This Mayans M.C. review contains spoilers.
Mayans M.C. Episode 3
Kurt Sutter developed a reputation for keeping a series running at fever pitch for the duration of a season, even when that style of storytelling gets problematic. Toward the end of Sons of Anarchy, the pacing became frantic, the saves and turnarounds a bit too convenient. Despite the excellent writing and character development we have seen so far on Mayans, the pacing feels off, as though trying to recreate a feeling of urgency while forcing violence into the narrative that doesn’t seem in service to the story.
The pacing changes noticeably this week on Episode 3. The action unfolds naturally alongside of the plot and to highlight the subtext. Sometimes one punch (or a single bullet) is really all you need. It uncovers another layer of personal motivations, stories and lies. And naturally, the best lies are the ones we tell ourselves and the people we love best.
Following her conversation last episode with EZ (and thanks to the rebel’s viral video) Emily knows that Galindo lied to her about his retaliation for the kidnapping of their son, and how that will endanger the baby. Frustrated by her helplessness, Emily takes a trip across the border with her mother in law, looking in vain for clues. Both women understand their roles in the cartel, to support Galindo, but Emily has no illusions. She has a handle on the narrative Galindo spun for himself when he took over the family business. He wanted to re-write the family legacy, but now finds himself stuck in the same quagmire of violence.
It is a shame Galindo’s head mercenary does’t break it down for him, like he did for the petty teenage thugs they shake down early in the episode for intel: if you live by the gun, you die by the gun.
Those kids, however, buy Galindo’s bullshit story about making them part of the cartel. Instead of torturing the kids for information, now the cartel has a legion of little spies. This clever change in tactics also fooled the rebels, which seems a bit odd. Why would you underestimate street kids who will do anything to survive when your mascot is a 9-year-old girl who dresses like a mouse and carries a handgun?
But despite his big talk and sociopathic behavior, at home Galindo does not hide his fear and regret, or his vulnerability, from Emily.
Across town, Felipe Reyes is also doing his best to protect his sons. He fends off the unwanted advances of heavy handed federal agents and makes it clear that he is plenty capable of protecting himself. Then again, would we expect anything less from Edward James Olmos? The giant box of guns Felipe has stashed in his garage and his ease and familiarity with them suggests a violent past that may be the reason the boys are in the MC today. That past is not as easily covered up as the shotgun he hides in his couch. Or the new number EZ’s undercover handler gave Felipe to pass along, and which he shreds.
Meanwhile EZ returns to his father’s house after a long day slogging through the anniversary of the murder that turned his life upside down. Flashbacks show college-student EZ covered in blood and chasing a shadowy figure. The two exchange gunfire, and when someone startles EZ, he turns and shoots on reflex. That someone turns out to be the cop.
Also having a terrible day is Angel, whose deal with a rogue member of the Chinese gang to unload the stolen heroin for the rebels so they can get some much needed operating cash gets completely fucked when Bishop (Michael Irby) abruptly murders the guy. Turns out the Chinese knew the guy was double dealing. The Mayans killed him to get back some good will (as you do) since the rebel hijacking fucked the heroin supply line. This show of force also sends the message that, kidnapped babies aside, it will be business as usual for Galindo and the MC.
But there is a thread here that carefully gets weaved back into the plot. What does one dead Chinese guy mean? That the guys in charge are paying closer attention than Angel and the faction of young brothers following him had thought. Bishop and Alvarez may not know who told the rebels when to hijack the shipment (Episode 1), but they know the intel easily could have come from inside the club.
Which is why a rattled Angel follows his brother home at the end of the episode, ostensibly to check on their dad. But by the time the credits roll, it’s the Reyes brothers who are sound asleep, while their father stands watching over them in the dark. And no matter what stories they tell themselves about who is good and who is bad and who is tough and who is right, in the end you go home to your family to be vulnerable, to be yourself.