Narcos Recap: When Life Gives You Limón

Paulina Gaitán as Tata. Photo: Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
Episode Title
The Good, The Bad, and The Dead
Editor’s Rating

How about that Limón? After three episodes spent sweating through his clothes, Medellín's most mulleted pimp-slash-cab driver has managed to play Maritza, the DEA, the Colombian government, and Pablo at the same time.

Let's run down his big coup. Feeling guilty about pulling his childhood pal Maritza into the taxi scheme (and thus on La Quica's kill list), Limón convinces her to help him drop a dime to the DEA, which should get her out of the country. Then, when the police try to raid the site he offered up, Pablo and his men ambush them instead, killing previously untouchable top government man Colonel Horacio Carrillo in the process. It's quite a win for ol' Limón: He rises in Pablo's estimation while ensuring that Maritza's in the clear.

Now that's some Narcos! After three episodes' worth of plodding setup, the show is finally back in full force. And not a moment too late, either. When Narcos leans into its hairpin narrative turns, everyone's better for it — except for the late Carrillo, of course. At least the teens of Medellín can breathe a sigh of relief.

The episode's big twist couldn't have been more satisfying, and not just because it gives Limón more to do than standing next to Pablo while looking uncomfortable. After Pablo reveals he knew about the DEA tip, it seemed like Limón and Maritza would find themselves shot to death in the church. Instead, Maritza gets a sack of drug money — albeit one she doesn't look too happy to have — and Limón inches ever-so closely to Pablo's seat of power.

Narcos is wisely building Pablo up, which is a tougher task than it may seem, given that he couldn't get anyone to care about Carrillo executing a kid. Their rivalry soon comes to a head, though. After Pablo has a nightmare about Carrillo shooting his wife, Limón's scheme gives him a chance to shoot the colonel in the head. This being Narcos, there's some irony to the situation: Pablo shoots Carrillo with the bullet that he gave to a child lookout to threaten Pablo.

Even sulky Tata Escobar is on board with resurgent Pablo, if only because she gets her own pistol and a promise she'll be there for the final shootout. Appropriately enough, the episode features yet another instance of Tata and Pablo making eyes at each other after a bloody execution. In the Escobar household, mass murder is the strongest aphrodisiac.

Meanwhile, Carrillo's death equals trouble for Narcos' weakest storyline: The continued adventures of President Gaviria and Vice Minister (but not for long!) Eduardo. Although Gaviria and Eduardo made sense as characters last year, when they were trying to establish themselves in a country effectively run by Pablo, they feel unmoored this season. What purpose do they ultimately serve? They're just giving us the same moral queasiness that Narcos already gets from Murphy and Peña.

Making matters worse, there's a logical inconsistency to their scenes. We're supposed to believe that Gaviria faces tremendous pressure in light of Carrillo's violent methods. But if that were true, wouldn't the colonel's death stoke a media firestorm? When we cut back to Pablo, no newspapers care enough about the exploits of a notorious drug lord to even publish his letters.

Also, Carrillo's death gives Murphy and Peña the excuse they've wanted to finally start breaking DEA rules. If the colonel couldn't take down Pablo — and that guy was basically The Punisher, but Colombian — what chance do two DEA bozos have?

Unbeknownst to our ne'er-do-well heroes, the shady alliance they need is already coming together. Thanks to the intervention of new CIA chief Bill, the right-wing Castaño brothers want in on the Cali Cartel-Moncada union. It's a neat partnership: The Cali Cartel wants to take Pablo's drug business, Judy Moncada wants revenge, and the Castaños (and, by extension, CIA Bill) just want to make sure the guerrillas won't take over the cocaine trade when Pablo meets his inevitable death.

"Putting an end to Pablo Escobar is a patriotic act," says one Castaño brother, prompting eye-rolls from Judy and Cali Cartel rep Pacho. Everybody knows the score.

Nevertheless, it's a shaky alliance by the time Peña gets invited to join at the end of the episode. Cali doesn't want in until Carrillo's killed, and the cartel's leaders debate whether or not to kill Judy Moncada like they're squabbling over dinner choices. The Castaños, meanwhile, earn an all-time great Narcos introduction: They come onscreen executing villagers, and Murphy's narration calls them "the right-wing psychopathic commie-killing Castaño brothers." What could go possibly wrong?

Cartel Club:

  • Do Pablo's son and Cali Cartel crony Navegante go to the same barber? They have the exact same hairstyle, despite a 30-year age difference.
  • With a beard, shades, and that army surplus jacket, CIA Bill might be the least undercover operative around.
  • "A death squad? No, an army."
  • Pablo's attorney looks like he and his ascot collection would rather be anywhere else. His chances of surviving don't seem great, especially after he failed to get Pablo's letters published in a single paper.
  • Cali's upcoming play for the Miami drug market should be rich subject matter for Cocaine Cowboys-style montages. And what would Narcos be without montages?
  • Isn't it weird that so many dangerous people know where to find Peña? Don Berna sidles up to him in a bar, and Limón knows Peña's favorite prostitute well enough that Maritza goes to meet her. It's a good thing for Peña that Maritza surprised him at the brothel, rather than Quica — this horndog can't stop kissing long enough to case the room!
  • After Carillo's death, Mrs. Murphy returns from the States to comfort her husband. It'd normally a groan-worthy development for Narcos, but maybe it's for the best. Since Don Berna and Carrillo both consider Peña the DEA agent of choice for morally questionable jobs, Murphy doesn't have much to do.
  • Shout-out to Maritza's puffy denim jacket. She's looking more Saved by the Bell extra than DEA snitch.