While promoting Mayans M.C., Kurt Sutter has repeatedly taken great pains to tell prospective viewers this Sons of Anarchy spinoff stands far apart from its predecessor. Yes, the underlying mythology shall be honored, he has further insisted, but this new show is a different creature, not simply a “Latino version of Sons of Anarchy.” And based upon the first episodes of Sutter’s newest biker drama, yes, the showrunner, his writers, and director Norberto Barba have delivered upon those promises.
Sons fans should feel vague stirrings of a place that feels like home, even if the comfy conveniences haven’t fully materialized. And that’s a good thing, for Sutter wants to forge a new creation based upon a successful mold, even while risking a few awkward bumps due to an abrupt gear change. This M.C. has very different objectives than the Sons, and also notably, Mayans M.C. doesn’t come entirely from Sutter’s mind, for he made sure to incorporate Latinx writers into the mix to downplay his own voice in the telling of this new saga.
As such, the follow-up treads familiar ground but wouldn’t be mistaken for a carbon copy, and the show even strives for an enhanced (and at times, ghastly) pedigree. Overall, FX’s new arrival holds the potential to be more sweeping and heartbreaking than its predecessor, and Mayans M.C. (mostly) successfully distances itself from Sons while preserving its legacy. That’s not to say that the ride is a flawless one so far, but it’s a work in progress. Let’s count the ways this M.C. presents differently.
1. It gets the party started with no time for celebration — No one ever accused Kurt Sutter of subtlety, and he relishes his reputation for embracing crudeness when the moment is right. Right from the very first two minutes, in fact, Mayans M.C. makes a few positions clear while making several direct callbacks during its opening scene, even going so far as to pantomime the Sons opening scene before turning the tables.
The show picks up a few years after Jax Teller’s death-by-green-screen. A stray dog is seen chomping upon a dead crow, and the canine dodges out of the way as a motorcycle destroys the meal. The message couldn’t be more obvious — Sons is dead — and that message would seem cruel, but does the intended audience need hand-holding here? Nope, and a Mayans M.C. promo recently covered all bases by paying tribute to Jax in a tear-jerking manner. Although some unidentified bikers in Sons jackets do briefly appear onscreen, the former SAMCRO president is never spoken of within the first episodes. The biker who ran over the crow — he’s the new show’s protagonist, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes.
Is EZ the “new Jax”? Not even close. Although both characters are seen riding in their series’ respective opening scenes, there’s a sharp contrast at hand. Jax rode into town as the relatively happy-go-lucky, charismatic prince of Charming, California. As the future charter president, life was pretty sweet while buying condoms and flirting with a store clerk. In that scene, serendipitously enough, members of the Mayans Oakland charter — including Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera, the only credited returning Sons cast member in Mayans M.C. so far) — blew up a Sons illegal-arms warehouse. Yet Jax’s privileged existence wasn’t disturbed for long. He soon hassled a prospect, got ogled by ladies, and mere moments later, was already bedding one.
Whereas EZ is the prospect who has to deal with borderline-crap treatment from guys like Jax. In his opening scene, he’s riding away from prison toward his new life as a recruit for the Mayans Cali/Mexi border charter. EZ must prove himself to the club — ironically, nothing comes easy for a guy nicknamed EZ — and he’s certainly not getting busy with the ladies. Instead, he’s pining for his past love, Emily (Sarah Bolger), who is now married to the Galindo cartel leader, Miguel (Danny Pino, looking as polished as during his Law & Order: SVU days but with a wholly sinister vibe), which is served by the Mayans.
For sure, there’s an obvious (and needless?) love triangle being set up, and things will surely get messy in that regard further down the line, but Mayans is initially more concerned with setting up EZ’s other all-important dynamics to wallow too much in romance.