“Narcos” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Four: “Checkmate”

SPOILER ALERT

There’s a case to be made that the ease with which Peña and company knock Gilberto Rodriguez off the playing board shows just how fatally cocky the Gentlemen of Cali had gotten following the fall of Escobar and the establishment of their sweetheart deal with the government. The show makes this case itself with the musical montage that leads up to the raid: A portrait of Gilberto’s life as the happily married husband to three different wives, all of whom know each other and are perfectly content with the arrangement, cleverly soundtracked by the camp swagger of LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali” (a song Gilberto himself probably wouldn’t be caught dead listening to, which is why the music cue works). In his own way, the elder Rodriguez is an interesting figure, and Damián Alcázar is entertaining and convincing in the role; he looks like a well-tanned chief executive of a medical supply sales company or something, which is exactly the vibe of affluent anonymity the character wanted to cultivate for himself.

But the quick-and-easy downfall of the season’s central antagonist points to the void left in this show by Escobar’s death. While Gilberto’s fortune, power, and influence may have been larger than that of Pablo Escobar, Pablo Escobar was larger than life — a supervillain in Robin Hood drag who sincerely fancied himself a man of the people (and looked the part) even as he sent countless thousands of Colombians to early graves. And actor Wagner Moura was the face of the whole show in the role, radiating stoned malevolence from his dark eyes despite his cool-uncle mustache and doughy physique. Perhaps the show will make a play to build Pacho Herrera, the most unique and compelling of the four Cali godfathers, into someone worthy of slipping into Pablo’s sweatshirts. With at least six episodes to go, they’ll need it.

I reviewed the fourth episode of Narcos Season Three — gripping and obviously pivotal but narratively problematic — for Decider.

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