Spoiler alert: the following involves major spoilers for Narcos season 2.
If you haven’t yet indulged in the just-released second season of Narcos, but you want to know how notorious Colombian cocaine playboy Pablo and his sacred mustache end up, all you have to do is visit his Wikipedia page (sorry, guys, it’s not spoilers – it’s history.)
But then, Wikipedia isn’t nearly as fun as binge-watching him ordering people’s deaths with the nod of his head and the raise of his eyebrow, is it? Even though we all know how the life of Pablo pans out, Narcos is still one of the most formidably exotic dramas around. And season 2 found the sense of purpose that carried it through the moral torpor and savage ironies of Escobar’s last days.
The story of this kingpin’s rise to power and ultimate fall is now complete, effectively ending Wagner Moura’s time on the series. But, the blow must go on, as they say… So now what? Season 2 left us reeling with unanswered questions about the show that are rattling around our hungry little minds. Here are 5 of those questions.
1. Will Murphy and Peña return?
Seasons 3 and 4 of Narcos have just got the greenlight and the first teaser trailer for season 3 reveals that the Cali Cartel will become the focus of the show, with leader Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela (Damian Alcazar) becoming the series’ new antagonist. The finale of Narcos season 2 sets up Cali, the gang who eventually become responsible for 90% of the world’s coke market.
But, will we be seeing drugbusters Murphy and Peña and their suitable preened facial hair again, as they struggle to keep a handle on all things narcotic?
We almost hope not. Season 2 saw Pablo’s time in hiding with his father. It was brilliant. But, it also demonstrated just how little the show could function without Moura’s presence. Unfortunately, we were never quite as interested in the two DEA protagonists. They served as little more than narrators for the history, and when the series delved into their characters it wasn’t as interesting as it was when Pablo was on screen.
Of course, the show could always shift back to the lives of Murphy and Peña. But they’re going to have to do better than Murphy’s white family and their cat as the center of the sympathetic part of the story…
That said, Murphy’s darker side was glimpsed at in season 2; he was pushed closer to anti-hero status than ever before. And by episode three, Murphy and Peña were both trying to forget what they’d seen so far; a wasted Murphy holding back tears on the phone to his wife, while a truly messed-up Peña aggressively had sex with a prostitute. Oof. Here’s hoping that if we see these guys again, their backstories will be delved into, we’ll feel more affinity to them, and things will get all the more grimy.
Which leads us neatly on to this…
2. Will ‘Narcos’ continue season 2’s more two-dimensional study of things?
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Season 1 of Narcos saw a lot of flag-waving and historical inaccuracy played out on the screen to make America look more just and more heroic. But in season 2, the show was more willing to grapple with the fact that, in their single-minded pursuit of Escobar, law enforcement officials did some horrific things.
In fact, season 2 was generally much deeper. Things weren’t as one-sided, characters felt more real. We cut to a lovely shot of Pablo on the john and we later saw him dance tenderly with his wife while, across town, a wave of carnage was unleashed against the police. It was at these moments that the show was at its most two-dimensional.
We were even more taken with an episode in which the DEA leaned heavily on every government official it could think of to make sure that Escobar’s wife, mother, and children – all innocent of any crime other than being associated with the man they loved – weren’t allowed to escape to another country. Get those innocent kids out of there! Season 2 didn’t back away from the cold calculus inherent in this equation and boy, oh boy, was it refreshing.
Whether or not the following seasons bring an authentic (and altogether more exciting) portrayal of law enforcement, corruption, and a deeper look at individual characters as they tackle the Cali Cartel, remains to be seen. But, we can’t hope for this hard enough. The different layers, the profound depths, the double-dealing and the darker edges we saw in season 2 were phenomenal. Let’s stick to this formula.
3. Why was Escobar so revered?
T-shirts with an image of real-life Pablito’s mustachioed face and words translating to something like “The Boss” are sold everywhere on the streets of Colombia. Yet this image of Pablo runs in total contradiction to the wholly ruthless man we saw in season 2 of Narcos.
In one of the most emotive moments in season 2, Padilha played the tearful speech the real-life Mama Escobar gave about what an amazing man her son was — He gave to the poor! He built playing fields! — as footage of the damage he did (corpses and debris) played. Why, then, is this guy still a poster boy?
Good question. What Narcos didn’t really show was Escobar’s populist side. His legacy is surprisingly mixed. To many in his home city of Medellin, he was seen as a Robin Hood type figure, spending money on social projects at a time when the Colombian government was seen as not to be doing enough to help its own people.
Narcos had a hard time going from a good show to a great show, mostly because there was little ambiguity about whether Escobar was doing something noble, like there was with Walter White, Tony Soprano and Don Draper.
It is, of course, too late for Narcos to show more of this, or of the socio-political effects that Escobar had on Colombia. But, going forward with season 3, we’d like to see more of the real-life repercussions that these druglords had – and still have – on wider communities, not just on the show’s glamorous leading characters. If Narcos season 3 can relate to us in that way, we’re already addicted.
4. What’s next for Tata?
Tata is still in the hotel room with her kids when she’s given the news of her beloved Pablito’s death. Later on, the widow approaches Gilberto, telling him that before he died, her husband had told her to find him. They were once friends, though they ended as enemies, and he might help her get out of the country. Gilberto agreed on one condition: He wanted all of Escobar’s property. And cash.
Tata was one of the show’s most intriguing characters. On the surface, she was obedient and oblivious. But, it gradually became clear that she was guiding her other half into some of his most atrocious acts while hiding her own shady motivations under the mask of a sweet and loving housewife. So, what’s next for her?
We already know that Gilberto’s the focus of season 3. So, how will Tata play into his story? Will Netflix deviate from the truth of what really was between these two, if it makes for good drama? It’s not altogether out of the question. Watch this space.
5. Will the Cali Cartel provide good Netflix fodder?
In season 2, Murphy pointed out that the second best thing to getting rid of Escobar is getting rid of the second-biggest drug cartel in Colombia. True dat. But, if Netflix does tackle the Cali Cartel next, we’re hoping that they don’t just start right where they left off. What’s there now is not enough to make it as interesting as the first two seasons, because none of the Cali members feel like fully formed characters… yet. Seasons 1 and 2 showed the them as smarmy and nefarious villains and not much else. So, unless the show decides to take us deeper into their lives like it did with Pablo, the story could really start to run on fumes.
That said, we’re still interested to see if the story of Cali Cartel leader Gilberto will be anywhere as compelling as Pablo’s. If you want a basic history lesson on the real-life kingpin, which includes potential spoilers for the upcoming seasons, here you go:
– Gilberto, his brother Miguel, and a guy called José Santacruz Londoño formed the Cali Cartel in the ‘70s. They were primarily involved in weed dealing.
– In the ‘80s they transitioned into cocaine. For a time the Cali Cartel supplied 80% of the United States through Rodriguez’s son Jorge Alberto Rodriguez and 90% of the European cocaine market.
– The Cali Cartel was known to be less violent (less fun to watch?) than its rival, the Medellín Cartel.
– After the demise of the Medellín Cartel the Colombian authorities turned their attention to the Cali Cartel.
– Gilberto was arrested by the Colombian police in 1995 during a house raid and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but temporarily freed in early November 2002. He was recaptured in 2003 and extradited to the U.S.
After seriously hoping that they didn’t run with the Cali Cartel idea (we thought that there might not be enough intrigue and nuance like there was with Escobar’s rise and fall), we’re now – officially – excited.
With these potential leads heading into the North American territory, we could see the likes of Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, or “Freeway” Rick Ross come out to play (Ross’s yarn would be especially interesting given his real-life redemption story). These characters were similar to Escobar – charismatic “Robin Hood” types who let it all go too far.
Now that you’ve already binged on Narcos, check out what else is coming to TV this fall.