Narcos: A Colombian Peace & Other Lies

Netflix Narcos Ep. 9&10 Recap

  “The purpose of war…is peace.” –Pablo Escobar (episode 9)images-4

Narcos episode nine, La Catedral, opens with an introduction to Pablo Escobar’s “prison.” Described by Steve Murphy as the “embodiment of the big lie,” Pablo Escobar has built himself a fortress to stay in as his fellow countrymen revel in this new state of peace. Throughout this episode we observe each central character adapt to life under this unsettling truce. Pablo Escobar won his fight against extradition, but not without suffering from his own loses and he is still in a cage like an animal. Steve Murphy finally was able to put Escobar behind bars, but his moral turn at the end of episode nine still haunts him. Early on in this episode we witness Steve Murphy pull a gun on a taxi driver during an argument about a minor fender bender. If Steve Murphy’s war against Pablo Escobar is truly over, then how can he continue to justify the use of violence against civilians? He has crossed a line and he can’t go back. The same can be said for President César Gaviria, who struggles to revel in this peace, as Escobar remains living comfortably in La Catedral. President Gaviria and his wife stroll the quiet Colombian streets, as she tries to convince him that, “heimages-5 did the right thing.” President Gaviria did end this Colombian civil war between the government and Pablo Escobar; he just surrendered the majority of his moral integrity to do so. These three men understand that the law of extradition was a battle, not the war. The war on drugs in Colombia, the war against Pablo Escobar, that is only beginning.

“But no matter how you decorate it, a cage is still a cage.” –Steve Murphy (episode 9)

images-6Narcos episode ten, Despegue (Takeoff), opens with the media speculation about Pablo Escobar killing his partners Monocada and Galeano, while imprisoned at La Catedral. Murphy and Peña leaked the story at the end of the previous episode, as an attempt to put Pablo Escobar behind bars, for real. The finale revolves around Pablo Escobar holding Vice Minister of Justice, Eduardo Sandoval, hostage in Le Catedral. Meanwhile President Gaviria orders the Special Forces to raid the prison and finally take down the Medellín Cartel once and for all. Meanwhile, Murphy has disappeared and Peña tries to track him down. Murphy’s sudden disappearance coincides with the abrupt end of peace in Colombia, as the Special Forces Unit closes in on Pablo Escobar. Now, no finale is complete without a twist, and/or cliffhanger for viewers to cling timages-7o during the hiatus. Peña sold out his partner to Pacho Herrera of the Cal cartel. In the previous episode Murphy confided to Peña about how the shooting in the pilot still haunted him. There are pictures to prove that not only did they kill known associates of Pablo Escobar, but civilians too. Now Pacho Herrera has those photos that he intends to use as blackmail against Murphy. “Don’t worry I won’t ask you, or Javier Peña to cross any line that you haven’t already crossed,” explains Herrera. Later, we see Murphy safely return home to Connie. They embrace and then Connie says, “I just want to go home.” But, “This is our home,” states Murphy. Connie goes back inside, leaving Murphy outside on the Colombian streets. A home is still a home; a soldier is still a soldier; a man is still a man; Colombia is still Colombia,“no matter how you decorate it.”

images-8“Less than an hour after Escobar escaped Le Catedral. Word had spread all over Colombia that war was coming again. But this would be different…This time there would be no surrender, no negotiations, no deals…This time we were going to kill him.” –Steve Murphy (episode 10)

Stay tuned for season two of Narcos, set to be released on Netflix in 2016.

 

By Sarah Belmont
Featured Writer
@sjbelmont

Netflix Narcos: Colombians, Americans, Dreams, & Drugs

 This post is a recap of the first three episodes of Narcos season one and contains spoilers.

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“Magical realism is defined as what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe… There is a reason magical realism was born in Colombia.”

This quote is seen above the Andes Mountains during the opening sequence of Narcos’ first episode. This Netflix original series chronicles Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s (Wagner Moura) infamous rise to power during the 70s and 80s. Through the use of a Goodfella’s inspired first person narrative, voiced by DEA agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Hollbrock), viewers feel a sense of familiarity with the story, even though it’s set in a foreign land.  Note that since this series predominately takes place in Colombia each episode contains a large amount of subtitles.  Narcos is an early drug war story, as Steve Murphy explains why both him and his wife head to Colombia at the end of episode one, “This wasimages my war. This was my duty, and I was ready to fight.”

The second episode, The Sword of Simon Bolivar, show both Pablo Escobar and Steve Murphy establishing themselves as the hero in this tale.  For example we see the Colombian law enforcement agency partner Steve Murphy with local officer Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal). Yes, this show has an odd-couple cop pairing that’s a common troupe within the genre.  Javier understands how to obtain information in Colombia, often through bribes, which goes against Steve Murphy’s American rules.  Meanwhile, we are given a history lesson about the Medellín Cartel.  Their first claim to fame came from taking down a libertarian group known as the M-19.  In an attempt to send Pablo Escobar a message, the M-19 capture an Ocha girl, who is works for the cartel.  Escobar understands the politics involved with the game he is playing, as he capitalizes on this local tragedy.  Pablo Escobar is able to have the M-19 leader, Ivan, release the girl unharmed; thus the drug lord becomes a hero. Based on this episode two recap, you can see how this series was written in the same vain as The Wire. Each episode includes both a criminal and DEA arc therefore allowing both sides of the war to be fully realized.

          “There is a reason magical realism was born in Colombia.”images-1

In the third episode, The Men of Always, we understand the ties that bind magical realism to Colombia.  They are the same binds that tie the American dream to the United States.  Throughout the episode we see Pablo Escobar get swept up in a race for congress in Colombia.  At this point he has fully harnessed the idea that money can buy you both power and influence, in a poor country.  Now he wants to buy congress to fulfill his own personal political ambitions. “It’s a country where dreams and reality are conflated.  Where in their heads people can fly as high as Icarus,” explains Steve Murphy.  The reality is that Pablo Escobar is a drug lord, not a congressman, and Colombia cannot afford to become “a state of narcos.”  Meanwhile Steve Murphy and Javier Pena don’t get swept up in their dream of taking down the entire Medellín Cartel, but focus on keeping Pablo Escobar out of congress.  They manage to do so, by obtaining a photo negative of Pablo Escobar’s mugshot from a previous arrest for drug trafficking.  In a superb sequence we see that Pablo Escobar, “flew too close to the sun,” and is thrown out of the Colombian congress.  imgres-1

Both the American dream, that Steve Murphy has to end the war on drugs, and Pablo Escobar’s magical realism ambition, to politically rule over Colombia;  are the simple daydreams of men.  Their reality is that they are on opposites sides of a never ending war on drugs. The melding between fact and fiction continues to be seen as historical footage from this time period is used in each episode. Colombia is a real place, this story is based on real events, these characters are based on real people; yet this tale still retains a sense of wonder amongst the dreams of men.

Netflix has already renewed the show for a second season to be released next year.  Season one trailer click here

By Sarah Belmont
Featured Writer
@sjbelmont