9:01am PT by Jackie Strause
How 'Narcos' Upped the Ante for Season 2 With 'Mexico' Finale
[This story contains major spoilers from the full season of Netflix's Narcos: Mexico.]
Narcos: Mexico planted its seed for another season by revealing the identity of its narrator in the final scene.
After listening to the English-speaking narrator guide viewers through 10 episodes of the newest chapter in the Netflix drug-cartel saga, the voice of Narcos: Mexico stepped in front of the camera in the final moments to reveal himself as "Walt," the next DEA agent who would presumably take over the series' "good guy" throne and who is played by Scoot McNairy.
Both the character of Walt and McNairy's casting were kept secret by Netflix ahead of the season's launch (on Nov. 16), unlike the previous three seasons of Narcos where one of the main stars also narrated. The character's full name, Walt Breslin, is revealed in the season's closing credits. The secrecy was intentional, according to showrunner Eric Newman, so the moment could come as a surprise to viewers.
"If it’s the end, it’s just the continuing revolving doors of, 'Here comes the new guy and this time we’re going to get it right,'" Newman explained to THR. "We’ve now seen that with agents Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Pena (Pedro Pascal) in seasons one and two, Pena alone in season three, Kiki Camarena (Michael Pena) in Narcos: Mexico, and now a new guy, who is basically going to come down and probably get nothing done and the cycle will continue."
Narcos: Mexico, the fourth season of Narcos overall, has yet to be officially renewed by Netflix, but the cliffhanger promise made by Walt's introduction sets the stage for the next chapter in the Mexico drug war to be told. The episode's title, "Layenda," refers to Operation Layenda, the task force that was set up by the DEA to bring about indictments for everyone responsible for the death of agent Kiki Camarena (Pena), the "first martyr in the drug war," Newman explained of the real-life story. In Narcos: Mexico, Walt has been brought in to employ a "different approach" in Mexico and run that task force. (Update: Netflix has since renewed Narcos: Mexico with returning stars Luna and McNairy.)
"Of course, if we do continue, that’s something we could explore." Newman said of what comes next after Camarena's death in 1985, a pivotal event that would shape how the DEA would confront the continuing war on drugs. All of the previous Narcos narrators were alive by the season's end, whereas Camarena is no longer around to tell this story. "What both the archival footage and narrator voiceover does is that it reminds people that it’s real. You realize, 'Oh, that happened.'"
Indeed, Camarena's abduction and death, and the fallout, has been documented for years in the media, including a Time magazine cover and Elaine Shannon's acclaimed book Desperados: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can't Win, which was used as a resource for Narcos: Mexico. Newman and the producers were able to speak to Camarena's family, partners and boss — the real James Kuykendall (played by Matt Letscher on the series) who served as a consultant on the season. "Thankfully, a lot of these people are still alive," said Newman of the fact-finding portion of the season. "We were able to talk to some of the great Mexican journalists who have covered this for a long time, as well as cops and former politicians. It allowed us to tell a story that was as authentic as we could make it, without being able to read peoples’ minds."
While Newman remained tight-lipped about where exactly a hypothetical second season of Narcos: Mexico would go, the showrunner, who has an overall series deal with Netflix, expressed that he hopes to continue with the drug-cartel saga "as long as they’ll let me do it." Considering the ongoing Mexican drug war today, he explained of the abundance of story material, "Unfortunately, I don’t know that we’ll ever catch up because each year there is a new turn."
In addition to introducing Walt, the season also sets up the story of Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna) to continue. After making the call to kill Camarena, despite the foreseen consequences, Felix uses the corruption within the Mexican police and government to his advantage. Felix leveraged the tapes they recorded of Camarena's confessions while he was tortured, promising to hide the identities of those on his payroll in exchange for his power back. At the end of the season, he reassumes control of his Guadalajara cartel and now he's backed by the Mexican army.
"I told you back in the beginning this story doesn't have a happy ending," narrator Walt explains at the season's end. "What happened in Guadalajara in the early '80s was the beginning. The last moment before it all got fucked up. Spun out of control. It was that moment when it all fell apart. What happened in Guadalajara gave birth to the first cartel. From that, others would follow. And the violence and money and drugs, they just fucking explode. It changed the DEA, too. Maybe it woke us up, I don't know. But it's where the first shot was fired, the one that started the drug war. And after that, none of it would be the same. How could it be?"
The real Felix Gallardo is currently serving a 37-year prison sentence for the death of Camarena, but there is a long chain of events still to be told between where Narcos: Mexico ends and up to Gallardo's sentencing. Even in the current timeline, his partner Rafa Quintero (played by Tenoch Huerta on the series) was in jail when production on Narcos: Mexico began and now he is a wanted man. "I think you get $20 million if you can find Rafa. He’s wanted by U.S. authority because he’s back in the trafficking game," said Newman of the story continuing to evolve.
As for Luna, the actor (who also just booked a starring role in the Star Wars' Rogue One prequel series for Disney's forthcoming streaming service), said Narcos: Mexico could have five seasons' worth of story still to tell before arriving at the present, but he also remained tight-lipped about returning if the series is renewed. "Right now, the only thing I hope is that the story we told gets seen by people and opens up a debate," he told THR ahead of launch. "I’m just thinking about that. It’s difficult to talk about the future, because I want to see the reaction before I even think of keep going."
The season, which is billed as a reset, also cemented its place within what can now be called the Narcos universe. The other big season surprise came in episode five, titled "Socios," when Wagner Moura reprised his role as Pablo Escobar in order to show the origins of how the business relationship between Gallardo and the Colombian cartels was established in the mid-1980s. The crossover episode also featured three of the Cali cartel bosses from season three. "I’ve always sort of seen this as of the Marvel superhero universe of connecting narcotraffickers, and that they all coexist," Newman said of the character returns, while leaving the door ajar for the narco kingpins of previous seasons to return if the show continues along the Mexico timeline.
And if Narcos: Mexico does return, Walt makes a promise that everything will change when he delivers the season's final line: "It didn't matter if we'd ever met him or not, Kiki Camarena was one of us. He was ours. And when he was killed, we knew we were in a war. Now, it was our turn. Pretty soon, they were gonna know, they were in one too."
Narcos: Mexico is now streaming all 10 episodes on Netflix. Keep up with THR's show coverage here.