Mayans MC was at its best this week, pumping the breaks on violence for its own sake while developing character and culture in “Búho/Muwan”.
Thus far, all three episodes of Mayans MC have opened close to the U.S.-Mexico border, with an animal. In the premiere it was a mangy dog; in last week’s episode it was a scorpion. In “Búho/Muwan” it’s an owl, bright eyes peering at the rebel children of Los Olvidados as they play soccer. Nobody notices the animals, which I suppose is the point, but the camera always does. It’s a theme that plays into what’s different and increasingly compelling about Mayans MC as opposed to Kurt Sutter’s other motorcycle drama, Sons of Anarchy. In large part it’s about people on the dusty transom between cultures, unable to blend in as the animals do, unable to move as easily back and forth from one world to another. But just as keen to survive.
Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino) would rather the rebels didn’t survive, which is why his goons hiss to a stop in the desert sand, believing they’ve discovered the camp observed by that owl. No such luck. All they find instead is a piñata, filled with goodies and a hand-painted skull labelled “Cristóbal” – the name of Galindo’s still-missing infant son.
This precedes another Los Olvidados call-to-arms video, which incenses Emily (Sarah Bolger) even more. She feels betrayed by her husband and by a lifestyle that is supposed to offer power and protection. And she sees, perhaps better than anyone, that Galindo is a slave to his family’s legacy of violence, no matter how much he tries to convince himself – and her – that he’s creating one of his own. With Dita (Ada Maris), who is torn between being a mother and a grandmother and a senior cartel figure, Emily visits the square where the Los Olvidados video was made – where Galindo’s men torched the vendor and his son last week. The ground is still black where they burned.
A kid kneels close to the blackened patch of concrete; the vendor and his son were his family. Now he has nobody, just ashes, so by the end of “Búho/Muwan”, Adelita (Carla Baratta) has taken him in. It’s guilt, mostly. She’s responsible for those deaths just as she’s responsible for Cristóbal, whom she cradles and refers to as “little prince,” despite the fact she has wrenched him from the arms of his loving parents. I don’t believe she means the kid harm – I don’t believe she could harm him even if she wanted to – but she’s committed to the only path she sees to a life free from the cartel’s grip.
But that grip is tightening. In “Búho/Muwan” Galindo’s men shake down some local kids and drag them to the dusty warehouse where Galindo tortures his enemies. I expected more of that, given the show’s predilection for it, but it was a ruse. Instead of torturing them for information they probably don’t have, Galindo instead convinces them they’re part of the cartel; trusted spies and informants, like Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars. Like the animals that bookend the episodes, they move unseen, listening and learning.
There’s a lot to learn about everything and everyone in Mayans MC, most of all the titular motorcycle club, who in “Búho/Muwan” ride out to a tribal casino to meet with a Chinese gang about heroin. They’re searched at the door – “Booze and bullets haven’t been a good combination for our people,” they’re offered, by way of apology. “Ours neither,” is the reply – and ushered inside, where EZ (JD Pardo) puts his eidetic memory to use counting cards and his Spanish to use insulting off-duty cops. Angel (Clayton Cardenas) has a deal in place to offload the horse for the benefit of the rebels, but Bishop (Michael Irby) ruins that by executing his rogue contact as a favour for the Chinese, who knew he was double-dealing and couldn’t kill one of their own.
Nothing’s ever easy, is it? Angel’s loyalties lie with Adelita, perhaps more so than the MC, but the MC has business with Galindo. EZ has previous with Emily, and is still, according to “Búho/Muwan”, haunted by flashbacks to the accidental murder of a cop which landed him in jail. Felipe Reyes (Edward James Olmos) wants to protect his sons, but is he more capable of protecting them himself than he is of trusting them to their various allegiances? In a world where men have to be men above all else, can a father trust his boys to grow up?