making arrests. This is a diplomatic region. Even though there are many corrupt law enforcement officers and they all hang out together at the same bar in town, this is a well known region that is protected because of how high profile it can be. No one cares about the army marching into towns like Sinaloa. That's where the drug war is currently being fought by the Mexican government. That's the primary focus in this premiere as well. It's much more exciting to see Luna's Félix Gallardo actually put a plan into motion and succeed despite how crazy it all seems. He presents himself as someone who is looking at the world through a much larger lens. He's not repeating the same mistakes over and over again. As he articulates to his new reluctant partner, Don Neto, he is hoping to build an empire. Right now, he is in demand because of the better marijuana that his brother, Rafa, has developed. He has the tools to make an even more profitable business for everyone in the area. Félix is perfectly capable of making deals and negotiating with the right people in order to get what he wants. He will kill as well. It's all a part of his master plan. Of course, the audience always has the awareness that this is all going to work out for him because otherwise there would be no narrative engine for the show. Moreover, it's a little too cute to see all of the close encounters Kiki has with the dangerous players involved here without him knowing any better. That's a quality that already doesn't belong in this story.