Mayans MC episode 1 ‘Perro/Oc’ review: Why Sons of Anarchy spin-off was worth the wait

Michael Irby as President Bishop in Mayans MC. Pic credit: FX

After an extended wait following the announcement of the pilot reshoot, it is safe to say the wait for Mayans MC was worth it. The premiere, titled Perro/Oc, meets many expectations while still leaving room for surprises.

Mayans MC takes place in the fictional border town of Santo Padre, California. The main character Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo), newly released from prison is adapting to the tasks that his new life as a prospect in the Mayans MC entails.

Emilio Rivera guest stars as Marcus Alvarez. Pic credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Perro/Oc wastes no time getting to the point early on. The plot of Mayans MC builds upon a subplot from Sons of Anarchy, this time through the point of view of the Mayans MC.

Mayans MC National president Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera) has maintained a deal with the Galindo cartel for nearly a decade and his Santo Padre Charter is now caught up in the middle of more than he could have anticipated several years ago.

The times have since changed and many new players have entered the game, a metaphor that is visually conveyed through the directorial skills of Norberto Barba as two middle-aged men sit outside Filipe Reyes’ (Edward James Olmos) butcher shop playing a game of chess.

The opening shot begins with a graffiti-marked wall reading “Divided We Fall”. A deliberate hint at all Perro/Oc has to offer, as this theme rings true throughout the entire first episode.

JD Pardo stole the show in his portrayal of an intelligent college hopeful whose life took an unexpected turn

JD Pardo as EZ Reyes. Pic credit: James Minchin/FX

Pardo’s performance is made up of subtle nuances that open a door to Ezekiel’s head when he is not speaking. We quickly learn how and why EZ’s life changed and as JD Pardo portrays EZ’s embarrassment and detachment in a flashback, he shows the audience that while one circumstance may have been out of his hands he is all the more responsible for his relationship as a result of his deliberate distance from Emily.

Clayton Cardenas (Angel Reyes) came in as a close second in terms of performance. His portrayal of Angel Reyes makes one feel at ease, yet nervous as he pulls off playing two very different sides of his character.

The pairing of Richard Cabral (Coco) with Vincent Rocco Vargas (Gilly) made for interactions that make clear something is stronger brewing. Do not mistake the side glances, head nods or the casual checking of a text message for anything other than deliberate. Pay close attention to these nonverbal exchanges, they are important.

Sarah Bolger (Emily Thomas) plays the wife of Miguel Galindo, the current Galindo Cartel kingpin. While she does not appear much in Perro/Oc, a substantial impression is still made.

Sarah Bolger uses facial expressions and nervous touching to display that despite the fact that Emily is surrounded by chauffeurs, nannies and unmeasurable wealth- she is missing something. Emily feels alone and this is a credit to Sarah Bolger to be able to portray Emily’s thoughts and feelings with body language alone.

Carla Baratta as Adelita. Pic credit: James Minchin/FX

Carla Baratta’s character Adelita should not be taken for granted, as she acts as the axis for the main plot. More could be said about Adelita, but that would spoil too much.

To say the script is well written is an understatement. There is no dialogue that does not serve a purpose and time is not wasted with exposition. Every line delivered by the actors moves the plot forward in the right direction, taking pauses for occasional comedic banter to lighten the mood.

The use of action and violence, while at the moment puts you on edge, is later built upon as part of a necessary plot device. This makes a secondary watch all the more uncomfortably intense, not due to the violent nature of the episode, but because you know why these things are happening.

There is not a single nude or sex scene in this episode, and excluding a nude or sex scene in the first episode actually does Perro/Oc some good. Many television series will try to grab viewers by throwing in gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, especially in the first few episodes, and the premiere of Mayans MC proves it is more business than pleasure.

Perro/Oc does not focus heavily on familiarities previously seen in Sons of Anarchy

The plot is believable as the main premise is a thread of continuation from what we know of Marcus Alvarez while adding a fresh perspective from his Santo Padre club president Bishop (Michael Irby) and the remaining full patch members with title positions at the table. The inner workings of the Mayans MC Santo Padre charter were interesting from the get-go.

If you can take a step back and not analyze the messes left behind in the wake of the MC, episode 1 is well-constructed. The dialogue reveals crucial information without handing you too much at one time.

Just enough is revealed about EZ Reyes through flashbacks to pick up on who he is without elaborating on too much backstory. For the remaining characters, their presence keeps things fluid, focusing attention primarily on the twists involving Angel and EZ Reyes.

By spending little time going over each Santo Padre club member, you are left wanting more in the future. Making you look forward to those tiny moments later in the season devoted to each individual character as their stories are slowly revealed.

The Spanish language is used in small doses, offering subtitles only when needed as you quickly learn if you are a non-Spanish speaker what is being conveyed when subtitles are not used.

There are a couple nods to the Sons of Anarchy, but they are so brief and subtle that you do not necessarily need to have watched the original series Sons of Anarchy to enjoy Perro/Oc.

One criticism concerns a particular appearance in a flashback. The appearance may serve as a welcomed delight to some viewers, but it did not contribute much to the plot, as it was brief and the focus of the scene was on the main character and his backstory.

Should this appearance be built upon in future episodes, these words will be quickly eaten and washed down with a bourbon. That criticism aside, the premiere holds its own and is an excellent start to the Mayans MC series.

With Perro/Oc running just over 1 hour, the pacing rarely slows. Directed by Norberto Barba (Grimm, Law & Order), he sets the stage for the rest of the season. Norberto Barba takes what writers and co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James put on the page and makes it a reality.

Shots are not overdrawn nor do they linger at an uncomfortably long level. While being entangled in the chaos of the club, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of the world created by Kurt Sutter and Elgin James.

Barba devotes enough shots to give you a sense of the world the Mayans live in without feeling like a destination feature on the Travel Channel. There are plenty of creative shots, as well. Allowing the camera to put the audience in its place peering out a car windshield in the busy streets of Mexico while the Santo Padre club members make haste to an undisclosed location.

The camera rarely sits still or pulls you out of each situation, following the characters as they deliver valuable information. Each shot shows you exactly what you need to see and nothing more, forcing your attention to where it is needed most.

The production department, set design and location supervising talents contributed greatly to the creation of this world. From time-worn exterior buildings to the rustic interior of the Santo Padre Clubhouse, the industrial feel best represents the border town charter. The costume department must also be acknowledged. Roland Sanchez serves as the costume designer for Perro/Oc.

The Santo Padre Charter Club members, while they wear the same Southern California patch, have subtle variations in their kuttes allowing each man to stand out. Without spoilers, the character design from Felipe Reyes all the way to Miguel Galindo tells you who they are without the need for dialogue.

A fan shares sentiment for the new chapter

The best part of Perro/Oc has to be the opening credit sequence. As we watch the opening credits, it is apparent that we have left Northern California and entered into new territory.

The bold and characterized text font we saw in the Sons of Anarchy opening credits is replaced by a more subtle text font as each actor, writer and producer are given credit as the sequence commences.

Rather than a punchy and contrasted feel, we are treated not to the tattoos of characters but purposely shot items complete with a new main title theme, performed by David Hidalgo & Los Refugio Tiernos, titled “Nunca” to hit home that we are not in Charming anymore.

Bob Thiele Jr returns to Mayans MC as the music composer, who uses his talented ear to set not only the cultural tone of Mayans MC but the overall mood as well. You can hear the Perro/Oc soundtrack here.

As I began my third rewatch of Perro/Oc, I was still left wanting more. The premiere of Mayans MC met my expectations and exceeded them at the same time.

With Noberto Barbra having directed the next episode, I cannot wait to see how the events established in the premiere are built upon in episode 2.

If Mayans MC continues this pacing in terms of writing from Sutter and James for the remainder of the season, then the second installation to the Sutterverse may prove to be better than Sons of Anarchy.

Mayans MC 102 “Escorpión/Dzec” airs Tuesday, September 11 on FX.

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