Okay, now we’re cooking. Though, stumbles and all, this season of Narcos has been moving at a relative brisk clip, the third episode noticeably turns up the heat. Every puzzle piece has snapped into place (if you’re watching this — or any Netflix show, really — you probably don’t need me to tell you that there’s always some narrative fat to be trimmed, but that’s neither here nor there), and the season has broken into a sprint.
Though there’s still bureaucratic red tape pretty much everywhere, Kiki at least has Kuykendall & Co. on his side. They’re initially still resistant — especially after a surveillance flight that they request turns up nothing but photos of empty desert — but the evidence that something is rotten in the state of Denmark (well, Guadalajara) is piling up to the point that they can’t ignore it anymore.
For one thing, it turns out that the surveillance photos are from a year ago. For another, a lead on a gangster takes them straight to the governor’s son’s wedding, which, being arranged by Gallardo, is a veritable Who’s Who of the city’s wealthy and powerful — including those known to be in the drug trade.
Then there’s Kiki’s expedition out to the pot farm.
Make no mistake, Gallardo’s half of the episode is fun, but Kiki’s realization of the magnitude of what he’s dealing with is the more exciting part of the episode. (I wonder if this will hold true for the rest of the season — Gallardo’s half of the show is certainly bloodier, but where he can act pretty openly, Kiki has to deal with a lot more subterfuge in order to get his way.) He follows the trucks again, but this time, he makes it all the way to a little outpost where, after ingratiating himself with one of the workers, he dives right into working on the farm.
It’s almost smooth sailing all the way through, except for a brief brush with El Azul, who almost recognizes him while watching the workers get back on the buses to head back to town. But Kiki manages to get away thanks to the hoods they all have to wear, snags a piece of the harvest (which comes from a truly endless field of weed), and gets back to the city right as his wife gives birth to their baby boy. He loves his family — just look at his face when he’s holding the baby! — but there’s no question as to where his priorities lie: The episode ends with a “the gang’s back together” moment as the DEA agents pin Gallardo as the man at the party everyone’s kowtowing to, i.e., the man they need to catch.
Gallardo’s doing okay now that he’s king of the castle, but his position is an unstable one. The DFS isn’t happy with their cut, and they slaughter an entire compound of people to get their point across. Unfortunately, everybody is related to everybody, which means that the fragile peace that was brokered by Pedro’s death in the last episode is once again at risk, as the Félix brothers want revenge.
It’s a problem that Gallardo solves by stinging the DFS when they try to pull the stunt again, grabbing the agent who’d led the raid so as to hand him over to the brothers (who proceed to bury him alive) and telling Nava, the man’s boss, not to bite the hand that feeds. Nava isn’t too happy about that, but everybody can’t be happy all of the time, especially when it comes to group projects.
Besides, Gallardo has bigger fish to fry, as it turns out the governor is all in on pulling the worst “never forget your roots” gambit possible, telling Gallardo that he’ll never fit in with the city’s elite because he doesn’t come from money, and squeezing him for an inordinate amount of money as a sort of surrogate-father tax. Though the governor’s incessant rambling about his background is clearly something Gallardo has never been totally comfortable with, it’s been fine so far because it’s seemed to be grounded in genuine affection, but that’s no longer true (which bodes more poorly for the governor than for Gallardo, really).
He organizes the governor’s son’s wedding so as to gain acceptance, but it’s clear he’ll never get it, at least not from the governor. If he really wants to be at the top of the ladder, he’s going to have to make some changes.
Rafa, meanwhile, has found inspiration in the form of Scarface. After getting turned down by a girl at a nightclub (who makes fun of everything he’s wearing as well as his social status), he changes his look to mimic Al Pacino’s after watching Scarface on VHS back at the compound. (It’s maybe not the best film to model yourself off of, but who am I to judge.) His attitude, however, stays pretty much the same. He starts the episode off having his guys drive motorcycles through the estate they’re planning to buy and ends it with the same kind of reckless energy; he’s still the same guy, but the furrow in his brow is just a little more pronounced.
Seeds and Stems
• Another classic instance of group-project dynamics: Don Neto’s declaration, “The No. 2 guy doesn’t solve problems, he just points them out.”
• The final scene of the episode, in which the DEA finally comes together, is particularly gratifying given the way the agents have been butting heads since the beginning of the season. Granted, that combative energy results in one of the funniest scenes so far, when all their families get together for a barbecue — and the men sit sullenly, silently outside as they refuse to acknowledge their respective missteps.
• The party also gives us the crux of Kiki’s character, i.e., that any personal risk is merited if it means getting the job done. It’s a character beat that’s loudly established, as is Gallardo’s desire for respect, and the two clarion tones are mirrored by a striking transition shot, as Kiki’s profile, as he drives, almost seamlessly cuts to Gallardo’s profile as he drives along elsewhere.