Aside from Luis Guzmán's bazooka-toting Gacha, is there a more perfect Narcos character than Don Berna? Large and in charge, he eagerly hatches new plots, all with the weariness of a man who knows that a body bag or torture table is waiting for him. When it comes time to raid a stash house, Don Berna even knows the best place to be standing — way in the back, where he can lazily cut down fleeing sicarios.
It's appropriate, then, that it's Don Berna who introduces Peña to the meat of this season's plot: the shaky alliance between drug lords and a right-wing death squad to kill Pablo. Once Peña realizes someone else might be interested in the Centra Spike intel he gloomily piled up on Carrillo's desk, the DEA races to join this mismatched team.
The get-Pablo coalition — given a name at the end of the episode when someone asks "Who in the hell are Los Pepes?" — couldn't come together at a worse time for Pablo, who's finally enjoying post-prison life. His kids (and Blackie) are enjoying the pool, his wife likes the house, and his mom is Postmates-ing the heck out of Medellín. Alas, it can't last.
Although the episode ends with the usual Escobar family escape, it wasn't such a bore this time. As they flee, Pablo slowly realizes that Velasco and his loud sweaters aren't coming home again. That tragic discovery, plus the beautifully shot image of Pablo playing the world's most ominous game of soccer with his kids, breaks the latest late-night getaway out of the usual Narcos cycle. Progress!
Life is similarly upsetting for Maritza, who doesn't find herself with much to do after inadvertently assisting Limón's attack on Search Bloc. Maritza gets huffy when Peña won't give her a visa to the States, not realizing that U.S. immigration law doesn't have an "unwitting cartel stooge" exemption.
Meanwhile, the murder of Escobar aide-de-camp Velasco and the Cali Cartel's capture of Lion look set to squeeze Pablo's booming operations. You may not remember Velasco, so Narcos reminds us by having him bully poor Limón — and right after Limón pulled off the cartel's greatest victory! After that rudeness, his torture scene with Don Berna doesn't seem so undeserved.
Pablo still has two things working in his favor: the cardigan-grandfather attorney general, who inexplicably insists on hampering President Gaviria's anti-Pablo efforts, and the wimpy new head of Search Bloc. We get a rare look at Ruthless Gaviria as he pressures Martinez into taking Carrillo's spot at Search Bloc, which is a refreshing change of pace from the usual Conflicted Gaviria. Unfortunately for him, he's replaced Rambo with a pencil-pusher. Where Carrillo would have just started firing his gun at random with the hope of hitting Pablo, Martinez proposes a grid search of the Medellín. Snooze.
Soon enough, though, Martinez offers more than typical police bumbling. He's genuinely conflicted about putting his life and his son on the line for a murky war against Pablo Escobar, which adds some needed motivation to his character. Too bad Peña, who's looking and acting more and more like Death Wish–era Charles Bronson, isn't having it. "Fucking grid search," he groans. "Isn't that how they caught the guy who shot Abraham Lincoln?"
Give the guy a break, Peña! Not everyone has Don Berna on their side.
- Does the DEA storyline give anyone else Entourage vibes? Vinnie Chase famously had trouble playing the character of Pablo Escobar, but I think it's more than that. Peña is Johnny Drama in this extended metaphor, because he's older and complains all the time. Murphy is E, because he's blond and complains all the time. Messina is Ari. The guy who drives Peña everywhere is Turtle. Carrillo is Vinnie, and Pablo is a fussy studio head.
- I ship Judy Moncada and Peña. Could this coupling actually happen? She did ask him for a cigarette, a classic TV flirt.
- Murphy has been totally sidelined, which is a good thing. The only scenes he gets these days involve arguments with his wife about a necklace. In this episode, Murphy reappears to drive his wife to the airport, and she warns him not to let the fight with Pablo change him. Silently brooding and smoking, he doesn't look interested.
- When Peña asks Judy if she's friends with the Castaños, she replies, "We share a common goal." A brutal curve.
- Has there ever been a Narcos raid that didn't end with a DEA agent in a foot chase?
- You gotta love the lead Castaño brother's enthusiasm. He has genuine affection for his shadowy compatriots. He's eager to bust up drug labs. He's just happy to be there! Then, after Peña makes him promise not to kill innocent people in their raid, the Castaño brothers immediately renege and shoot everyone they see. Who would have thought the guys who execute innocent villagers wouldn't stick to their word?
- Peña's so terrible at his job, he's actually surprised to learn that Don Berna and Judy are working together. Why did he think Berna was giving him all those tips about Escobar drug labs?
- Every episode of Narcos lives and dies on the amount of glowering Navegante in the background, and this one does not disappoint. He even steps out of the shadows to pop an airport bellhop in the face! Navegante is the most valuable crony.