Welcome to our weekly breakdown of the minutia of Kurt Sutter and Elgin James’ Sons of Anarchy spin-off, Mayans MC. While Kimberly Ricci provides her always excellent coverage of the series (here’s her write-up of the debut episode), here we’re going to endeavor to look deeper into the episode and excavate some of the details viewers may have missed, callbacks to Sons of Anarchy, and posit questions about the direction the series.
1. Divided We Fall
We open with the shot of “Divided We Fall,” in English and Spanish (“Divididos Caemos”), which Sutter added in because it’s something he actually saw on the Mexican side of the wall when they were scouting for locations. Sutter liked it, he tells THR, because at the time, it spoke to the relationship between the two countries, as well as the MC world, but it has also gained new meaning recently, because of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Mayans MC is not a political show, Sutter says, but “the world is the world. The climate is the climate. The tensions are the tensions. There are people of color who have struggled from the jump and are being squeezed even more intensely in this current climate. So, they’re going to have a point of view about it.”
2. Something to Crow About
The very first shot of the Sons of Anarchy pilot is of two crows on a paved road with Jax on his motorcycle roaring over them. Meanwhile, the opening shot on Mayans MC is of EZ roaring over another crow that a dog is eating.
It’s both a callback to Sons of Anarchy and a not-so-subtle of way of saying, “This is NOT Sons of Anarchy.”
3. What’s in a Name
JD Pardo plays the leader, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, and while my first thought was that Ezekiel was a Biblical allusion and that Mayans MC was going to reskin the Book of Ezekiel the way that Sons of Anarchy was a retelling of Hamlet, I think I was clearly overthinking it. This one is a bit more obvious: EZ, as in Easy Rider, the 1969 Dennis Hopper film starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson.
4. Marcus Alvarez
A companion series is a show set in the same world with none of same characters (like the first three seasons of Fear the Walking Dead). A spin-off is a series that spins off a character into another show. Mayans MC is sort of a hybrid. The glue connecting the two shoes is really Marcus Alvarez, the leader of the Oakland chapter of the Mayans during Sons of Anarchy but now the “El Padrino,” or Godfather of the entire Mayans motorcycle gang. He comes along with members of his Oakland gang to help the Santo Padre charter deal with Galindo Cartel.
5. Les Packer
Robert Patrick plays another spin-off character in what is almost certainly a simple cameo. Les Packer is the President of the San Bernardino chapter of the Sons of Anarchy, appearing in three episodes in the final two seasons of the original series. He appears here to offer backup to the Mayans in their battle with the Base Town Tribe (BTT), a Samoan-American street gang which is — like Packer — based out of San Bernardino.
6. The Episode Titles
The episode titles this season follow a fairly simple pattern. Each episode is a Spanish name for an animal followed by the name in Mayan (Monsters and Critics broke it down for every episode). Basically, the first episode — Perro/Oc — means Dog, which makes sense given the stray dog that’s seen throughout the episode (some have speculated that the stray dog is Jax Teller reincarnated, which is both a stretch and completely plausible when dealing with Kurt Sutter!)
Expect next week’s episode, “Escorpión/Dzec,” to involve a scorpion.
7. Antologia poetica
I genuinely don’t know if there is any meaning in the books of poetry that EZ and his father discuss, or if they exist only to illustrate that EZ and his father are well read and like poetry. In either respect, the book that EZ’s father gives him is a book of poems by Juan Ramon Jimenez, who is the mentor to the Spanish poet Pedro Salinas, who is EZ’s favorite author. In a way, this interaction also sets up that Felipe (Olmos) is mentor to EZ.
8. Gemma Teller
Yes, that was indeed Gemma Teller viewers witnessed for a split second in a flashback scene to EZ’s time in prison (it’s likely to coincide with the same period in which several SofA characters were in prison). However, it probably was not a simple cameo. This is a Kurt Sutter show, after all, so his wife Katey Sagal will almost certainly have a role, and as Sutter suggested during the Television Critics Association press tour, it may not be the last time we see her: “Having Gemma there in the pilot was fun for us and will speak to something we want to do later on. It’s a little bit of a nod to Sons, but I think also there’s a reason why she was there and we’ll find out what it is later on.”