Pablo Escobar and Steve Murphy may be gone, but Narcos lives on. The third season of Netflix’s addictive crime drama hit Netflix on Sept. 1., and EW is here to guide you through all 10 episodes from the new season. Follow along with our recaps as you watch the “Gentlemen of Cali” make their moves.
Episode 1: “The Kingpin Strategy”
Javier Peña wants to make one thing clear:”I’m not a hero.”
Despite his protests, bringing down Pablo Escobar has earned Peña adoration from friends and family, as well as a promotion. And not just a promotion in the DEA — with the departure of Boyd Holbrook as Peña’s partner Steve Murphy, Pedro Pascal has taken the reins as the show’s lead and narrator. Peña’s prominence in the new season is the biggest stretch of the series’ true-story narrative, considering the real-life Peña left Colombia after the killing of Escobar. But with the loss of Holbrook and Wagner Moura, who captivated as the famed drug kingpin, keeping Pascal was important in connecting the stories and keeping an interesting presence at the center of the series.
After a trip back home to Texas for a family wedding and a heart-to-heart with his dad (Edward James Olmos alert!), Peña heads back to Colombia, where he has his sights set on some new but familiar targets. “To kill a monster, sometimes you have to get in bed with other monsters,” he narrates. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend until he becomes my enemy again.” It’s time to meet the Cali Cartel, a.k.a. the “Gentlemen of Cali.” We’ve previously been introduced to a few of these key players when they aided in the pursuit of their rival, Escobar. The men behind this empire, who were famously featured on the cover of TIME, are Pacho, head of distribution and security; Chepe (Pêpê Rapazote), head of U.S. operations; the trusted No. 2, Miguel Rodriguez; and his brother, cartel CEO Gilberto Rodriguez.
The four leaders are gathering all of their allies and associates together for a party where Gilberto will make a big announcement. Among those in attendance are Jorge, a trusted member of the security team, who is getting ready to leave the business (that never works out); Navegante, the intimidating enforcer; Pallomari, chief accountant for the cartel; North Valley Cartel member Claudio Salazar and his wife, Maria; and Andres, who is going undercover as a waiter for DEA agents Lopez and Duffy (what isn’t Shea Whigham in?).
Before we even get to Gilberto’s reveal, the party has plenty of significant developments. First, Andres’ not-so-secret camera (which is pretending to be a button) draws Jorge’s attention. But instead of letting Navegante handle it in a sure-to-be-deadly way, Jorge takes all of the photos and puts some fear into Andres, telling him to immediately leave Cali for good. In reward for his good work, Jorge is told that the brothers need him to stay on board for a little longer. Meanwhile, Miguel, who is clearly accustomed to taking a back seat to his brother, has taken a liking to Maria, which makes him unhappy to see Salazar forcing her to leave early.
Beginning with a toast celebrating the death of Escobar, Gilberto announces that the Cali Cartel is negotiating with the authorities to be get out of the cocaine business within six months. Such a deal will include minimal prison sentences and the ability to hold on to their illegal funds. “We have six months to make as much money as possible,” he declares to rousing applause. Despite the seemingly positive response, afterward, the four Cali leaders meet in private to listen to wire taps of their guests reacting to the news. Most of them are talking harshly about the move, prompting Gilberto to give the order to take them out. Salazar is also on the tapes, but his only crime is being a bad husband. While Gilberto decides to let him slide, a smitten Miguel jumps in to say otherwise, suggesting Pacho take care of it, considering he already has a beef with Salazar.
Peña is back in Bogotá, and he’s barely settled in when he has a run-in with his frenemy Bill Stechner. The CIA station chief deems the Escobar/Medellin mission a “failure” and says Cali will be done differently because “America’s got plans for Colombia. Another bloodbath complicates them.” Peña isn’t ecstatic to hear that the plan is for the brothers and company to surrender. “And those f—ing guys walk?” he yells. If that’s the case, then he’s not sure why he’s even there. “Always helps to have a hero on board,” quips Stechner.
The hero’s newest lieutenants, Duffy and Lopez, are in Cali at their safe house awaiting Andres’ return. When the buzzer continuously goes off, they get spooked, sending them downstairs, where they find only a roll of film. As Duffy develops the images, the phone rings — which is concerning since they don’t even know the number to it. Bad news: The photos are of the lieutenants meeting with Andres. Cali knows all, especially since they basically own the phone company.
Salazar is dancing with someone who isn’t Maria at a late-night outdoor club when Pacho and his crew ride up on their motorcycles. As a token of respect, Pacho brings a bottle of liquor to Salazar’s table. They will drink together, but first, Pacho must get his dance on with his gentleman friend. Everyone stops what they’re doing and watches the feared killer and his young lover passionately dance, sealing it with a kiss. Surely tired from his dancing and in need of refreshment, Pacho goes back to the table and picks up the bottle, but instead of drinking it, he smashes it over Salazar’s head. They proceed to tie Salazar’s arms and legs up to different bikes and rev up their engines before ultimately driving off — and taking his ripped limbs with them.
Episode Grade: B+