With Escobar’s dominion over the drug trade firmly established, the third episode of Netflix’s Narcos works to show off just how powerful the DEA can be. After getting beaten at every turn by the cartel so far, Murphy and Pena are ready to do everything they can to disrupt Escobar’s operation.
For now, that means using Murphy’s murdered cat as the driving force behind an investigation into how far Escobar’s influence reaches. Murphy, with his voiceover, evokes the death of DEA agent Kiki Camarena as an example of how the DEA cracks down on drug traffickers, how there’s an unwritten rule that DEA officers are off limits, and that the threat to Murphy and his family must have consequences.
Despite the threat being to Murphy, it’s Pena who spearheads the investigation, having more experience in Colombia than his relatively new partner. He pays Suarez to find out who gave Murphy’s photocopied passport to the cartel, and that leads to them questioning the two employees from the airport.
Pena threatens them with federal charges, and says the killing of the cat, which is under U.S. protection, is a federal offense; the same as killing a police dog. It comes across as absurd, but it’s also indicative of the larger story being told. Murphy and Pena need to find a way to put Escobar away, but odds are that the charges won’t involve drug trafficking. It’ll likely be easier to get him on “lesser” charges, much like the U.S. did with Al Capone, a figure that Escobar himself mentions.
Meanwhile, Escobar continues to move away from his drug trafficking operation and into the political sphere. He tells Valeria that he wants help getting into Congress, where he can really make his changes happen, giving his ideas a public and official forum.
She introduces him to Fernando Duque, a lawyer and lobbyist for the New Liberals, a party that may suit Escobar’s needs. A $300,000 bribe helps Escobar get his foot in the door, as the Minister of Justice, Rodrigo Lara, agrees to let Escobar into the party, having him run as an alternate to an already-placed candidate.
Poison is all set to deliver the bribe money to Duque, but his plans quickly change as Murphy and Pena coordinate with Carrillo to set up a roadblock under the assumption that Poison is delivering cocaine. Escobar finds out about it from Carrera and orders Poison back to his house, meaning that Escobar’s plans for Congress are still in place, for now.
Not everybody is happy with Escobar’s focus on politics though. Gus believes that Pablo is spreading himself too thin, that he needs to focus on his family and the business. “We’re bandits,” he says, suggesting that Pablo may be overestimating his own influence and vision for the future. With a new daughter in his life, and Tata growing tired of playing second fiddle to Valeria, Pablo’s expanding empire is causing a rift in his personal life.
NEXT: Chekhov’s gun is a mugshot
With Poison evading the roadblock, the DEA needs to find another way to get to Escobar. When it’s clear that he’ll win the election—or rather, that another man will win and immediately resign so that Escobar can take his place—the DEA, along with the U.S. Ambassador, decide that the best course of action is to let Escobar win and then humiliate him on a larger, more public scale.
To do that, they need to find something on Escobar. The only thing incriminating available to the DEA agents? That mugshot that Murphy noted in the season premiere. It shows that Escobar is indeed a criminal, even if it’s hard to prove his connection to drug trafficking.
Murphy and Pena set about tracking down the mugshot, trying to gather information from anyone related to the case, but the cartel is murdering everyone who was involved. That leads the agents to the one man who can help them: the photographer who took the picture. They kidnap him (in a friendly way, in order to keep him safe from the cartel) and get the photo negative, their plan quickly falling into place.
When Escobar is elected and prepared for his first day in Congress, Narcos delivers one of its more stunning visuals. The camera cuts between Escobar walking into Congress and walking in the fields of Colombia, while the voice-over points out his journey from poor to powerful. The voice-over is on the nose, but the image is still evocative.
Plus, it serves to accentuate the humiliation Escobar then suffers. When Escobar takes his seat in Congress, the Justice Minister Lara, who had previously taken money from Escobar and supported his run, denounces the man, having worked with Pena and Murphy to shame the drug kingpin.
Lara makes a speech about cleaning up government, about getting rid of bribes and dirty money, saying that while he’s been culpable in the past, Colombia needs to do better. It’s a rousing speech, and Escobar quietly leaves, staring Lara down in silent rage.
Lara’s speech and the acts of the DEA have a ripple effect. They expose a ton of corruption throughout Colombia, showing just how much drug money is flowing through the country. Lara has done a good deed, but clearly he’s in danger, so it’s arranged for him to be transferred to Czechoslovakia, where he’ll be safe from the cartel. Murphy asks him to wear a bulletproof vest for the two weeks until he leaves, knowing that the threat is still imminent.
Lara declines the vest, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The cartel catches up with him—a hitman shoots Lara through the window of his car. A good man has been killed, as Murphy says, and it’s another body in the ever-rising count produced by the War on Drugs.