Do you like violence? Graphic scenes of criminals in action? Come right in. No filtered and glossy Hallmark moments here. Make every effort to watch or record Mayans MC tonight on FX.
The network’s surprise breakout hit series Sons of Anarchy lasted seven seasons and regularly noted the larger cast of characters inhabiting this shadowy 1%-er world.
That series, led by Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, and showrunner Kurt Sutter’s wife Katie Sagal, frequently interacted with and discussed the vast biker world that they navigated.
Mayans MC picks up the storytelling baton a few years down the road and races away with it in a profoundly entertaining fashion.
Now the dusty quiet locale of Charming, California, is replaced with the town of Santo Padre, a grittier little community down in the southernmost border of the state.
This is a continuance of Kurt Sutter’s “grab you by the lapels” storytelling legacy from Sons and no symbolism is lost. The heavily Mexican tinged mythology kicks off as the opener sees the emblematic crow, made famous in Sons of Anarchy, presented as rotting road kill.
There’s a new cast of outlaws with histories, loyalties, and allegiances woven into the larger tapestry of outlaw bikers. Mayans MC are in charge.
The first takeaway viewers will notice is the exceptional lensing and camerawork of director Norberto Barba (he directs the first two episodes), along with his crack group of cinematographers led by Lisa Wiegand. You are visually pulled right in, head over biker boots.
The series gives shots to a diverse array of directors, with episode 103 directed by Guy Ferland, episode 104 by Hanelle M. Culpepper, 105 by Sebastian “Batan” Silva, 106 by Felix Acala, and 107 by Rachel Goldberg. Sutter’s big “get” from Sons’ days, Peter Weller, is the director for episode 108.
The primary fuel for the Mayans is muling dope for the Galindo crime family, the heroin hidden in blocks tucked inside the folds of Quinceanera dresses and distributed in a violent and unforgiving way.
The “Jax” of this series is the handsome prospect Ezekiel ‘EZ’ Reyes (JD Pardo). He is savant smart, as flashbacks reveal this one fell far from a college trajectory and mainstreaming into an affluent “This American Life”. Something made him take a very big detour.
Felipe Reyes, played by Edward James Olmos, gives the entire teleplay an air of class and gravitas. He is an intellectual at heart, law-abiding small business owner and patriarch of EZ Reyes’ family.
Don’t doubt that Felipe can level you with a gaze and he is as tough as any of the bikers his sons ride with currently. Yet he works honestly for a living and sees his two sons in different lights.
EZ and Angel are night and day in their personalities. Angel Reyes, played by Clayton Cardenas, is an earthy soul who loves his brother and knows he is less of an academic. He is also acutely aware he is not his father’s favorite.
Sutter’s projects are noted for the great songs laid into the right scenes and moments. Like Sons, the grease to this visceral storytelling is the incredible and energetic soundtrack, thanks to the work of Bob Thiele Jr.
Familiar faces from the Sons’ world are here. Emilio Rivera returns as the Oakland charter president, Marcus Alvarez. Alvarez was always a reasonable leader in past Sons’ storylines, whose differences with that group were often mediated and assuaged, but his temper was always a lightning rod to be watched.
The Galindo cartel is the wildcard in the story mix. That is the driving energy that sets it all in motion as the Mayans are part of the mechanism for enforcement and distribution.
Galindo chieftain Miguel (Danny Pino) is a Cornell graduate with fashion sense and a taste for torture. His major thorn in his business plan is the Los Olvidados rebel group who want to dismantle the cartel.
As with Sons, there will be internal conflicts and push-pulls of loyalties, notably between Angel, and the club president, Bishop (Michael Irby). And like Sons, there will be more plot centered on men as the women in this series — an integral part of the story — are most certainly not the overarching focus.
A compelling matriarch like Gemma from Sons is not here as of yet. After viewing two episodes of the series, no intense chemistry, like the Sons’ Jax and Tara dynamic, is evident in play either. That can be an issue, as the Jax-Tara chemistry along with the ballsy jaw-dropping performance of Sagal as Gemma lit the fuse of that testosterone tale before Mayans.
Caught in that manly matrix is EZ who will constantly test his biological fraternal bonds with those of his new family, the brothers of the MC. Of note is the work of Richard Cabral cast as Coco, who will be a fan favorite for sure with his subversive humor.
Unexpected humor, authentic biker banter, raw graphic violence, and cinematic production values will ensure that FX is squarely back in the Sutter business for a long time coming.
This review is based on two episodes sent to Television Critics Association members for review purposes.
Mayans MC 10-episode first season will premiere on FX on September 4, 2018, at 10:00 p.m. ET.