By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – September 4, 2018)
When last we left the motorcycle club scene in the state of California…
I’ll stop there. Some of you may have plans at some point to watch the long run of Sons of Anarchy from the beginning, and if so, you’re in for a lot of good stuff, and then you’re in for a series that ultimately ran a little long and then took its content to comically violent levels, but never lost the thread of the brotherhood and family themes that defined the series.
Kurt Sutter, who worked underneath Shawn Ryan on The Shield, created Sons, played a small role on camera, and through SOA, told a modern day Hamlet story seen through the eyes of Jax Teller, a boy born into the culture of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, with his chapter, “the” chapter, located in Redwood, California. If you’ve ever seen “SAMCRO” and wondered what the heck that meant, it stands for SOA MC, Redwood Original. Sons, especially in its first two or three seasons, created one of the television’s best worlds, and Sutter was a master of the universe he created.
Mayans MC is basically a spinoff of course, using one of the rival clubs from the original series and basing the new drama around them, which includes Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera), who we got to know quite well as he both worked with, and sometimes against SAMCRO. As I finished up the 68 minute opener, and actually relatively early into watching it, one question continued to rattle around inside my mind, and it’s the question that will determine everything about your interest in Mayans MC.
Did you feel like you didn’t get ENOUGH of Sons of Anarchy?
If the answer is yes, make sure you set the DVR and plan Mayans MC as part of your fall viewing plans. This show has virtually everything SOA did, including the great licensed music selection, a talented veteran performer in the form of Edward James Olmos (it was Katey Sagal last time, and to some extent Ron Perlman), plenty of gun violence, a few scenes that make you turn your head from the screen, and the seeds of betrayal from moment one. There are differences to be found in this story to be sure, and the approach isn’t from the same angle, but Mayans, for better or worse, is Sons of Anarchy Part Deux…or perhaps Part Dos makes more sense here.
Rather than focusing on someone important to the organization from long before the second we see him on screen, which is what Jax was, Mayans centers around a Prospect named Ezekiel Reyes, “Unpatched” means an unpatched member of the club, a pledge so to speak, but one whose presence as the key component of the show makes sense before “Perro/Oc” comes to a close. He’s a little more emotional than some of the other members, and a little less loyal to the club itself, with other things weighing on him, and as such, there’s some Jax in him, but J.D. Pardo’s Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes is also somewhat book smart and has a good mind.
We see in a few flashbacks where he was in his life, but the blanks are yet to be filled in concerning what led him to where he is, both personally and also in respect to what he’s doing for a living. As usual, this is also a crime story, one that leads to a lot of bloodshed, some death, and tons of dope being slung around. Mayans doesn’t come across feeling original, but I’m not sure the audience it’s targeting expects or wants it to be “too” unique from its older brother.
Mayans MC feels more focused and mature in its pacing than the latter stages of Sons, but SOA was much more controlled in its early seasons than what would come towards the end, when the violence and the ideas had to ramp up in intensity. One takeaway from the first of two episodes presented to critics is that Mayans MC is a little softer, a little slower paced, and looks even more visually stunning (as aesthetically pleasing as the setting will allow anyway) than Sons. SOA started a bit slow and picked up quickly, and that may be the case here, but Mayans could benefit from maintaining this structure for the brunt of the first season. Even though we know the universe well, we don’t know these characters, and we’re introduced to over half a dozen in Perro/Oc that we’re probably going to be spending time with for several years.
The acting didn’t blow me away, but it was passable to good in most cases. There’s a cartel villain (Danny Pino) that gets the job done well, several patched Mayans that fit the bill, one actor you’ll recognize that pops up in the opener that you’ll enjoy, and of course there’s the great Edward James Olmos. Charlie Hunnam owned Sons every time he was on screen as Jax Teller, and I got a similar, though more understated feel from J.D. Pardo almost immediately on Mayans MC. The story itself is fairly basic, but ends in a way that you can see why there’s a series here. There’s a lot the crew can do with the direction they choose. I was more interested on the way out than I was on the way in.
But answering my own question from early in this review, I personally believe I’ve gotten my fill of Sons of Anarchy and that world. So past these two episodes, I’m not sure if Mayans MC will make my final cut, and it’s not something I think I’ll be writing on weekly, unless a lot of you demand it. It’s a good start, will please fans of Sons, but it doesn’t have an essential feel and didn’t leave me needing more in a way that’s required in this era of Peak TV. It’s good though, worth a B- rating or thereabouts, just seems unnecessary after so many years of its predecessor.
Kurt Sutter (and Elgin James, whose history is worth researching) do know how to tell a story though, and that fact hasn’t changed.
I’m @JMartZone. Follow me there on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org