It’s finally starting to feel like Narcos again, and it only took half of the entire season to get there. With Jorge stuck between Miguel and the DEA, the Cali cartel going to war, a detour to a tropical paradise, and a whole lot of bullets flying in every direction, maybe Narcos really doesn’t need Pablo after all!
Jorge, who is rapidly turning from disgruntled employee to full-blown double agent, drives a lot of this turnaround in “Best Laid Plans.” After spending the first few episodes grumping around and rolling his eyes, the Cali security chief is at last acting on the disconnect between his high regard for his own morals and the fact that he, you know, works for a drug cartel. As Van Ness says following their highway meeting, after listing off Jorge’s unsavory associates and past: “Does that sound like the everyman who only signed on to protect Miguel’s family to you?”
The episode starts with evil David in charge, but not for long. When he asks Jorge whether Miguel should show up, it seemed like an obvious ruse to test whether Jorge could be trusted — a test Jorge that immediately failed. But apparently it wasn’t a test at all! Instead, the nightclub gun battle ends up driving Miguel and Jorge closer together than ever, setting up a far more interesting betrayal for Jorge down the line.
Miguel is finally taking action, too. He’s spent much of the season mooning after Maria and stewing over Gilberto’s arrest, but the North Valley drug lords’ attempt to kill him and Pacho means he’s finally assuming leadership of the cartel. Chepe is back, Pacho is (barely) back, and now they’re all going to war.
The start of a cartel civil war also comes with good news for Narcos: Chepe’s New York plots are finally over. With no other major characters to interact with, Chepe has been kept on the back burner this season, only popping up to shoot people who annoy him. (Worst of all, his victim in this episode is a journalist. Boo!) Still, Chepe has one nice moment in New York: He is utterly delighted when a news anchor blames the cocaine lab explosion on the Dominicans he killed earlier. (“Exactly! Thank you, lady. Fucking Dominicans!”) Unfortunately, his good mood collapses when the journalist then says Cali was the real power behind the lab.
While the cartel gears up for war, the DEA can’t get its act together. Van Ness and Feistl have the perfect informant literally call them up on the phone, but they won’t do anything with him until they know how he got his promotion. Then, when Jorge gives them a pure gold tip — the location of the country’s most-wanted drug lord! — they decide to send Feistl alone to the club to test whether Jorge’s information is accurate.
Still, Feistl and Van Ness look like the galactic brain meme compared to Peña, who for the umpteenth time lets a critical informant slip out of his sight. Peña’s footchase through Curacao is both colorful and featured a cartoonish escape from Jurado — the money launderer just hides against the wall as Peña’s associate sprints by — but it all goes to waste when Peña can’t get Jurado’s wife, Christina.
Rather than take Christina into custody while he’s grabbing Jurado, Peña lets her find out someone wants to arrest her by having police wait outside her apartment. Here’s a tip, Peña: A lot of the cops in Colombia are corrupt! It’s a recurring theme in your life. Soon enough, Jurado’s wife is bouncing around Bogota, buying coke from her stylist and making frantic calls to her husband’s hotel. Navegante gets wind that she’s headed to the U.S. and grabs her.
As for Peña, all he gets is Newman from Seinfeld laughing at him in Miami.
• Condolences to the family of Pacho’s waiter-slash-boyfriend, who had the chance to leave the villa without getting killed but instead decided to take a remarkable number of bullets as he tried to warn Pacho.
• Feistl is terrified that drug lords know where his apartment is, but he has no problem showing up alone at a nightclub full of cartel heavies?
• To be honest, I want all of the drug lords on Narcos to be gigantic personalities, à la Luis Guzman in season one. The head of the North Valley cartel might as well be Wally from Dilbert, for all the flash he brings.
• David makes a good point: Jorge’s security guards should carry guns! When Jorge counters that they carry walkie-talkies instead, David shoots back: “Why? To say good-bye when you’re going to get clipped?
• The cartel civil war increasingly looks to be Miguel’s fault, with Salazar’s vengeful mother sitting next to the North Valley leader as he calls Amado to request the hit on Pacho.
• Are we being set up for a whole season about Amado? There’s more than enough material in his life, and he’s a bigger figure than any of the Cali partners.
• Van Ness makes a quick nod to it, but the real-life Jorge Salcedo really was involved in a plot to secure Salvadoran Air Force bombs. Remember La Catedral, Pablo’s resort-slash-prison in the first season? Well, Cali was furious that Escobar’s “imprisonment” meant they couldn’t send assassins to kill him, so they had Salcedo try to buy bombs from a corrupt Salvadoran general instead. Alas for Narcos plot purposes, the scheme never came to fruition.
• The nightclub shootout suffers by being intermixed with the Mexico fight, where it’s far clearer what’s happening. The salsa gunfight is all shots of Miguel ducking and Jorge yelling. In Mexico, we’re witness to surprises, like when Pacho’s tequila-rocked brother takes cover behind an easily shootable door.
• Pacho pulls off some legit first-person shooter moves, especially when his near-death brother trades shots with the assassins while he sneaks around them. Pacho, add me on Battlefield 1.