‘Griselda’ Episode 2 Recap: Sorry for Party Rocking

There’s a professional wrestling podcast I listen to (yes, you heard me) that comes to mind after watching the second episode of Griselda, and not just because Sofia Vergara once took the greatest selfie in the history of professional wrestling. This podcast (it’s called Cheap Heat, credit where due) has a simple standard it applies in terms of critically evaluating what they’re watching: Is it Something? A dull storyline, a perfectly fine match, a predictable feud — these things are not Something. An absolutely wild match, an unpredictable twist, a matchup we’ve never seen before — that’s Something! Even if it winds up not being all that great in the end, hey, at least they tried. At least they’re Something!

Griselda is Something. I don’t know that it’s spectacular, but at least it’s Something!

GRISELDA Ep 2 GRISELDA OPENING TITLE

It’s not because of some earth-shattering plot, mind you. That much is simple: After getting screwed out of her promised deal, Griselda has the brainwave to work around the powers that be and start selling cocaine to rich white people, and assembles the team to help her do it. That team includes a reluctant Carmen, the travel agent for Griselda’s mules; Isabel (Paulina Dávila), an old buddy from her days as a sex worker, who brings a dozen working girls along with her to serve as mules; Arturo (Christian Tappan), her owlish ally from Medellín; Chuchu (Fredy Yate), busboy turned bodyguard; and German Panesso (Diego Trujillo), the cocaine distributor who, impressed with Griselda’s creativity and courage, goes all in on supplying her to the tune of 100 kilos a week. Eventually it also includes Dario (Alberto Guerra, whom you may recognize from Narcos: Mexico as the laid-back independent coke trafficker and sailor El Mayo), a hitman who tracks her down on behalf of her slain boyfriend’s loathsome brother Fernando (Ernesto Alterio) but turns his gun on his boss after he orders him to kill one of Griselda’s sons. (“I’ve never killed a kid,” he explains, repeating it as if to reassure himself. “I’ve never killed a kid.”)

In the process, the team runs afoul of Papo Mejia (The Americans’ Maximiliano Hernández), a mid-level guy who resents Griselda’s entrepreneurship, whether or not his overlord Alcimar feels particularly threatened by it. And though she doesn’t quite know it yet, June (Juliana Aidén Martinez), a Miami PD intelligence analyst and (as thuddingly obvious dialogue lets us know) single mom, is on Griselda’s trail — not that June can convince any of the sexist pigs (wink) she works with that she’s onto anything.

Like I said, nothing groundbreaking here. At least two of Netflix’s crime-drama powerhouses, Narcos and Ozark, did this kind of stuff routinely. But they didn’t do this:

GRISELDA Ep 2 SLOW MOTION SHOT OF THE PARTY

Or this:

GRISELDA Ep 2 COKE PHOTO MONTAGE

Two absolutely rapturous montages — the latter set to a kickass salsafied cover of “Watermelon Man” — stand out as the episode’s absolute highlights. Both of them are dedicated to depicting a single thing: how awesome it would feel to spend the night doing coke with Sofía Vergara. Sold! As long as someone else is picking up the tab, anyway!

No, seriously, I adore these montages, the first of which is done in slo-mo tableaux, the latter as an array of party pics. When it comes to movies and TV shows about drugs, I tend to take the Trainspotting approach: You need to remind audiences that it’s a lot of fun to do this stuff, otherwise why would anyone bother? And indeed, partying in a stuffy rich-person bar or some millionaire’s yacht with all the booze you can swill and yayo you can snort — army of beautiful sex workers and incredible live band optional — is made to look fun here, like a blast, like an absolute riot. This sells the audience on Griselda’s big innovation just as surely as it sells her supplier, which is of course the point.

GRISELDA Ep 2 GRISELDA AT THE BANK OF PAY PHONES

Normally, meanwhile, I’d complain about the show’s overreliance on the dull Obama-era blue-and-orange digital color scheme. (True Detective Season 4 is another offender in a trend I thought we’d left behind as a species.) Look closer, however, and you’ll see that Baiz is doing much of this in-camera. The Griselda team populates every shot with blue and orange props and costumes and set elements: shirts, jackets, dresses, walls, signs, taxicabs, the wheels of a bicycle, a painting of a beach at sunset on the wall of a hotel room at one point. I’m not saying this is Asteroid City, but nor is it just slapping a filter on top of what they shot. Thought went into this. Care went into this. It’s Something!

Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) writes about TV for Rolling StoneVultureThe New York Times, and anyplace that will have him, really. He and his family live on Long Island.