There are many shows on television that deserve spinoffs, and in the modern age of IP driven television, they can be more important than ever. FX continues to show it’s ability to program to corners of the television market by crafting niche shows. However, one of their undeniable successes over the past decade came from Kurt Sutter and “Sons of Anarchy” in 2008. Featuring strong turns from Charlie Hunham, Ron Pearlman, Katey Segal, and Maggie Siff, the show became a sensation. This makes it no surprise that FX would go back to Sutter for his spinoff. “Mayans M.C.” takes a rival gang from the SAMCRO world, and dives into a new club to create a familiar but potentially better show in the process.
“Mayans M.C.” follows Ezekial “E.Z.” Reyes (J.D. Pardo), a prospect for the Mayans Motorcycle Club. His older brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas) joined the group years earlier. EZ had his own run-ins with the law, forcing him to become a CI for the DEA. His father Felipe (Edward James Olmos) tries his best to protect EZ while running his store. The Mayans are also contracted to work under the cartels, represented by the brutal Miguel (Danny Pino). Miguel’s wife Emily (Sarah Bolger) is taken hostage by rebels fighting against the cartels, and their son is stolen. She calls on EZ, whom she shared a three-year-relationship with, to find her son.
The cast seems ready for the roles, and quickly flash strong moments. Sutter uses Olmos sparingly, increasing his effect on the show despite limited screen time. Pardo brings a haunted feel to the episodes, often looking beyond what’s occurring in front of him towards a deeper meaning. He’s gifted with some interesting character traits, but above all else, he is guilty about the way he has lived his life. It’ll be curious to see how he develops.
Perhaps the standout above all others is Pino, best known for his work on “Law & Order: SVU” for a few seasons. On that show, he showcased rage in spurts. Here, he embraces that element of his performance and makes it central to his character. He brings an intensity that establishes him as a big bad quickly. He does a lot of subtle character work that makes him stand out in the crowded ensemble.
Women often took over in “Sons” and this continues to be the case here. While we don’t get the most information on our female characters early, they get more development after the pilot. Bolger looks to have the range to pull off a character living a double life. That will almost certainly be a necessity down the road. Sutter’s shown the ability to write a doomed romance with levels, so Bolger and Pardo will need to play well off each other. Rebel leader Adelita (Carla Baratta) forces your eyes to gravitate to her when she’s on screen. She showcases charisma and poise, creating a strong faction to stand against the cartels.
The beginning of the show jumps us right into the action, as the Mayans are held at gunpoint during a heist. The violence of the “Sons of Anarchy” world quickly escalates as shootouts become common. Sutter shows the violence with a laissez-faire attitude, which both helps and harms the narrative. In doing so, there’s a fair argument that Sutter wishes to portray how insane it is that gang violence has become an everyday occurrence in the Latino community. Yet it also feels callous to portray it with upbeat music and almost comedic underpinnings at times.
However, that does help “Mayans M.C.” feel like a real world. These characters, even those new to it, are used to a world of violence. That makes the actors reactions to extreme violence, such as a dismemberment or being burned with boiling water, pop in the audience’s mind. It’s an interesting tactic that could pay dividends in the long term.
This show gets off to a fast start, but there are some potential pitfalls. The basic setup to the first season is not unlike “The Departed,” with an informant going deep undercover. It’s likely that will not be sustainable over a five-season show. While there are sure to be twists and turns, the undercurrent of melodrama exists below the surface. That melodrama eventually undid the storytelling of “Sons,” so it’s possible here too. The pacing can be a little odd at times as well, which could rear its head down the road. It’ll be curious to see how this one evolves.
Overall, “Sons” fans should embrace “Mayans M.C.” as an exciting new chapter. There’s clearly talent on board, and the ensemble looks strong. Some fans may have hesitation due to the perspective shift, but this one feels fresh and unique. It’ll be curious to see how the diversity shift helps “Mayans” develop. The extra culture should help Sutter keep an eye on diverse storytelling. With some standing out over the first couple episodes we’re off to a good start. “Mayans M.C.” can stand on its own without any “Sons of Anarchy” needed.