It has only been two episodes, but so far Narcos has done a great job in capturing the political and social turmoil at the time in Colombia.
Episode 1 ended with Steve Murphy deciding that it was his duty to fight the drug war by being actually present in Colombia, and in doing so, he ends up moving to Colombia with Connie and their cat, which surprisingly is the main narrative for this episode. Once they arrive at Bogotá, they run into some trouble with customs for not having the proper documentation for the cat, which we, as viewers, don’t know if that’s necessarily true. However, the only thing that is true is that the Murphys are made to wait in order for the Colombian customs to get information on two US Citizens moving to Colombia in the 80s. After many hours, a customs agent shows up, scans Murphy’s passport and tells them that their cat isn’t allowed to leave the airport. The message from this scene is clear: everyone, even customs, have a price and they have sold the information about a US citizen to all drug dealers in the country, including Escobar.
After killing Cucaracha, Escobar bumped up his drug business production to over 10,000 kilos per week and had so much money he knew what to do with it. He started to hide the money in caletas, burying it in the jungle, on the roof, even in his mom’s couch, keeping track of it through his accountant Blackbeard. An option for Escobar to start laundering his money was to give back to the community by building schools, houses, hospitals, soccer fields or just handing money to poor people in Medellín. Thus comes the nickname the Paisa Robin Hood, given by news journalist Valeria Velez (Stephanie Sigman), that in a way, sparks Escobar’s thirst for power and political ambition. After their interview, Escobar sleeps with Valeria and she mentions Tata, Escobar’s wife, this makes Escobar warn her not to ever disrespect Tata.
In this episode, we’re introduced to communist guerrilla rebels M19, led by Iván The Terrible Torres (Aldemar Correa) with the help of Elisa (Ana de la Reguera) and Alejandro (Rafael Cebrían). The group gained popularity after stealing the sword of Simón Bolivar from the Quinta de Bolivar Museum and left a note “Bolivar, your sword returns to the battlefield“. If anything could be said about Ivan, is that he understood the power of symbols. Recognizing that the drug dealers were making too much money, they decided that the best way to get some of it would be by kidnapping the Ochoa brothers’ sister Marta.
On the other hand, we get to know a bit more about Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) and how he gets his information about drug dealers. Peña slept with Helena (Adria Arjona) a prostitute who would end up going with other girls to provide entertainment for Escobar’s reunion at Las Margaritas hotel with other drug traffickers. As an informant, and even though Peña sleeps with some of them, Peña has a duty to protect her and if she comes back with more information from Las Margaritas, he’ll try to get her a visa to the US. The information about the meeting led Peña to warn colonel Horatio Carrillo (Maurice Compte) from the police to investigate it.
Little did they know, that kidnapping Marta Ochoa would be the catalyst to the creation of the Medellín Cartel. The kidnapping prompted a reunion with the top drug traffickers in the country: Gacha, the Ochoas, Carlos Lehder, Fernando Galeano, and last but not least, Gustavo Gaviria and Pablo Escobar. At this meeting, Pablo brought them all together for the first time and proclaimed himself to be their leader to the group “Death to Kidnappers”. He would be in charge of all the operations, all the other members of the group had to do was cover his costs. In return, he would put an end to all kidnappings and bring Marta back to her family.
After the meeting is over, Helena is with Gacha and softly asks him while giving him a massage, what did they talk about at the meeting that made him so tense. Gacha notices that her question is uncalled for, and is aware that she’s an informant. In an act of revenge, Gacha has her men rape Helena. In the meantime, Helena doesn’t show up to her and Peña’s meeting spot which alerts Peña that something must have gone wrong. With the help of the local police, Peña finds a sicario to give them information of where they took her. Ultimately, Peña finds Helena and worries about her mental state. Even though her character is short-lived in the overall Narcos story, this scene gives us an insight on Peña and how he cares about the safety of his informants, which we will explore more in following episodes.
Moreover, Escobar sticks true to his Death to Kidnappers promise by killing rebels and taking pictures of their bodies to send a message to M19 and soon enough, Marta Ochoa was released. This event caused Ivan The Terrible to surrender himself to Escobar, and in doing so he offered Simón Bolivar’s sword to him. Instead of killing him, which would have been the Escobar thing to do, he lets him live knowing that having a group of rebels could come in handy at some point.
Back to the Murphys, they are getting used to life in Colombia, only to arrive home one day and notice that it was broken into but nothing was robbed, instead, it’s their dead cat hung from the ceiling. Talk about sending a message.
‘The Sword of Simón Bolivar’ is all about symbols and sending messages. From the cat warning Murphy that he was being watched, Peña caring about his informants’ safety, to Escobar being this evil man with good intentions to help the poor, the man that sleeps with other women but doesn’t let them disrespect his wife. The man that accepted Bolivar’s sword because he believed he would one day too liberate Colombia, Episode 2 gives us the creation of the Medellín Cartel and a sneak peek of Escobar’s vision.