Narcos recap: Despegue
Gaviria calls for an end to the war and orders a raid on Escobar's prison.
The photos that Murphy and Pena released to the press in the penultimate episode of Narcos have blown up. There’s been public outcry over Escobar’s living conditions and the fact that two men, even though they were drug dealers, were murdered inside the prison. The media storm forces the police to actually investigate the murders, which is exactly what Murphy and Pena wanted.
Their victory is short-lived though as the Ambassador suspends them for executing the leak. That means they have to sit on the sidelines while the police try and catch Escobar. For Murphy, that’s fine. As he says in his voice-over, he’s perfectly content to go home, crack open a beer, and watch the downfall of Escobar play out on his television.
That’s not to be though. When Murphy heads home and opens his garage, a group of men slip a hood over his head and kidnap him. The assumption is that these are Escobar’s men out for revenge, but there’s little the viewer knows.
Hours later Connie tells Pena how she found the truck outside, the keys in the ignition and the engine running. She’s assuming the worst, and so is Pena, but he’s not ready to call the police yet. He worries that sounding the alarm will panic the kidnappers, so for now he’s going to try and find Murphy on his own.
Meanwhile, Escobar gets some bad news in the morning before he’s even had a chance to get some Colombian coffee in him. One of his men hands him the local newspaper, where pictures of Moncada and Galeano adorn the front page. Escobar knows this is bad news, but he also knows the bodies have been disposed of. Escobar has always been careful, but this threat seems more real.
The threat quickly becomes very real as Gaviria orders the military to go to the prison and remove Escobar. The plan is to tell him that they’ve uncovered threats against his life, so for his own protection they’re going to move him to a different prison while the government renovates his own. If that sounds like a flimsy plan, you’re right. It also doesn’t help that the general in charge of the operation seems to have misunderstood his orders (perhaps on purpose) and is merely stationed outside the prison along with his soldiers.
Sandoval shows up at the prison assuming that Escobar is in custody. When it turns out that he’s still inside the prison, Sandoval decides to head in and tell him about the prison transfer. He says that Escobar isn’t stupid enough to kill the Minister of Justice, so he’ll be safe.
Of course, that’s not completely true. Escobar refuses the transfer, and when Sandoval goes to leave and tell Gaviria about the decision, Escobar senses that something is off. He tells Sandoval to call the President from inside the prison so that he can keep an eye on him.
Sandoval calls and Gaviria picks up, but the Minister of Justice doesn’t let on. He continues talking to Escobar, essentially warning Gaviria that this is now a hostage situation and that he’s stuck inside. That leads Gaviria to make a tough call: He sends in the special forces and tells them to end this once and for all, even if that means putting Sandoval in danger.
NEXT: Assault on La Catedral
While the special forces are being tasked with infiltrating Escobar’s prison and bringing the man out dead or alive, Pena is doing what he can to try and track down Murphy. He uses his contacts in the CIA and the streets to gather information, but nobody knows anything. He goes to the Ambassador’s office to finally sound the alarm, and it’s there that he sees Murphy, safe and sound.
It turns out that Pancho and the Cali cartel kidnapped Murphy. Pancho wanted to chat with him, and more specifically, show him that he has the photos Murphy took of Poison and the other dead bodies from the karaoke bar. More than that, Pancho also has a recording of Murphy calling in the tip, which not only resulted in Poison getting killed, but also the death of an innocent woman.
There’s tension between Murphy and Pena, and the show suggests that perhaps it was Pena who handed over those photos, but then again, maybe it was the CIA? Either way, the photos and evidence work to paint a more complex picture of this fight, questioning whether or not all the innocent lives lost are worth it, and how much Murphy is to blame.
That’s a story line for another season though (if Netflix renews the show), as the rest of the episode focuses on the raid of Escobar’s prison. The action set pieces throughout the first season of Narcos have been beautifully shot, but this final one, where the special forces storm Escobar’s fortress, is the best of the bunch.
A big part of that is the cinematography, which sees the prison basking in green light, as if it’s some sort of impenetrable alien force, while reds and yellows dominate the rest of the frame. It’s aesthetically stunning, and the direction, where the camera follows along behind the soldiers going from room to room and clearing out the cartel, adds a staggering intimacy and urgency to the raid.
The raid is a success in that it eliminates many members of the cartel and destabilizes Escobar’s cozy living conditions, but it’s a failure in that Escobar once again escapes. All that’s left now is full-on war, now that the terms of the deal between Escobar and the government have been thrown out the window.
Escobar will hit back, and it will be bloody, which is why Connie wants to leave. She tells Murphy that she just wants to go home. “This is home,” he says before sitting on the curb and smoking a cigarette, as his wife is in disbelief that he would want to stay. It’s a seriously depressing end to the first season, but it does have a purpose.
Murphy has bought into the fight, the propaganda; the idea that he alone can make a difference and that bringing down Escobar will solve everything. Of course, it’s all much more complex than that, but Murphy will have to wait to learn that lesson.