February 25, 2019  (Web Review)

Narcos: Season Three

Lionsgate, 2 discs, 529 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The third season of Netflix’s popular crime series differs significantly changes from the first two, which focused on the rise of the Medellín drug cartel and its brutal but charismatic leader Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), along with the DEA’s efforts to bring them down, led by agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook). Last season’s narrative arc ended with Escobar’s death and Murphy’s exit, so the emphasis now shifts to the operations of the Cali Cartel, which emerged as the dominant power in the drug trade after Escobar’s demise, and is now the new target of the DEA, under the direction of Murphy’s erstwhile lieutenant Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal). The Cali Cartel has numerous leaders and foot soldiers, but none possess the sheer magnetism of Moura’s Escobar, although Arturo Castro’s ruthless David Rodriguez and Alberto Ammann’s murderous Pacho Herrera have their moments, while Matias Varela earns audience sympathy as Jorge Salcedo, the cartel’s security chief who turns informant, as does Javier Cámara as Guillermo Pallomari, the outfit’s chief accountant, whose knowledge could doom its operations. But Peña is a rather pale character, and his conflicts with vacillating U.S. and corrupt Colombian officials fail to carry much resonance. Nonetheless, the scripts do a reasonably good job of keeping the complex plot twists clear (although they rely overmuch on Peña’s narration), and both cast and crew skillfully handle the action moments (which include some rather graphic torture sequences). Overall, this proves to be a successful transition season for a generally compelling series, featuring authentic locations. Compiling all 10 episodes from 2017, this is recommended. (F. Swietek)