Mayans MC revels in the macho motorcycle world established in Sons of Anarchy, but in the premiere, “Perro/OC”, it feels more like a pale imitation than a worthy spinoff.
It has been several literal and fictional years since Kurt Sutter brought his biker melodrama Sons of Anarchy to a poetic end, and here he returns to the macho motorcycle world with Elgin James in FX’s long-awaited spinoff, Mayans MC. Unfortunately, the premiere episode, “Perro/OC”, doesn’t manage to recapture much of what the original did well, revelling instead in the excess and lacking the complex, almost Shakespearean tragedy at the show’s heart.
That isn’t to say that Mayans MC doesn’t have things going for it. The show’s predominantly Latino cast and proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border gives it a new cultural context, and it’s always fun to have an unashamedly manly bit of tough-guy TV to look forward to, especially now that Yellowstone has wrapped up. But “Perro/OC” was a bloated opening hour that churned through plot without much thought, and just generally felt like it was leaning too heavily against a bloody dismemberment and a lengthy graveyard firefight at the expense of any actual drama.
Anyway, it is several years after the end of Sons of Anarchy, and focus has shifted to the Santa Padre chapter of the eponymous motorcycle club, where Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo) is a goatee-sporting genius ex-con carving out a new outlaw identity. Nothing much is made of his apparently-eidetic memory in “Perro/OC”, but it’s an interesting quirk for a gangbanger that I hope will come up a bit more throughout the season.
Of more pressing concern is the Mayans’ uneasy alliance with the Galindo cartel and a new vigilante gang complicating their smooth delivery of drugs back and forth across the border. This is the kind of plot that demands the lopping off of at least one arm and the shooting of at least one ear, and there’s plenty of time made for masculine swagger and some pointed conversations about family and loyalty. It’s the usual Sons of Anarchy – and, indeed, Kurt Sutter – playbook, but as yet devoid of any reason for the audience to actually care. The breakneck pace and wavering focus of “Perro/OC” worked to its detriment, with Mayans MC coasting on its tangential relationship to Sons of Anarchy and failing to really bed any of these new characters into their surroundings.
This is partially a consequence of trying to immediately appeal to an audience who expect certain things from the show, and I can’t fault Mayans MC for that, nor do I expect anything radically different from it. But it doesn’t hold much weight as an excuse; Sons of Anarchy presented a richer world right from the jump, and thus far there’s no analogue for Gemma besides EZ’s old flame, Emily (Sarah Bolger), who was basically a prop in “Perro/OC”. The potential is certainly there, and Sutter certainly still knows his way around an action scene and the odd bit of engaging unpleasantness, but Mayans MC needs a little more in the tank if the ride is going to be worth the wait.