WARNING: Spoilers for premiere of Mayans M.C. will be found below.
The debut episode of Mayans M.C. introduced a whole new club to recapture fan thirst from Sons of Anarchy loyalists, who showed up to make FX’s newest series the most watched cable premiere of the year. Co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James honored existing mythology while setting up higher stakes, for which hidden agendas (most of which are believably fine-tuned, even with much upfront double-crossing involved) have already poured out. “Escorpion/Dzec,” the second episode, makes those challenges personal on multiple levels, but we should talk about that title, since this biker universe digs symbolism.
As our own Dustin Rowles noted, this season’s titles follow a telltale format — the Spanish/Mayan name of an animal for each episode. Last week, a lingering stray dog prevailed (is it Jax reincarnated?), and this week’s installment features the titular scorpion at a few key moments: (1) While the child of cartel leader Miguel Galindo is kidnapped; and (2) When the Mayans notice escaped dogs barking near a kennel that also houses lost children in cages. It’s plausible that the scorpion arrives in the spirit animal totem sense, to forecast change on the horizon — that is, the army of Los Olvidados (“Forgotten Children”) rebels are working to overthrow the cartel after decades of brutality.
For what it’s worth, the Mayans M.C. Twitter account recently tweeted a crude drawing of a scorpion atop a gun with a “the table decides your fate” caption. The club table? Who knows, but there’s not much time for the club to think about scorpions because sh*t is going down, and worlds are colliding all over the place. Perhaps most entertainingly in terms of nostalgia, the show builds upon the cameos (Gemma and the San Bernardino SAMCRO president) from last week by adding in another familiar face. That would be Chucky Marstein, (Michael Ornstein), who’s working at the salvage yard where Coco (wait for it) researches porn (more on that later). Thankfully, Chucky’s not preparing to cook chili in this chapter.
More substantially, this episode develops evolving club dynamics while prospect EZ swiftly wins the respect of seasoned members. Whereas he was punched for speaking out of turn last week, he now receives a pat on the back from club President Obispo “Bishop” Losa after mouthing off to Miguel. EZ can’t hide his resulting uneasiness, since he fears club blowback for whatever he’s doing to help the DEA. Elsewhere, well-executed action goes down, including when the Mayans descend upon the kennel for an all-out brawl with invaders. Some humor surfaces during the violence when Bishop halts his fight with Miguel’s braided mercenary. They part ways with a smile while letting the others have “a few more minutes” to work out their differences. It’s an amusing moment.
A larger arc featured in this episode revolves around Emily’s burgeoning awakening. Much of this has to do with a viral video made by the rebel group, and the clip’s gimmicky as hell but gets the point across without adding 15 minutes to the episode, which is always appreciated, but back to Emily. She’s certainly not a female character that’s anywhere near as powerful as Gemma, the matriarch who wielded plenty of behind-the-scenes heft. Emily’s much more like a Mafia wife, who knows that evil is afoot but doesn’t know details. Yet now that her child’s life hangs in the balance, Emily demands the truth.
Miguel, of course, icily shuts Emily down. He’s already been encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps and sacrifice the baby to show the rebels that he will not yield. He’s internally tormented, and Danny Pino (yes, SVU‘s Danny Pino) effectively communicates Miguel’s polished-monster persona, something he must uphold while ruling a bloodthirsty organization. When he steps outside to talk with an associate, Emily glances through the window in a moment that mirrors The Godfather scene where Kay horrifically witnesses Michael Corleone amid the “kiss the ring” tradition. After such a betrayal, we can likely expect Emily — who later asks EZ for help — to fall into her ex-boyfriend’s arms at some point.
Speaking of that lost love … the disappearance of Emily’s baby weighs heavily upon EZ because she aborted their many child. He wants to find the baby to make things right, but the emotional performances of J.D. Pardo and Sarah Bolger don’t quite ring true yet. This feels forced by both actors, but we’ll see how that develops. The baby, for now, is fine, as Mayans member Angel learns while meeting with Los Olvidados leader Adelita, who’s referred to as the “rebel bitch” by the cartel. So many double crosses, right? And a few charred corpses later remind everyone what’s at stake, but also, there’s Coco’s dilemma.
Another world collision arrives when the Mayans chase a member of the Dogwood crew, ending in a literal crash. Coco then feigns shock and pain over the thug’s wild apology for putting his (supposed) little sister in a porn video. This apparent betrayal results in a sweet deal for an increased drug cut, and Coco laughs the whole thing off with the club because — silly rabbit — he only has older sisters. Yet Coco later realizes … oh hell, he might have a little sister after all. So we meet his mom, who seems like a real piece of work, with the hint that we’ll learn a lot more about her soon. Poor Coco.
Some scattered thoughts:
— What are we to make of the scorpion appearances? I lean toward the spirit animal theory as mentioned above, but it’s not likely that we’ll see a definitive explanation. It could be as simple as sociologist DaShanne Stokes’ quote, “If you lay with a scorpion, don’t be surprised when it finally stings you.” It’s also possible that the scorpion is being used to evoke multiple biblical references, but as Rowles pointed out last week, Sutter appears to have shunned the biblical meaning of EZ’s full name, so the stinger significance is a toss-up.
— The semi-wild gathering at the clubhouse with old ladies and girlfriends was overdue, since folks were probably wondering if these guys have any fun. Also good to see was Oakland Mayans President Marcus Alvarez having a word and a drink with Angel, who also feels guilty as hell. Lotta guilt with these Mayans.
— Veteran actor Edward James Olmos is packing a low-key punch as EZ’s dad, Felipe. Right now, he’s tasked with keeping EZ’s head as straight as possible, but hopefully, we’ll see him do more than run a butcher shop and arrange secret meetings. Felipe, naturally, unconditionally supports EZ’s decisions, which is a sharp contrast to Miguel’s family members, who are just fine sacrificing kids and consider them easily replaceable.
— Some of the dialogue in this episode is catchy even if it isn’t realistic, such as any member of the club uttering the following: “Sometimes, Mayan gods deliver gifts to their faithful warriors.” Thankfully, the show’s writers appear to also realize this while winking at the audience until next week.