I’m a big fan of this show, mostly because of Wagner Moura’s masterful portrayal of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the first two seasons of the main “Narcos” series. Moura brought humanity to the monster that was Escobar, and it helped that he had perhaps the best supporting cast of any “Narcos” series.
I came into “Narcos: Mexico” knowing that it was essentially an offshoot of an offshoot of the core Escobar tale, as “Narcos” Season 3 focused on Escobar’s rivals in Colombia’s Cali Cartel, making it consequently feel like a spin-off show before we were given a proper spin-off show in “Narcos: Mexico,” if that makes any sense.
“Narcos: Mexico” Season 1 aimed to set back the clock by focusing on one of the first cartels, organized by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) and comprised of all the plazas (drug territories) of Mexico. And it accomplished that by being its own thing, as it was the story of Félix’s rise, and his complex relationship with his associates Rafael “Rafa” Caro Quintero (Tenoch Huerta), who is a loose cannon, and Ernesto “Don Neto” Fonseca Carrillo (Joaquín Cosío), who was somewhat of a father figure to him.
Season 1 also focuses on the DEA Agent Kiki Camerena (Michael Peña), who stumbled upon Félix’s organization and ends up getting killed, which triggers Operation Leyenda, the largest manhunt in DEA history that not only led to the arrests of Don Neto and Rafa, but destabilized Félix’s organization. “Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 largely focuses on DEA Agent Walt Breslin (Scoot McNairy), a beleaguered single parent who is set on avenging Kiki no matter what it takes, even though he didn’t know the guy.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Scoot McNairy is no Michael Peña, who has a surprising amount of range and absolutely nailed his character in the first season of “Narcos: Mexico.” That being said, McNairy isn’t terrible, especially when paired with Mexican Commander Guillermo González Calderoni (Julio Cesar Cedillo), who does more good than harm, but makes it very clear that he will choose his own skin over the Americans every time if it comes to that. Calderoni in an ally that you can trust only so far as you can throw him, which makes his dynamic with Breslin interesting as he is the closest thing to a partner he has. If I have one complaint about Breslin, it’s that his character is a carbon copy of Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) from the first two “Narcos” seasons, which isn’t a deal breaker; I like Steve Murphy, I just wish that Breslin had more to him than a self-destructive demeanor and a desire to get back at the bad guys.
Plaza Boss Pablo Acosta (Gerardo Taracena) and his American girlfriend, Mimi Webb Miller (Sosie Bacon) prove to be central figures in Félix’s demise, as Pablo tires of the life of a narcos and wants to settle down. He’s also tired of Félix, who won’t let him move on and pursue a quiet life with Mimi, so he ends up hurting Félix as much as he can, and represents the first fracture of the very thin alliance he maintains with the plazas.
Félix also maintains a fragile alliance with his organization’s supplier of cocaine (the Cali Cartel), which allowed his organization to grow to where it is at the start of the season, and was the main point of contention between him, Rafa and Don Neto in Season 1, who wanted to continue to sell only weed. His main contact person is Hélmer “Pacho” Herrera (Alberto Ammann), who does all he can to gain leverage over Félix. The plazas start to turn on Félix in Season 2, as Cali has delayed paying them because seizures were up in the United States, despite the fact that the plazas were doing their jobs. Seeing as Cali was their only feasible supplier of cocaine (they do not trust Escobar), this has allowed Cali to effectively do whatever they want.
Félix tries to strike back by forging alliances with outsiders like “Don Juan” Nepomuceno Guerra (Jesús Ochoa) and setting terms with Cali before consulting with the plazas, who he no longer sees as partners, but employees. He even goes so far as to help out Mexico’s only major political party, the PRI, win the country’s presidential elections by essentially using a computer system to rig the vote against an upstart progressive (it bears weary echoes to how the Democratic Party has been treating U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders this election cycle, especially with the online debacle that was the Iowa Caucuses). But none of it is enough, as the plazas’ arrangement with Félix was a purely financial one, and once they see the alliance as no longer in their best interest, they abandon him.
“Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 is still a solid season of television. But it fails to reach the same heights the previous four seasons of the show set. Like “Narcos” Season 3, “Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 feels like we’re getting the scraps of the previous seasons, and the show really feels like it’s starting to run out of steam towards the end.
“Narcos: Mexico” Season 3 is supposedly going to focus on Amado Carrillo Fuentes (José María Yazpik), who seizes control of the Juarez Cartel and has appeared in regular “Narcos” Season 3. So there is a possibility that “Narcos: Mexico” Season 3 will link up more to the main “Narcos” series, which could be interesting.
But with two seasons of Luna’s Félix under my belt, I’m ready to take a long break from this show. This show almost redeemed Luna for me, who put me off with his awful one-dimensional character in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” but I’m convinced that no “Narcos” drug lord will live up to Moura’s Pablo Escobar. Some performances are just like lightning in a bottle that you can’t possibly repeat or live up to, and unfortunately, the three seasons of “Narcos” post-Escobar are stuck firmly in Moura’s shadow.
“Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 gets an 8/10