by Kevin Yeoman
It’s safe to say that the season 2 finale of Mayans M.C. will be overshadowed somewhat by the recent news of Kurt Sutter’s firing by FX Networks. Though Sutter’s firing is — or was — newsworthy when it occurred, his departure from the franchise he helped create was already a forgone conclusion, as he announced plans to hand the reins over to series co-creator Elgin James before that news broke. What that means for the future of the series and its ongoing connections to Sons of Anarchy is anyone’s guess, especially as the show closes out its second season with an elaborate series of violent events that’s very much in Sutter’s wheelhouse.
As such, ‘Hunahpu’ works to close the door on the current era of soap-operatic biker-gang storytelling with an episode written by Sutter and directed by James. It is an episode rife with the sort of twisty beats familiar to fans of both series, often lumping them together in the hour’s final few minutes as a way to get a jump on the many plots of season 3.
Viewers’ mileage may vary as EZ (JD Pardo) and the rest of the Reyes clan, father Felipe (Edward James Olmos) and surly brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas), deal with the fallout of their bloody (and blood) connection to the Galindo Cartel, by having the series’ ostensible protagonist strangle an old woman in the desert, and then earn his patch and become a full-fledged member of Mayan MC charter. It’s the sort of thing the franchise specializes in, and perhaps what makes it so popular among its devoted fan base. Though in typical fashion, the larger implications or significance of the characters’ actions are often undercut by the show’s more vested interest in entangling its cast in the webbing of a sometimes torturously tangled plot.
Much of that has to do with Felipe’s history with the aforementioned murder victim, Dita Galindo (Ada Maris), and the role she played in the murder of Felipe’s wife (and EZ and Angel’s mother) before the series began. That Dita was also looking to use the Reyes family’s ire and need for vengeance as a means of ending her own life speaks to the show’s ongoing fascination with its characters’ self-destructive tendencies, though in this case it doesn’t necessarily say anything that hasn’t been said, by Mayans M.C. or Sons of Anarchy. If anything, Dita’s death at EZ’s hands, and the subsequent efforts to make it look like suicide by self-immolation, add to the franchise’s all-consuming passion for such narrative-stunting devices like deception for the sake of deception and characters harboring secrets for years on end.
That being said, the season 2 finale does establish a potentially interesting thread in the Galindo Cartel’s dealings with the Mayans and with the Reyes family in particular. One major improvement Mayans made in its second season was to give Emily (Sarah Bolger) a greater sense of agency, both as an individual and within the larger day-to-day business of running the cartel. Some of that stems from her husband Miguel’s (Danny Pino) efforts to legitimize his businesses, but mostly it comes from how Mayans appears to be setting up a potential power struggle between husband and wife, one that may now become more fraught with Dita out of the picture and Miguel no longer distracted by his mother’s ambitions for her child.
As promising as that arc appears, it is undercut by the show’s fixation on children as plot devices. Just as Sons of Anarchy steered too far into daytime soap territory when Jax’s child was kidnapped and taken to Ireland, Mayans too can’t seem to help itself when it comes to using an infant as leverage against a main character. This time it’s Angel who’s on the receiving end of as his efforts to blackmail Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon), and force him to give up on his efforts to have Felipe deported, backfire, causing the unscrupulous FBI agent to announce plans to use Angel’s son against him.
It’s not just that this is an overly predictable avenue for the series to take, but that it does so in a way that is either unaware or unconcerned with how overemotional it comes across. In a way, it’s the inverse of the episode’s most fulfilling moment: EZ finally getting his patch. EZ’s ascension from prospect to full-fledged member of the Mayans has been the one of the show’s most reliably entertaining and fulfilling story threads, in part because of the violent, immoral things the younger Reyes has had to do in order to get there.
Obviously, with James now the primary architect of EZ and the MC’s future, it will be interesting to see where both are headed and whether or not Mayans M.C. will continue to rely on the same storytelling conventions that have made this franchise so popular. In some ways, it’s the end of an era on television, one that, like the show itself, leaves many questions to be answered in the season to come.