There had been a lot of excitement surrounding Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. since it was announced that Charming towns’ favourite allies would be getting a series based around their own charter and for good reason; these Latino badasses proved what they were capable of during Sons of Anarchy‘s hugely popular original run with fights and shootouts aplenty. But like Sons of Anarchy, Mayans M.C. wouldn’t work without a good script, plot, plenty of twists and turns, and memorable characters. Brains to balance out the brawn. And on this early evidence, Mayans M.C. will provide just that.
Starting off with a familiar sight – a biker riding around his local town on his Harley to a cool soundtrack (like SOA, Mayans M.C. has a rocking but varied soundtrack) as we take in the surroundings, located on the California/Mexico border. It immediately evokes memories of 2008 and our introduction to Charlie Hunams’ Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy. Only this time our introduction is to Ezekiel Reyes (J.D. Pardo), a prospect for the Mayans Motorcycle Club and former golden boy gone bad. Fresh out of prison, Ezekiel is looking to impress his new employers with the help of his brother and fellow Mayans member, Angel. But as you might expect from a club made up of hardened bikers and criminals, and indeed a show such as this, both brothers are hiding dark and potentially dangerous secrets of their own.
Showing us a series of short flashbacks throughout the episode, we see Ezekiel’s journey to where he is now. The link between his former and present life is Emily (Sarah Bolger), a former girlfriend of Ezekiel’s who has somehow managed to get involved with local rich businessman, Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino) who has a very dark side to his business which we later see in quite brutal detail in scenes which answer any questions as to whether Mayans M.C. would be as graphically violent as Sons of Anarchy. Without giving anything away, it does appear that any rumours that you’ve heard about getting your limbs chopped off if you mess with the wrong Mexicans appear to be true…
So, like those early episodes of Sons of Anarchy, the tone and feel of a lot of this first episode of Mayans M.C. is one of simmering tension and drama. Instead of being thrown straight into this dark and deadly road you are shown glimpses of the reasoning behind characters and their actions while at the same time there’s enough violence to keep seasoned Sons of Anarchy fans happy. Creator/Writer/Producer and all round mastermind Kurt Sutter, along with writing partner Elgin James, have hit the near perfect balance between drama and action here for the most part.
Comparisons between Jax Teller and Ezekiel Reyes are inevitable but it’s early days. Whether or not J.D. Pardo will be able to pull off the same swagger and flawed hero appeal that Charlie Hunam gave Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy, and whether he’ll be able to carry this series’ weighty expectations remains to be seen, but Pardo certainly has a lot to work with here. Whether or not it’s too much will become clear as the season goes on, but one of the only negatives from this opening episode would be the overloading of information for the viewer as we try to get used to the characters, the location and surroundings, and the various relationships, plots and sub-plots/text within the show. But like its predecessor, hopefully the more Mayans M.C. goes on the more everything will unfold, and like all those memorable and mind-blowing twists and turns in SOA, this series will provide us with plenty of exciting, entertaining, unexpected and brutal answers.
Mayans M.C. is on BBC 2 on Saturdays at 22.30. The entire series will also be available to view on BBC iPlayer.