Narcos Recap: Tunnel Snakes

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Photo: Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix
Narcos

Narcos

The Cali KGB Season 3 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Peña needs to get his head in the game! Ever since he found out he wasn’t actually brought back to Colombia to get revenge on the leaders of Cali Cartel, he’s been in a classic sulky mood. He doesn’t even want to party like he did in Medellín anymore.

Worse, Peña has become the sort of buck-passing government suit he used to hate. He just shrugs when Colonel Martinez, fresh off killing Pablo Escobar, implies that Peña should be in jail for his work with Los Pepes. He even kicks a pair of low-level DEA agents out of the country after they get caught in the kind of jam that he and Murphy used to get into on a weekly basis.

“Is this where you go all Bad Lieutenant on us?” one of them gripes. “Like you and Murphy were never made?” (This guy apparently hasn’t seen either the original Bad Lieutenant or Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. The lieutenant isn’t “bad” because he’s too tough on his subordinates!) The point is, Peña just doesn’t care about drugs or the people who sell them anymore. Unless, say, some of them inadvertently poisoned hundreds of people with chlorine gas. That would probably do the trick.

Until now, the six months before Cali’s amnesty have been presented as a deadline for Peña’s investigation. But this episode makes clear that the waiting period is also a problem for Cali, which has to avoid committing the kind of Pablo-style atrocities that would make an amnesty politically impossible for the Colombian government.

Enter Miguel’s son David, the head of the cartel’s “pump poisonous gas into slums” operation. The plan, which hinges on emptying chlorine tanks and stuffing them full of cocaine, isn’t such a bad one … until it comes down to the part where David decides to dispose of highly toxic gas in urban sewer systems instead of the enormous tracts of land owned by the cartel. After David’s efforts to empty out the chlorine tanks leave three children dead, he becomes the latest in a long line of Narcos failing sons. Now it’s a huge mess for Jorge, a security chief whose deal is that he wants to work for a drug cartel without actually having to do any drug cartel things.

Narcos often shows us people compromising themselves for their cartels, and Jorge’s big moment of decision is shot more cleverly than most. Gilberto needs to silence the morally upright inspector who’s investigating the poisonings, but he has no luck until Jorge decides to tap the guy’s phones. Soon enough, Jorge is off to videotape a rendezvous in a love hotel, where it turns out the inspector’s wife, not the inspector himself, is having an affair.

Jorge ends up pressuring the cuckspector by threatening to circulate pictures of his wife in flagrante around their kids’ school. It’s an effort that succeeds, but doesn’t leave Jorge feeling all that great about his self-image as a family man who just happens to help out the world’s largest criminal organization.

Despite Jorge’s best efforts, cartel stress is especially high this episode. Gilberto is busy reading Jack Welch and the G.E. Way to prep for his future as a legitimate businessman, Pacho is laying low in Mexico, and Chepe has to go all New Jack City just to get his supply chain right. On the other hand, Cali partner Miguel is having the time of his life, with Navegante kidnapping the woman who doesn’t yet realize she’s Salazar’s widow to a dinner date with the besotted drug lord. As she sips her wine, she doesn’t know where it’s all headed, but she’s about to find out.

Cartel Club

• Netflix shows are infamous for padding out their middle episodes with fluff, but the remarkably pointless Chepe interlude in New York would make you think this season had to cover 40 episodes. Somehow, Cali’s chemical supplier in New York decided to ditch the world’s biggest criminal organization in favor of … a handful of Dominican teenagers running their operation out of a salon?

• At least it gives Chepe a chance to crack wise and show off some gunplay. (Again, he’s the fun one.) You think he’ll stick with the relaxed-hair look?

• Peña has a new blonde DEA buddy to replace Murphy!

• Bumbling cartel operative David represents a darker turn for actor Arturo Castro, who also plays Jaimé Castro on Broad City.

• Gilberto’s book choice suggests that he hasn’t learned Stringer Bell’s lesson about drug traffickers who take their lessons from the legitimate business world.

• Pacho heads to Mexico to see Juarez Cartel boss Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was the closest thing Mexico had in the 1990s to a Pablo Escobar–level drug trafficker. Carrillo Fuentes also figures prominently in Charles Bowden’s Down by the River, one of the best nonfiction books ever written about the drug trade.

• A new Narcos season means a new, post-Pablo credit sequence. The usual bloody execution photos are still there, but now there’s a cool golden revolver in the mix. Reflecting the fact that we’ve now left behind the ’80s and are firmly in the ’90s, George H.W. Bush has been replaced with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

• Cali’s bosses haven’t earned anywhere near the cultural prominence of Pablo Escobar (Entourage’s Vinnie Chase would never have blown his career making the Gilberto biopic, for one thing), but Narcos is still pulling in plenty of real-life details about the drug lords and their associates. Chepe really did dress like a ranch hand, Pacho really did wear flashy shirts and drive motorcycles with his enforcers, and Miguel really was moody. Pacho allegedly even had his Narcos character’s penchant for pulling people apart with motor vehicles — albeit with trucks instead of motorcycles.

Narcos Recap: Tunnel Snakes