Mayans M.C. series premiere recap: Violent twists at the border
This time, we’re moving south from the fictional town of Charming to the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Mayans rule the roads. Our new hero is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (played by JD Pardo), who, unlike his protagonist predecessor Jax Teller, does not come from gang royalty. In fact, he hasn’t even gotten his training wheels off yet.
We open the episode as EZ rides along a border wall spraypainted with the not-so-subtle phrase “Divided We Fall.” On the road ahead, a wild dog is eating a dead crow, which just might be a metaphor. We know which animal symbolizes EZ when he drives his bike right over the dead bird.
Meanwhile, Mayan president Bishop (Michael Irby), clad in the gang’s matchy leather vests, struts into a dress manufacturer’s warehouse, where tailors are busy sewing kilos of drugs into colorful quinceañera gowns. The drugs need to be transported to Las Vegas, and Bishop decides the transport crew could use some extra muscle. After a brief powwow with some subordinates, it’s agreed that EZ, whom everyone agrees is very smart, will get his first real gang task. It’s during this conversation that we learn the new guy was in jail for killing a cop, but was released early when the cop was revealed to have been dirty. After getting out, he teamed up with his older brother, Angel, already a member of the Mayans. Still not officially a member, EZ wears a leather vest that reads “Prospect,” which is like the biker version of a trainee.
While riding around looking tough on his motorcycle, he stops by a high school, where we get our first flashback. Eight years earlier, he was still enrolled at Stanford (he’s smart, remember?). On a break from college, he returned to visit his girlfriend, who was still in high school at the time. They both can’t wait for her to graduate so they can be together again. More on that later…
Jolted back to the present by a car horn, EZ continues on his way and stops by his dad’s butcher’s shop. The elder Reyes (played by Edward James Olmos) seems like a standup guy and gives his son a book of poetry to read on his breaks from gangbanging. Before leaving the shop, EZ hands his pops a mysterious package. Pops asks if his brother knows anything, and EZ assures him he doesn’t. (More on that later too.) Outside the store, Angel is waiting and asks if their dad spoke about their mom. Apparently, something bad happened to her eight years ago, around the same time EZ went to jail for killing the cop.
Later that night, a group of Mayans ride alongside a van containing the dresses. As the convoy drives through the desert, they’re ambushed in what looks to be an inside job. EZ saves the life of a Mayan trapped inside the burning van, but all the drugs are taken. Returning home empty-handed, the Mayans explain the situation to cartel boss (and series bad guy) Miguel Galindo, an impeccably dressed young kingpin who uses the Mayans to smuggle his drugs. As they try to figure out who jacked the cargo, EZ reveals that he has a photographic memory and observed a tattoo on the wrist of one of the hijackers. They trace the ink to a Samoan gang, but Galindo thinks they were probably just hired guns. To make sure, he asks the Mayans to bring him the gang’s shot caller for an interrogation. Bishop pushes back on the demand but is quickly put in his place by Galindo. It seems like the Mayans aren’t thrilled to be under the cartel’s thumb.
A few gang members, including Angel and EZ, cross the border through a handy hidden tunnel to get some off-the-books medical help for a Mayan who was injured in the robbery. While in Mexico, Angel and some other Mayans duck into a building, leaving EZ as a lookout. Sitting alone reading his poetry book, he sees a child getting chased by a street vendor for stealing some food. EZ comes to the boy’s defense, and when a woman arrives to claim him, she thanks EZ for his protection. The duo share a moment, and we know she’ll be coming back into the story.
When Angel and the rest return, EZ notices they’re carrying a package. When he asks what’s going on, they react with extreme caginess. Before heading back to the states, EZ coincidentally sees his high school girlfriend, Emily (Sarah Bolger), getting out of a fancy chauffeured car with a child. Through another flashback, we learn that EZ ended their relationship when Emily came to visit him in jail. Upset with his decision, she stormed out of the visitor’s room after telling EZ that she was pregnant with their child. (SOA fans will notice Katey Sagal’s Gemma Teller Morrow watching the breakup in the background.)
Back in the present, “El Padrino,” whom SOA fans will recognize as Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera), arrives at Mayan headquarters to dish out some advice on the cartel problem. Padrino asks EZ to stay outside and wash his bike while the grownups talk. Inside the meeting, the Mayans make a strategy for confronting the Samoans and decide to get some backup from their friends in the Sons of Anarchy. Padrino concludes the summit with a pound of a gavel.
Back at the Reyes butcher shop, a man picks up the package EZ had dropped earlier, and in return hands Reyes a note saying that he needs to make contact with EZ that night.
Next comes our second big action sequence, as the Mayans roll up to where the Samoans hang out (which is apparently a graveyard) and, in broad daylight, get into a shootout with semiautomatic weapons. Outnumbered, the Mayans still manage to kill nearly all their rivals, even blasting the ear off the Samoan leader, who flees the gunfight in a van. Unfortunately for him, he’s cut off on his way out of the cemetery by the Sons of Anarchy, who arrive just in time to cover the exit.
Things get worse for the Samoan leader as he’s dragged back to Mayan headquarters and interrogated by Galindo, who’s ominously sporting a sharp yellow raincoat. The Samoan admits to stealing the drugs but swears he doesn’t know who hired him. His memory is triggered, however, when Galindo orders his arm be chopped off with a machete. Now missing an ear and an arm, the Samoan provides some details that help crack the mystery. We learn that a group of rebels, made up of cartel victims, are probably to blame. Galindo demands the Mayans find the snitch in their ranks and help get the drugs back somehow. He then strolls off to dinner with his family. EZ is left to roll up the dead Samoan in plastic wrap as another fun hazing ritual. Before he can start, he gets a call from his dad, who needs to speak with him in person.
We then get the episode’s three biggest twists, back to back to back. First, as we see Galindo sitting down for dinner, we learn that he’s married to Emily and they have a child together. But could the boy belong to EZ? We then cut back to EZ, who sneaks into his father’s closed store. In the meat locker, he meets with an FBI agent. That’s right, EZ is a government witness. The FBI agent knows all about the robbery and the shootout with the Samoans and wants to make sure EZ hasn’t forgotten his mission. EZ reminds the agent that his agreement was to help bring down the cartel, not the Mayans.
The final twist comes as EZ, Angel, and the other Mayans who accompanied them to Mexico earlier in the episode cross the border again under the pretense of dumping the Samoan’s body. But when they drive into the desert, Angel introduces EZ to a familiar face: the woman who thanked him for saving the boy. She introduces herself as Adelita. Behind her, a camp is set up that seems to be crawling with children wearing strange animal masks. The Mayans deliver her the package they retrieved earlier in Mexico, which is filled with drugs.
We soon learn that Adelita is the head of the rebels, the Olvidados, or forgotten ones. She and her group of cartel orphans have been launching guerrilla-style attacks on the cartel, costing the gangsters a lot of money. She’s not afraid of retribution and swears she’ll make the cartel fear for their own families.
Angel then takes EZ aside, telling him that the cartel is suffering and the rebels are the future. Sensing the sea change, he and some Mayan friends have decided to secretly align themselves with the rebels. EZ then realizes that his brother is the rat Galindo and the rest of the Mayans are looking for. Still, he decides to keep Angel’s secret and pledges to help him continue sabotaging the cartel.
As the episode ends, we see Adelita making good on her promise. When Galindo leaves the restaurant with Emily, they get into separate cars. We then see children wearing the rebel animal masks sitting in a car nearby, preparing to follow Emily and her child as they drive away.