Mayans M.C. Review – Kurt Sutter Returns To A Setting He Can Manage

Heading into Mayans M.C., which is something of a sequel/spin-off hybrid, the only question that really matters is whether or not we’re heading into something that actually delivers on the treatment and world-building of Sons of Anarchy. With several years, and The Bastard Executioner, between Kurt Sutter‘s somewhat questionable end to that show and now, a new run with a motorcycle club might go anywhere.

Luckily, if the first two episodes are a true indication, Sutter has taken the time to reevaluate the structure, pacing, and plot development in his writing, which means the show kicks off almost as though it had been written at the same time as the third season of SoA, but with a little more experience showing through.

Just as important, Sutter built off one of SoA‘s most important devices, having a ton of balls in the air at once. As interesting as the daily routine of a criminal motorcycle club might be, it just isn’t going to fly unless people have secrets, at least one person has a hidden agenda, and/or someone, or the club itself, is getting the squeeze from some bigger organization. Hopefully, all of this and more is in play, and that’s what Mayans M.C. delivers.

It all seems rather simple in the beginning. Prospect Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD PardoThe Messengers, Revolution) is looking to join The Mayans, where his brother, Angel Reyes (Clayton Cardenas), is already something of a big fish. Before we even get through the first episode it becomes somewhat unimaginable that EZ can keep track of everything going on in his new-ish world without a personal assistant and six more hours in a day. The MC is aiding the efforts of a Mexican cartel, which means the MC is sometimes forced to do things they aren’t especially happy with, but it brings in a lot of money. Meanwhile, the leader of said cartel is married to Emily Thomas (Sarah BolgerThe Tudors, Once Upon a Time), who EZ dated for years prior to going to prison. If that weren’t enough, it turns out that EZ is working with the DEA to try to take down the cartel, and EZ’s brother Angel, along with a small group within the MC, are helping a Mexican rebel organization in their effort to take down the cartel as well. It’s episode one, and EZ has too many roles to keep track of, and is lying to everyone he knows about one thing or another.

Mayans M.C. on FX
CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

This could all spell doom for a lot of series, in much the way SoA might have easily fallen into its own rabbit hole, but Sutter knows how to give us characters that keep it all together, working more off of motivations than plot devices.

By the end of the second episode we’re already in so deep, and trying to put out fires by pouring gasoline on them, that you really have no idea where things might go next, and that’s a recipe Sutter has proven he can capitalize on. Where SoA often kept viewers from getting comfortable was in giving us characters we could believe in, whether we liked or disliked them, that had a certain sensible code, but were also a little crazy. Mayans M.C. is quick to establish a broad effort of moving in this same direction. Sure, the club does illegal things, and are rather brutal when necessary, but when Miguel Galinda (Danny PinoLaw & Order: SVU) dives into brutality, the club is quick to note that there is crazy, and then there’s crazy.

Add to all this a supporting cast that almost immediately wins you over and several ties to the original show, including the return of Emilio Rivera as Marcus Alvarez, and you end up with a surprisingly engrossing show, even by SoA standards.

The only problem at this point is that since one of the best things about the show is that it could anywhere… well, it could go anywhere. If it keeps up with where it is now, it’s going to be better than SoA ever was, but some seasons of SoA spun a little out of control and this has even more variables to contend with.

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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