Star Rating:

Narcos: Mexico

Streaming On: Watch Narcos: Mexico on Netflix

Season: 3

Actors: Scoot McNairy, Jose Maria Yazpik

Release Date: Friday 5th November 2021

Genre(s): Crime, Drama

Running time: 600 minutes

There's a scene in the final episode of 'Narcos: Mexico' that pretty much summarises the entire franchise. "The War on Drugs?" says one DEA agent. "I think the drugs are winning," says the other. The one thing that 'Narcos', and its Mexican counterpart, has never done is show the glitz and glamour of the drug trafficker's lifestyle. Whenever we saw Pablo Escobar at the height of his power, Wagner Moura's performance as Escobar felt restrained and almost morose about the trappings of wealth. Later, when the series transitioned to the so-called 'Gentlemen of Cali', the business-like nature of their enterprise gave it a cold, distant remove. 'Narcos: Mexico', however, changed the script yet again. The excellent first season culminated with Diego Luna's character, Felix Gallardo, calmly and brutally torturing Michael Pena's DEA agent character in a sunny but admittedly rundown house somewhere in the capital city. The second season saw the criminal enterprise expand and contract in the course of ten episodes, with Diego Luna's character promising even more bloodshed with his absence.

The third season opens with Amado Carillo Fuentes, played by José María Yázpik, crash-landing his jalopy plane in the desert as the Mexican military close in on him. Cut to three months later, Amado's out of prison and realises that the world has essentially moved on without him. His estranged daughter has passed away, his trafficking partner has effectively reduced him to that on an employee, and he begins to wonder about his place in the world. Meanwhile, the Arellanos and the Sinaloa Cartel are beginning to square up to one another as the Arellanos move to legitimise their businesses, while the younger members of the family grow increasingly wild. All while this is happening, NAFTA looms in the air and promises a new Mexico for anyone who lives to see it.

Filmed in a much more dynamic way than previous seasons, the final season of 'Narcos: Mexico' doesn't necessarily represent the end of drug trafficking, but rather that it merely explains the origins of the globalised drug trade as we know it today. In the case of both of 'Narcos' and the two previous seasons of 'Narcos: Mexico', we saw how the US was effectively ineffective in stemming the rise of the drug trade, and that despite people's best efforts, the actors may change but the story is still the same. In this final season, it speaks more to how NAFTA, globalisation, and corporate scaling made the drug trade one of the defining business interests of our age. It's not glamourous, it's not sexy, it's certainly not anything to be glorified or exalted. What 'Narcos: Mexico' does is really make drug trafficking seem like a boring enterprise that's interspersed with idiotic shootouts that lead to nowhere. Indeed, one particular shootout at an airport catalyses the downfall of two of the major drug traffickers and the intended targets of said shootout escape unharmed.

Throughout the final season, each of the major players are confronted with the realisation that maybe their efforts have ultimately been for nought. Scoot McNairy, taken off narration duties this time around, is beginning to realise that his time spent in the DEA hasn't really been about busting up drug rings, but atoning for his own personal problems and escaping any kind of meaningful relationship. José María Yázpik's aviating drug trafficker ponders why he's lived such an aimless life, only to grab hold of it before it eventually becomes empty and unfulfilling even as he tries to find love with a Cuban musician. There's an intriguing, but again ultimately unfulfilled, subplot about a serial killer in Tijuana, while another involves a crusading journalist desperate to uncover the ties between the highest halls of power in Mexico with drug trafficking that ends with Janet Reno - yes, the US Secretary of State - making a surprise cameo and fucking the whole thing up.

Showrunner Carlo Bernard and his team of writers are exhaustive in detailing each episode with information and tying strands together, not to mention, looping in real-life footage to back everything up. The depth in each episode is such that you can't just watch 'Narcos: Mexico' passively or even with a modicum of interest, because there's so much to wade through. It isn't not overstuffed necessarily, but you do come away from each episode of 'Narcos: Mexico' in a haze. The performances by all concerned, from lead characters right through to the supporting cast, play their roles with real conviction and the true-life nature of the show only adds to that. Even their costume design reflects where each character is at - the Sinaloans, who hail from the rural mountains areas of Mexico dress almost like farmers, while the Arellanos of Tijuana dress more like nouveau-riche yuppies.

Yet for all their trappings, their expensive cars, the endless gaudiness of it, 'Narcos: Mexico' doesn't have to work all that hard at examining how it's ultimately drug trafficking is ultimately a fleeting thing, and that eventually, the major players are swept away and a new order arises that will eventually be replaced by something else. Permanency in this world is an illusion. That 'Narcos: Mexico' ends on a pretty hopeless note, with Scoot McNairy's DEA agent alone on Christmas no less about to make contact with yet another criminal to begin an infiltration, shouldn't be surprising to anyone. As much as things change, things remain the same.

The players and the cast might change, the scenery might change, even the title of the series might change, but people don't change.