Mayans M.C.’s long awaited season premiere took place on September 4, 2018, and for Sons of Anarchy fans still missing that show’s characters (as if they were lost family members or old friends), it appropriately paid homage.
Warning: There are plot spoilers ahead, so stop reading if you don’t want to know them.
From the start of the season premiere, Mayans M.C. feels both familiar and new. SoA fans are well familiar with the inner workings of California motorcycle gangs: the brutality, the bonding, the twisted code of loyalty and the outlaw honor. In the end of SoA, blood ties didn’t prevail. As the concept of blood relation is front and center in Mayans (“blood is blood,” a man says to his son, hammering this point home), it’s unclear whether the spin-off will take the same route as its predecessor, one of the best television shows perhaps in history.
Here’s what you need to know:
Sons of Anarchy References in Mayans M.C. & One Big Cameo
Gemma Teller, the SoA’s matriarch (Katey Sagal) is easily one of most complex and malevolent female characters in television history. She makes a brief appearance in Mayans. Mayans M.C. is set about two years after the Hamlet-esque SoA’s finale, which saw the club in wreckage of its own creation, and Jax and his mother, Gemma, dead, the mother at the son’s hand.
In the Mayans cameo, we see Gemma briefly as she sits in a prison visiting area during a flashback eight years before the time period in which Mayans takes place (Gemma is still dead in the present tense). The new show’s Jax-like character, EZ (short for Ezekiel and played by JD Pardo) picks a fight with the prison guards after realizing the girlfriend he’s just rejected is pregnant. He’s serving hard time for violence against a cop, and he doesn’t want the cruelty of hope when he’s looking at 20 years. But he loves her.
Gemma witnesses this scene and mutters that the guards are an expletive, but she isn’t shown interacting with EZ. Astute SoA fans will assume the crossover scene dates to Sons president Clay’s time in Stockton prison. What relevance Gemma has to the unfolding Mayans plot is not yet clear, although those involved in the show have promised there is some (Mayans co-creator Kurt Sutter told the Television Critics Association that Gemma’s appearance will tie into a plot point in the Mayans season.)
For Sons addicts, it’s a joy to see Gemma back in fine form after she met such a grisly and heartbreaking end at the hand of her own son (just as Breaking Bad fans were looking for Walter White in the Better Call Saul prequel.)
There are some other Sons references; when a shootout/ambush goes down in a cemetery between the Samoans and Mayans over a drug heist (involving quinceneara dresses no less), the Mayans’ backup shows up wearing Sons of Anarchy jackets. The camera zooms in enough to establish that there is a new SoA president, showing that the club and Mayan alliance have lasted post-Jax. Now they’re the side story though, and the focus on the Latino club does feel fresh.
The Big Symbol at the Beginning of the Show
There is one other big SoA reference in the first episode. EZ, mirroring Jax in the first episode of Sons, rides alone down a road, establishing himself as the protagonist.
He runs over a dead crow. In the SoA premiere, a living crow appeared (and, of course, the MC was called SAMCRO). The message is clear; it’s a new show that’s not reviving the old one even as it shares analogies. There’s also a street dog that symbolically appears in several scenes, including with the dead crow, but its meaning is not yet clear.
There are some familiar characters, largely the return of Marcus Alvarez, the Mayan leader who forged an alliance with the Sons. EZ is clearly the Jax-like character, who comes across like the guy too good for all of this deep down; he’s the one who might have been saved had he turned a different direction. Unlike Jax, though, who was embedded into the club from birth, EZ is a prospect who stands on the outside. At least for now.
Unlike Jax, who bore the burden of family history and expectation, and carried a deep father wound, EZ appears to have a loving bond with his butcher dad (played by the always gravitas-filled Edward James Olmos, who dominates the screen even when he’s mostly silent). He also has an easy relationship with his brother, and they both have big secrets they’re keeping from the club (MC’s hate rats). However, he’s got a dead mother we don’t know much about yet.
So far, though, Mayans isn’t focusing on the blood family dynamics. The genius of Sons and its well-developed characters was the way in which the show centered around how family loyalty to club and family loyalty by blood intersected, with one destroying the other and the two unable to coexist side-by-sign. By the time Jax displayed his sociopathy, we were bonded to him as a character enough to see the nuances (and he became both hero and anti-hero, much like Tony Soprano, Dexter or Michael Corleone.) In the end, we know which one triumphed. You don’t feel like you know the Mayans characters as well or as emotionally and the drama focuses more on the villainous representative of the Galindo cartel, who was responsible for the drug heist, EZ’s old romance with Galindo’s now wife, some graphic bloodshed, cross-border maneuverings, and a new gang made up of cartel-created orphans.
In Sons, a husband or mother could just as easily turn into the next villain or
victim; the threats were internal and thus more lethal. In Mayans, Galindo so far seems like a one-note Hollywood bad guy, which is the fault of the script, not the guy playing him. So far, when it comes to his character, there’s nothing to like.
Although Sons got into this sort of cartel and gangland drama (while trafficking in guns, not heroin), its real focus was on the family psychodrama inside the club. Whether that too will develop in Mayans MC is as of yet unclear. It needs time. So did Sons once.
Mayans MC airs on FX at 10 p.m. Tuesdays on the east coast.