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

Narcos : A Colombian Circumstance

Netflix Narcos Ep.7 & 8 Recapimgres

 “Lies are necessary…when the truth is too difficult to believe, right?                           -Pablo Escobar (episode 8)

Narcos episode seven, You Will Cry Tears of Blood, begins with the actual news coverage about the assassination attempt that was depicted at the end of the previous episode. Through the fallout over Avianca Flight 203 we observe the Colombian nation assess the damage done to their country. Rewind back to the first half of the season when Pablo Escobar was viewed as a man of the people. He was a charitable, humanitarian in Colombia. Then in the third episode due to American intrusion, on Colombian affairs, the law of extradition was passed. In response the once beloved Pablo Escobar has taken his frustration, with the Colombian political system, out on his own fellow countrymen. One hundred and seven innocent lives were taken during Pablo Escobar’s failed assassination attempt on César Gaviria. The media’s speculation about the mysterious plane bombing points images-1the finger at Pablo Escobar and he is again forced to cut all ties with the bombing by any means necessary. This includes a violent raid on the safe house where Natalie, the plane bomber’s wife, is being kept. Murphy and Peña race towards the end of the episode to protect Natalie from being killed by Pablo Escobar’s men. The footrace between these opposing sides is filled with superb tension. One moment that really stands out is when Javier Peña has cornered one of the bad guys, only to then have a young boy threaten to shot him. On the surface the screen shows the haunting image of a child with a gun. Therefore alluding to Colombia’s societal deterioration during this civil war. In addition, there is an added layer to this scene as Peña finds himself caught in a moral catch twenty-two. He could shot the kid to imgres-1catch his bad guy, but that would cost Peña, his moral high ground that he holds against Pablo Escobar. On the other hand, Peña puts down his gun and allows the bad guy to get away once again. Back in episode three Javier Peña and Steve Murphy made sure that both the American and Colombian government’s focus would remain on the investigation of Pablo Escobar. In a sense, they started wanted this war, but now in the midst of it, how far are they willing to go to win the war?

“If I had made myself into a monster like all of you say, that is the fault of the
people, like your father and those politicians, ‘of always’.”                                              -Pablo Escobar (Episode 8)

imgresNarcos episode eight, Le Gran Mentria, begins with another failed attempt at capturing Pablo Escobar and his men. Throughout both episodes, seven and eight, Pablo Escobar has begun to place pressure on the Colombian government to appeal the law of extradition. The pressure amplifies when Pablo Escobar and his men take hostages, including journalist Diana Turbay, to use as leverage for a fair negotiation with President César Gaviria. During a conversation between Diana Turbay and Pablo Escobar, his character motivations are expounded upon. The most insightful part of this exchange is given through Turbay’s response to Pablo Escobar’s self-justification for his violent means, “You would have done marvelous things and that is the saddest part.” This series chronicles the investigation of Pablo Escobar, but more importantly it illuminates the specific circumstances that made both his rise and fall possible. The “saddest part” is that Diana Turbay becomes just another casualty in this war, as she is killed during another botched raid. This incident allows the Colombian support to ebb back to Pablo Escobar’s favor, as they demand that President Gaviria concede to Pablo Escobar, before more blood is spilt on their Colombian streets.

images-2 “Lies are necessary…when the truth is too difficult to believe, right,” explains Pablo Escobar as he surrenders himself over to the Colombian officials.  Le Gran Mentria in Colombian means the great big lie, which is essentially what Pablo Escobar’s “surrender” is because he still got everything that he wanted.  He will go to a prison that he built; with guards that he pays; most importantly the law of extrication was appealed.  Only in Colombia would a drug lord make a grand return to a grateful country, but that’s where we started, right?  Colombia is the homeland of magical realism.  In the pilot we witness Steve Murphy receive information about the whereabouts of Pablo Escobar’s men.  Then Murphy calls in a police raid led by Javier Peña.  This is a successful mission as Peña and his men kill Escobarimages-3‘s associates, but the also take the lives of innocent civilians.  This same scene is revisited during the end of episode eight.  Again, Narcos proves that this series expounds upon the Colombian circumstances involved during the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar.  The rise and fall spurred by the moral shifts on both sides.

By Sarah Belmont
Featured Writer
@sjbelmont

Netflix Narcos: Brave Men & Bold Druglords

Netflix Narcos Ep.4-6 Recap

“In America the mafia makes witnesses disappear, so they can’t testify. In imgres-1Colombia Pablo Escobar makes the whole court disappear.” –Steve Murphy (episode 4)

Narcos episode four, A Place in Flames, begins with Colombia passing a law for extradition. This means that in Colombia if you are found guilty for drug trafficking then you will be sentenced to serve your sentence in the American prison system. “Now Pablo had someone to fear…us,” explains Steve Murphy. The only problem is that while America declares their victory they proceed to set their sights on a new enemy, communism. Murphy and Peña find themselves forced to take a step back from their present investigation on Pablo Escobar. Then through the use of real life footage Murphy explains just how absurdly true this story is, “Colombian cocaine coming through a communist country and into America. I couldn’t make that up…it’s too good.” Just like that, Murphy and Peña make the connection that will allow them to continue their investigation on the Medellín cartel. America may have won a battle when the law for extradition passed in Colombia, but for Pablo Escobar it only started a war.

images-1“It’s been said that nothing gives the fearful more courage than another’s fear.” –Steve Murphy (episode 5)

This war on drugs is primarily fought in the Colombian political arena. During the fifth episode’s opening scene, we see Luis Carlos Galán continue to run for president on a pro-extradition campaign platform. Galán never did become a Colombian president, as Pablo Escobar ordered a hit against him. In a well-crafted montage sequence we see just how devastating the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán was to the Colombian public.  In his wake, the tragedy sparked the brave turn of Galán’s own speechwriter, César Gaviria, to pick up his predecessor’s fallen torch against the Medellín cartel.   In a single episode we see a brilliant character arc. During the opening scene Gaviria is shown as the nervous man behind the curtain; in the end, he is the brave man standing at the podium; the new brave face of Pablo Escobar’s political opposition.images

“At the time, the only thing more dangerous than being a Colombian cop was being a Colombian presidential candidate.” –Steve Murphy (episode 6)

Explosivos, episode 6, contains three significant story threads: Colonel Horatio Carrillo’s (Maurice Compte) and Javier Peña’s (Pedro Pascal) manhunt for Pablo Escobar’s affiliate, José Rodriguez “Gacha” (Luis Guzmán); Steve and Connie Murphy’s mission to smuggle former M-19 solider, Elisa out of the country and Pablo Escobar’s assassination attempt on pro-extradition presidential candidate César Gaviria. The manhunt storyline illustrates that there are not only American officials waging war against Pablo Escobar, but local officials too. Murphy’s Colombian allies are shown to be merciless as they gun Gacha down in cold blood. The Murphy mission thread reinforces the idea that Steve Murphy comes from the wrong side of the border. Only, in Colombia would he find himself simgresmuggling a communist out of the country, an American act of treason. Meanwhile, the Pablo Escobar storyline subtly illustrates an all too familiar image of the past reflecting the future. In the final moments a young man aboard an airplane picks up his brief case, while the other passengers casually relax during the flight. He nervously opens up the case to reveal a cassette recorder, Pablo had instructed him to record the conversations of his fellow passengers. Then the young boy hits the record button and the screen dissolves to white, as an explosion cries out. Narcos chronicles the Colombian war on drugs, yet during episode six’s closing sequence it parallels America’s present war on terrorism.

Narcos episodes four, five, and six showcases the tension found in a country on the brink of civil war.  Country allegiances are tested, presidential candidates are sacrificed, and courts are up in flames, but remember, “I couldn’t make that up…it’s too good.”

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