“Narcos” thoughts, Season Two, Episode Two: “Cambalache”

It’s one of the most famous sequences in cinema history, and probably the single most influential sequence in the gangster genre bar none: the baptism/massacre montage in The Godfather. (Or as Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos would more familiarly put it, “in One.”) You know the deal: While Michael Corleone renounces Satan at the christening of his godson, his hitmen take down every rival mob boss from New York to Las Vegas in various elegantly choreographed ways — a bullet through the eyeglasses, a tommy-gun volley through a jammed revolving door, a shot in the back and a fall down a massive flight of steps, and so on.

This episode of Narcos, “Cambalache,” gave us the show’s own version, and it’s telling how much less grandiose the whole shebang is. Forget the Catholic symbolism, folks: Pablo Escobar is too busy slow-dancing with his lovely wife Tata in one of her endless succession of flow-y flattering dresses to recite prayers in Latin. And there’s nothing elegant about how his goons slaughter Medellín’s cops, unless you consider drive-bys, hand grenades, and a few point-blank executions elegant. As the premiere already proved, Narcos just isn’t the kind of show to play to its characters’ delusions of grandeur, or play up delusions of its own. It sees Pablo’s story as too straightforwardly sordid, too pointlessly wasteful, for all that. It plays things straight, and is a much more enjoyable, if less spectacular, viewing experience for it.

I reviewed the second episode of Narcos Season 2 for Decider.

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