Mayans M.C.: A Show That Feels Familiar With A Latin Flavor

Mayans MC - Episode 1 "Perro/Oc"
FX Networks

The cynics out there are going to say Mayans M.C. is nothing more than a repackaged version of Sons of Anarchy. While there might be some truth to that and this new series does feel awfully familiar, it’s the cultural differences/Latino angle that make it unique. Keep in mind, there was nothing quite like Sons when it aired back in 2008. Who better to fill the void it left behind when the series ended in 2014 than creator Kurt Sutter himself? Boy is Mayans M.C. up to the task.

I will say, as a fan of early Sons of Anarchy, it was always the family dynamic and brotherhood that appealed to me rather than their violent world. When we met Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), he was already a patched member of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original). That’s the first thing Sutter switches up, as Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (J.D. Pardo) — easily the coolest protagonist name ever — is just a lowly prospect when we first meet him. Santo Padre, CA doubles for Charming from SoA and that opening shot of the border fence is a subtle reminder that the series could not be more timely in this era of Trumpian divisiveness.

While Jax was an only child, EZ has a biological brother named Angel (Clayton Cardenas) who brings him into the fold. Their father Felipe is played by none other than Edward James Olmos, a longtime inspiration to us American Hispanics thanks to his diverse roles in Film/TV as far back as Miami Vice in the 1980s. Sutter and his team definitely got the casting right for Mayans M.C. Not only does James Olmos elevate the show to another level, but Pardo is a surprisingly strong lead, as EZ holds up to Jax really well which is no easy feat.

Mayans MC - Episode 1 "Perro/Oc"
FX Networks

The high school flashback introduced Emily (Sarah Bolger) as EZ’s sweetheart at the time. Aside from the fact everyone in the club calls him boy scout, those scenes helped paint our hero in a different light. Of course we know he did time, though it’s not clear if he truly killed a cop or not, but Ezekiel is one of the good guys. I’m sure over the course of this first season we’re going to learn how fate brought him to this point in his life. Does it tie in to the death of his mom, another lingering mystery? Anyway, the fact Emily is now married to drug kingpin Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino) complicates matters. As does the fact the couple’s young son is probably EZ’s biological kid. Aye yai yai! Things are gonna get messy, but so far the story’s easy enough to follow.

Not so much with the introduction of “Los Desaparecidos” or the victims of the cartel that live out in the desert. I’ll admit, the animal masks were a cool visual, but how Adelita (Carla Baratta) and her ragtag group of vigilantes fit into the larger story remains to be seen. Clearly she and EZ will hook up at some point, but I can’t help wonder if this arc should have been introduced a little later in the season. I mean, we’ve also got the mysterious DEA agent Kevin Jimenez (Maurice Compte) adding yet another layer to EZ as “informant.” It’s possible Sutter and Co. are throwing too much at us. True, this is the pilot and basically sets the groundwork for the first season’s 10 episodes.

While there’s violence to spare and the big action sequences, the Vegas dress run and cemetery shootout delivered, I’d hate to see an overly intricate narrative overshadow the character development. The early seasons of Sons were deep dives into character. That’s why I fell in love with that show. By comparison, Mayans M.C.’s first hour solely focused on EZ. Which is fine, as long as backstories for Bishop, Taza, Tranq, Riz, El Coco, Creeper, Gilly and everyone else are forthcoming. Aside from EZ, Angel (brother and cartel traitor) and their pop Felipe, the other players came across as interchangeable and easily disposable. I was surprised Angel came clean so soon, right? Shouldn’t his treachery have built up over several episodes, possibly coming to a head in the finale? Then again, that’s probably my baggage from Sons‘ later seasons creeping up, but hopefully Sutter and Elgin James have locked down a killer first season.

Mayans MC - Episode 1 "Perro/Oc"
FX Networks

Man, seeing those jackets and bikes certainly took me back. In the years since Sons aired, I made a conscious decision to stick exclusively to genre programming. Anything involving space travel, superheroes, dragons or vampires/witches is what fills up my DVR of late. There’s just too much real-world violence on the news these days to tune-in to that as entertainment. Yes, Sons of Anarchy became a bit of a convoluted mess, storywise, toward the end. The death of Tara was the last straw for me, because when our hero has no hope left and is headed toward a collision course with death… I’m out. I confess, I never watched the final season of Sons.

Shows like The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones are known for their “unpredictable” deaths, but let’s be honest there are certain characters that writers should not freakin’ mess with. Aside from the drug/gang culture not appealing to me, what worries me about Mayans M.C. is the inevitable body count. Honestly, I’d be very surprised if Felipe makes it to a second season. Tell me his butcher’s meat locker isn’t going to come into play at some point? Either way, the creative team have given us plenty to chew on and I might just stick around for the ride.

By the way, how cool was that Gemma Teller-Morrow (Katey Sagal) cameo? Emilio Rivera (Marcus Alvarez) and Robert Patrick (President Les Packer) popping up were nice callbacks too.

 

Were you a Sons of Anarchy fan? Is Mayans M.C. one of the new shows you plan to catch this season? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the premiere in the comments below!

Mayans M.C. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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