Welcome to the new Narcos. After three seasons in Colombia, Netflix’s addictive crime drama has relocated to Mexico as Pablo Escobar, the Cali Cartel, Steve Murphy, and Javier Peña have been replaced by a new group of drug kingpins and government agents. Reborn as Narcos: Mexico, the Golden Globe-nominated series returned on Nov. 16, and EW is here to guide you through all 10 episodes.
Episode 1: “Camelot”
NARCOOOOOOSSSSS!! One of Netflix’s premiere shows is back and as teased in the season 3 finale, the action has shifted to Mexico. Not only does that mean we have a new setting and a new cast (we get a Peña for Peña switch with Michael Peña taking over for Pedro Pascal’s Javier Peña), we technically have a new show with the series being rebranded as Narcos: Mexico. Enough talk, let’s get into it.
“I’m going to tell you a story. But I’ll be honest, it doesn’t have a happy ending. In fact, it doesn’t have an ending at all.” Wait a minute, is the narrator the one and only Scoot McNairy?!?! Oh, why yes it is. I was already all in, but now I’m ALL IN. We’re sent to 1985 Guadalajara, Mexico, where a man is kidnapped and a bag thrown over his head. Scoot sets the scene of the dangerous Mexico drug trade as the kidnapped man is transported to another location before his hood is removed. Meet Kiki Camarena (Peña), the man who will be at the center of all of this.
Nice to meet you Kiki, now let’s jump back to 1980. After a rundown of weed in Mexico and the introduction of Sinaloa, a.k.a. the birthplace of Mexican drug smuggling, the action shifts to the Sinaloan mountains and a weed farm. When the government shows up to burn down all the fields, they chase a man named Rafa to a church. They have the building surrounded as they prepare to go in, but a local cop named Miguel arrives on the scene and goes in alone to bring Rafa out. He proceeds to beat Rafa into revealing the location of some unburned fields. The cop takes Rafa with him to his ransacked house, where his wife and children are hiding, and it’s revealed that Rafa is part of his family and they’re both involved in the weed business (Miguel is a former cop).
We’ve been told how important Kiki will be, so let’s get to know him better. Back in Fresno, California, he’s conducting an undercover sting, or at least trying to. The dealers think he might be a cop, so he turns the volume up on the TV and has one of them point a gun at his head. Since no one rushes in, he says that proves that he’s legit. It works and the dealers are ready to deal, but then cops do rush in, just the wrong ones. The local police don’t believe Kiki’s declarations about being DEA, hell, they barely know what the DEA is. But when Kiki’s partner shows up, the cops uncuff Kiki and he thanks them by punching one of them in the face. Later, Kiki learns from his boss that he didn’t get the transfer to Miami, so he takes the only other available posting: Guadalajara.
Speaking of Guadalajara, Kiki’s isn’t the only one making his way there. The latest field burnings in Sinaloa have the local crew preparing to start from scratch, but Miguel proposes to Don Aviles that they restart the business in Guadalajara. He offers to travel there and speak to the Naranjo brothers, who currently run the area. Aviles agrees, sending Miguel, Rafa, and Don Neto (not a fan of this idea — or Miguel) to meet with them. After dropping Rafa and his Hello Kitty-type backpack off at a college campus, Miguel and Neto go to a hotel to meet with Hernan Naranjo. The Guadalajara kingpin mocks Miguel’s offer of a partnership, prompting Miguel to kill him right out in the open. Everyone, including Neto, makes a run for it. As they all leave, Rafa shows up; he spoke to a geologist and points to a location on a map.
The DFS soon arrives on the scene and takes Rafa, Miguel, and Neto, whom they picked up trying to skip town. Knowing he’s being driven to his death, Miguel tells the driver a story of the time he saved the life of a cop’s brother, insinuating that the cop is the DFS boss known as El Azul. When Miguel is brought to Azul, it’s revealed that he doesn’t have a brother (risky move, Miggy!). Miguel makes a partnership offer to Azul, insisting that the deal was always for him and not the Baranjos. He reveals Rafa’s new strain of marijuana that is stronger than anything else out there on the market. Then, the other Baranjo shows up, pissed about his brother, only for Azul to kill him. Azul tells Miguel that he’s in. Oh, and smartly, Neto is suddenly all in on the plan too.
Kiki, his pregnant wife Mika, and their son Kikito arrive in Guadalajara. Upon meeting his new boss Jaime, Kiki realizes this isn’t what he signed up for, considering they’re more in the data gathering business than arresting business, or more like the neighborhood watch as Kiki suggests. “You’ve seen the desert,” says Jaime. “It’s time to meet the snakes.” Jaime, Kiki, and the other two agents, Knapp and Sears (Ken from Mad Men!), head over to the bar next door for their daily ritual of buying drinks for all the Mexican cops, which is just their way of gathering information. Fresh off the deal with Miguel, the DFS boys walk in, immediately catching the attention of Kiki, who follows El Azul to the bathroom. As they wash their hands side-by-side, Kiki notifies Azul of the blood on his shoes. You’d think cops would be better at cleaning up evidence!
Neto, Rafa, and Miguel head out to the spot on the map, which is in the middle of the desert, but there’s supposedly plenty of water below. Miguel’s plan is just getting started. He declares to Neto, “What I’m doing here…is building an empire.” This might be my favorite empire on TV since Taraji P. Henson started as Cookie!
Episode Grade: A-