Although we live in a world where television spoilers have become mortal sins, most people who watched Narcos had the understanding that Pablo Escobar would eventually meet his maker on that fateful rooftop in Medellin. However, it still proved to be shocking — and equal parts disheartening for avid television watchers — knowing that the show would no longer have Pablo to lean on.
The big question on everyone's mind is what does a post-Pablo Escobar series look like and should there even be a third season?
As DEA agent Javier Pena told us in the teaser for the upcoming season, "Cocaine cartels are about succession," which jives well with the final scene of the second season where he is asked bluntly, "How much do you know about the Cali Cartel?"
Whereas it's easy to think that the show crumbles without Pablo Escobar, showrunner Eric Newman knew from the beginning that the sole focus of the series wouldn't be on El Padrino, stating: "we decided to call the show Narcos and not Pablo Escobar."
This is a major distinction as other programs in a similar vein — like Netflix's own El Chapo — opted to make a single kingpin the lone focus.
At its core, Narcos is about cocaine, not just the man who became internationally recognized for the production of the illicit substance. In fact, it was that notoriety which made Escobar such a target of the international community and led to his eventual downfall.
It's actually the men and organizations who kept their names out of the press who benefited most for the insatiable effects of cocaine.
For those on the fence about continuing the examination of Colombian narco culture, there are still major facets to be excited to learn more about.
The Cali Cartel
Following the death of Pablo Escobar, the Cali Cartel vaulted from the second largest drug supplier of cocaine to the top of the heap. Yet, the faction and its exploits remain relatively unknown to those outside of Colombia.
Netflix executives have described the Cali Cartel as "the biggest drug lords you’ve probably never heard of" — choosing the four individual godfathers running the organization (Gilberto and Miguel Orejuela, Chepe Santacruz Londoño and Pacho Herrera) as the figureheads of focus who are decidedly different than Pablo Escobar.
At their height, Cali was believed to control 70 percent of the coke reaching the U.S. and 90 percent of the drug sold in Europe.
Robert Bonner, administrator of the DEA, said in a TIME profile of the organization, "The Cali cartel is the most powerful criminal organization in the world. No drug organization rivals them today or perhaps any time in history."
Unlike Escobar — who preferred murder and violence as his most prominent tactic — Cali used their prominent government connections to achieve their goals. They most notably bought the presidency of Colombia in 1994 and opted to use red tape as the guise for their criminal empire.
The real-life agents depicted in the show who took down Escobar, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, described Escobar's cartel as being like the "Wild-West," while Cali hid behind their brains and ingenuity.
"They were accountants, professional money-launderers," Pena told The Hollywood Reporter.
Robert Bryden, head of the DEA in New York at the time, echoed Pena's sentiments, stating, "Cali gangs will kill you if they have to, but they prefer to use a lawyer."
Although using brains instead of machine gun fire may prove to be less visually addictive that Pablo's methods, the use of different tactics by the narco kingpins makes the cat and mouse game between them and the DEA all that more intriguing to watch unfold.
The Mexican Connection
Pacho Herrera proved to be an important figurehead for the Cali Cartel when he opened up a major pipeline with Mexico. Although it is still unclear how much action we actually see south of the American border, Eric Newman has hinted at eventually getting there. Not only does this fit the current template which illustrates that a time as a Narco kingpin is fleeting, but it also opens the door to introduce the aforementioned, El Chapo.
"Cali was the cartel that really utilized the smuggling routes through Mexico and the Mexican heroin smugglers who were already incredibly successful," he said. "They very much got the Mexicans into the cocaine business, so there is sort of a natural evolution there. As to whether or not I would move directly into Mexico, it’s certainly a possibility."
While Newman and his staff had openly stated that the show is a 50/50 mix of true fact mixed with elements meant to entertain, they have been adamant that the timeline of events should be interpreted as gospel.
When season three picks up, El Chapo was already operating in the Sinaloa district.
As for if and when we may see him, Newman stated, "If we take our time, it could take a while. If we jump right into it, it could be really soon."
The Overall Journey
At its core, Narcos isn't a show that should be examined and dissected like Game of Thrones where one of the greatest questions asked is, "Who is going to make it to the end?"
Rather, creatives have established a framework where the journey is what should be enjoyed. Much in the same way that we understood that the Titanic was going to sink, the rise of any narco indicates that there will be an eventual collapse.
"It wouldn’t be surprising to anyone to know that they (Gilberto and Miguel Orejuela, Chepe Santacruz Londoño and Pacho Herrera) met bad endings, but I think as we learned in season two, it’s getting there that’s fun," said Newman.
There's something deeply satisfying about watching a program where you have an understanding of what is going to eventually happen.
Narcos is about skirting the inevitability of living a certain life that always ends in bloodshed.
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