Warning: This contains spoilers. Not seen Narcos Season 3? Read our spoiler-free review of the opening episode.
The concluding portion of Narcos’ third season is one of the most exciting pieces of television this year. Littered with bodies, and anxiety-inducing as always, Narcos’ conclusion of the Cali Cartel story drops the pretence and sprints desperately for the finish line.
Episode 8 kicks off the action by bringing Jorge’s betrayal to light for all involved. While a little dramatic for Narcos’ usual tastes, the scene is more than redeemed by the complexity of all that is going on. Heart-poundingly shot and edited, this race against time to save Jorge – and then his family, in an equally do-or-die scene – sets the bar for the tension levels in the final push. Followed by the race to get to Pallomari the accountant in Episode 10, and the domino-fall of slaughter that it triggers, the pressure of time might be the most dangerous weapon Netflix’s trafficking drama uses.
If high-stakes life-or-death races inexplicably aren’t your thing, then Pedro Pascal’s conflicted Agent will certainly provide the emotional rollercoaster you’re looking for. Having been the shining knight of the DEA all season, Pena employs drug kingpins and paramilitary groups to help him save Franklin’s wife, continually puts Jorge in the crosshairs, and then leaks information to the press about Colombia’s widespread corruption. Despite understanding the context of Pena’s choices, it’s difficult not to be reminded of the way he and Murphy were treated by their superiors in Seasons 1 and 2. His transformation may feel more of a plummet than a curve, but watching Pena make such ‘grey area’ decisions – strongly reminiscent of the CIA’s Bill Stechner (Eric Lange) – and succeed doing it, is a powerful gut-punch for anyone who has followed the character thus far.
Packed with corrupt plots, diplomatic inadequacies, and strategic risk, the final few episodes contain an increase in the thrills, but never sacrifice the realistic style that makes Narcos unique. The action and scheming are flanked in equal parts by news footage and narrated facts and figures. The stoic-faced, poorly-lit backroom deals are exactly what makes the action sequences so exhilarating; Narcos plays its cards close to its chest, so you never know whether you’re getting a lesson in cocaine-accountancy, a drive-by shooting, a closer look at the Colombian political system or a fridge full of body parts. Narcos’ absolute triumph is making clear to Netflix’s hundred million subscribers that these complicated, global events are totally intertwined, that everything, from the President’s campaign funding and Jorge’s wiretaps to Pacho’s murderous vendettas, is one and the same story, told expertly by a cast and crew who make it gripping, unsettling, and addictive.
Narcos Season 1 to 3 are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.