Spoilers ahead for Narcos: Mexico.
If you, at any point during your viewing of Narcos: Mexico, googled Kiki Camarena, then you already knew how this story ends. The finale of Narcos: Mexico is a confirmation of your worst suspicions. Kiki Camarena (Michael Pena), the DEA agent with a relentless can-do attitude and a Boy Scout spirit, does not make it out of his posting at Guadalajara alive. In the ongoing cat-and-mouse chase that is Narcos: Mexico, the mouse — backed by much of Mexican law enforcement — wins, though even the mouse doesn’t seem happy about it.
As is true for the rest of the show, the Narcos: Mexico finale is a blend of truth and creative liberties. Was Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna) as torn-up about Camarena's abduction as he seems to be in the show? Did Mika (Alyssa Diaz) really stand in the lobby of Felix’s hotel, swaying aimlessly with grief? Did Felix and Kiki really have a final confrontation in an interrogation cell? We can’t know. But we do know what happened to Kiki — and how his fate inevitably sets up an even bloodier next season of Narcos: Mexico. In many ways, the story of Gallardo and Camarena's intertwined fates is the prologue to the Mexican Drug Wars.
What happened to Kiki Camarena?
Since arriving in Guadalajara in 1981, Camarena had been working to crack the seemingly impenetrable Guadalajara Cartel. Eventually, he made a breakthrough. Camarena, with the help of pilot Alfredo Zavala Avelar, found the location of Rancho Bufalo, the 1,344-acre plantation where the cartel grew all of its marijuana. In 1984, the DEA tipped the Mexican Army with the location of the plantation, leading to a massive raid. According to the Wall Street Journal, the army seized anywhere between 2,500 to 6,000 tons of marijuana, amounting to $3.2 billion to $8 billion in today's prices. It was the largest marijuana seizure in history.
But Camarena's biggest victory led to his downfall. Allegedly, the Guadalajara Cartel's Rafael Caro Quintero (Tenoch Huerta in the show) was angry about the raid and ordered Kiki's abduction. In the Netflix show, the DFS intelligence unit also wants Camarena taken down because of what he might know about the police's collaboration with the cartel.
Nevertheless, Kiki's abduction was for naught. What the DFS in Narcos: Mexico doesn't know is that the DEA had been ordered to stop all investigations. Kiki and his DEA agent co-worker were both being transferred back to the United States within a month.
On the morning of February 7, 1985, Camarena was abducted while walking to meet his wife, Geneva (Alyssa Diaz), for lunch (the timeline is seemingly collapsed in the show). He was interrogated and tortured. In the finale of Narcos: Mexico, Camarena and Gallardo have a man-to-man confrontation as cinematic (and improbable) as Gallardo's earlier interaction with Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) in episode 5. A month after his kidnapping, Camarena’s body, along with that of the pilot, was found on a farm in the western state of Michoacan. Camarena was murdered — and it changed everything.
What is Operación Leyenda?
At the end of the season, we get a brand-new DEA — a DEA imbued with the power Camarena had so craved. Camarena's death prompted the DEA to put together a task force called Operación Leyenda, which translates to Operation Legend. The finale is called "Leyenda" in a nod to Camarena's legacy, and as a foreshadowing to the next step in the DEA's history.
At the end of the episode, we get a glimpse of this new DEA. They're a bunch of lanky, tanned men shaped in the mold of Camarena's co-worker Jaime Kuykendall (Matt Lescher). They're undercover agents posing as fishermen and deadbeats – but they have guns, and they have targets.
Camarena's death also had repercussions for how the DEA handled threats in the future in all of its offices. "Because of the Camarena case, even the mere allegation of a threat is the tripwire that unleashes DEA's fury," Jay Bergman, former regional director of the DEA's Andean office, told the Los Angeles Times. "The message is loud and clear: Just thinking about harming an agent will turn your world upside down."
What happened to Felix Gallardo?
In their final conversation, a beat-up Kiki Camarena issues a prediction to Felix. "You fucked up, man," he says. Camarena would know better than anyone. Gallardo has staked his entire empire on the protection of the government and the DFS. He made a deal with "serpents," as Don Neto (Joaquín Cosio) had called them. Without their protection, Gallardo is nothing.
That's exactly what Gallardo leans into the finale. Camarena's death leads to intense media scrutiny. Soon, the entire enterprise unravels, and the DFS is revealed to be entirely corrupt. Cops turn on each other. It's a mess. Don Neto and Gallardo need to get out. Don Neto goes to Puerto Vallarta for one last spurt of hedonism before prison (or death). Gallardo calls on his last reliable government contact: His former boss and godfather, the governor of Sinaloa Leopoldo Celis. Celis agrees to let him stay in his safe house for three days before fleeing to Latin America. However, Celis sells out his location to Comandante Calderoni (César Cedillo), who is working with the DEA.
Even with a gun to his head, Felix is able to negotiate for his freedom. Felix has six tapes from Camarena's investigation; in two of the tapes, Camarena names high-ranking officials that had been corrupt (including the Secretary of Defense). Felix gives Calderoni the chance to take the tapes and protect his bosses, in exchange for letting Felix go free. Essentially, the dude gets away with it. He takes control over his cartel, once again with the protection of the government.
So, the cat-and-mouse game isn't over, but the dynamics have changed. For one, Felix is the leader of a slightly crippled cartel, now missing its two other leaders. And, more importantly for season 5, he finally has an opponent with teeth.