The Netflix original Narcos season three hits hard with a focus shift to the powerful Cali Cartel of Colombia. Delving into questions of moral authority, legal ambiguity, political corruption, and the ethical implications of the drug war, the season does not disappoint with a deft hand in the writing room, consistently stunning visuals, and stellar performances. The series really finds its stride with a riveting and compelling third installment that leaves little to be desired. A little warning to the tender at heart — it is violent as fuck.
Pablo Escobar’s death at the end of season two created an anxiety about where the narrative of Narcos was heading. The central antagonist now shot and killed on that all too famous rooftop with Steve Murphy standing above him like some big game hunter above his prize would perhaps for some prove a perfectly tied up ending to a the series.
However, the series was never titled “The Pablo Files” or something akin, and the third season barrels head first into the sordid details and intricacies of the Cali Cartel — the cocaine industry did not die with one man. Gilberto Rodriguez (Damián Alcázar), Pacho Herrera (Alberto Ammann), and Miguel Rodriguez (Francisco Denis) are the kingpins now under the eye of the DEA.
One of my biggest criticisms of the first two seasons was the narration provided by the American DEA agent Steve Murphy. His voiceovers did provide important information about the players in action, but the writing overstepped with the oversimplification of complex moments. Steve’s out of the picture in this season, presumably to deal with his PTSD and alcoholism. Maybe even he and his wife will work it out.
This leaves Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal), the Texan DEA agent now infamous for his role in taking down one of the most revered drug lords in modern history. He takes over as our guide with a velvety contrast to the gruff Murphy, and with his cool as can be style he gives us the straight facts about what work is to be done in Colombia. The third season shows more than tells leaving room for intricate subtleties and nail biting tension.
But things have changed. Pena’s in a suit and instead of chasing down thugs in the street in those just-tight-enough jeans, he’s finding his biggest missive is cutting through the red tape whilst readjusting his tie. Pascal is a tour-de-force in the show’s junior year with a cocktail of frustration, passion, restraint, and resignation swirled in different measure with a dash of undeniable magnetism.
Green agents Chris Feistl (Michael Stahl-David) and Daniel Van Ness (Matt Whelan) join the fight against the cartel, their enthusiasm and sense of justice many time mirroring how the once self-assured Javier would feel. The blend of hubris and sense of what is “right” is a thread woven throughout the season with, at more times that we would like, our own worst enemy is ourself. In contrast to the first two seasons where the separation of “good” and “evil” seemed a bit more clear, this season blurs these lines with a subtle and sensitive touch. This is proved no more clearly by the introduction of the head of security for the Cartel. A man who wants what’s best for his family and sees his work in security as the only way to freedom, and can he really be that bad if he doesn’t even carry a gun.
Binge ready on September 1st 2017, Narcos season 3 hits Netflix just in time for the ling weekend. By the end if you thought you’re going through withdrawal, don’t sweat too hard, the show’s already been given the green light for season four.
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