Just as it did with Mr. Robot last year, USA continues to add grittier shows to its roster with its latest genre fare. This year it’s Queen of the South, a Narcos-esque drama about the rise (and fall?) of drug lord Teresa Mendoza. While “Piloto” is burdened by the usual pilot trappings, such as too much exposition and an expedited plot, it’s also a good look at just what this show will potentially be: a violent, fun drama with a great lead performance.
“Piloto” starts off in the future, with Teresa at the height of her powers. Adorned in gold high heels and an all-white blazer and skirt, Teresa’s voiceover lets us know that she controls the largest drug empire in the Western hemisphere. As she says, she’s the reason you can get a gram for your stupid bachelorette party. But, she notes that this business comes with threats, and just as she says it, a bullet comes through the window of her house, dropping Teresa as the camera focuses on the blood coming out of her mouth. That’s one way to kick off your pilot!
From there the narrative jumps way back to when Teresa was buying drugs and exchanging money in Sinaloa, Mexico. While she’s making the exchanges she meets her love, the white (literally) knight who dominates any origin story, whether it involves a drug kingpin or not. Guero, with his long hair and his Texas roots, steals Teresa’s heart by beating up her employer for the way he treats her. Aww, love at first assault.
Things between Teresa and Guero get hot and heavy quickly. They spend the night out with Guero’s friend Brenda and her man, a drug runner just like Guero. After the two spend a night of dancing and coke and having sex on the hood of a car, Teresa’s voice-over takes us through the next few months, as she becomes Guero’s girlfriend and is introduced into the world of these drug runners.
At a Christmas party sometime later she’s left on her own as her and Brenda snoop around the house of Guero’s godfather, Don Vargas, who also serves as the head of the cartel. This is where the exposition gets really heavy. There’s talk of Don Vargas running for Governor in the next year, meaning he needs to distance himself from the business during his campaign. Apparently his wife, who helped build this empire, isn’t too happy about it. In fact, Teresa overhears a heated exchange between the two where his wife all but lays out that she was the one who kept this business running, so he can’t just make a unilateral decision. It’s one of the first nods toward this show being about how these women navigate a world dominated by men and machismo.
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Before long Guero has risen through the ranks of the cartel; he and Teresa are in love and living large. Things can’t stay that way for long though, and after Guero is ambushed, he prepares Teresa for the day she might have to run. He sets her up with a getaway bag, a passport, some money, and a notebook that he tells her not to read. He says if she goes to Don Vargas with that book, she’ll be able to trade it for her life. He also gives her a phone with simple instructions: If it ever rings, it means he’s dead.
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