Mayans M.C. showrunner on that shocking finale coup: 'EZ is not turning into a villain'
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the June 14 episode of Mayans M.C., "When the Breakdown Hit at Midnight."
Sangre es sangre — but for how much longer?
Of all of the shocking developments in the fourth season finale of Mayans M.C. — and there were plenty — none was more devastating than the final conversation between Angel Reyes (Clayton Cardenas) and the baby brother he used to call "Boy Scout," EZ (J.D. Pardo).
After EZ staged a coup during Templo — ousting Marcus Alvarez (Emilio Rivera) as the club's president and installing himself as the leader by using a bylaw called the "kill switch" — Angel confronted his brother over his increasingly aggressive behavior. "What the f--- is wrong with you, bro? How many bodies you gonna stand on 'til you realize there ain't nobody f---ing left?" In response, EZ issued a simple warning: "If you are not on this train, please walk away — or it will run right over you." And yes, Angel, that definitely was a threat.
What EZ doesn't know yet is that train is about to derail. The episode ended with a hooded figure setting fire to the warehouse full of heroin owned by cartel queen Soledad (Selene Luna) — the same heroin that EZ just staked the club's entire future on.
"Next season is going to be complicated for everyone," says Mayans co-creator and showrunner Elgin James, in the understatement of the week. Note: FX has yet to renew the biker drama for another season, but that hasn't stopped James and his team from planning future storylines. And it's a good thing, too, because the finale dropped so many bombs we're going to need at least 10 more episodes to pick through the wreckage. EW grilled James about EZ's surprising power play, the long-awaited return of Sons of Anarchy fan favorite Tig Trager (Kim Coates), the reveal that Isaac (a.k.a. King of Meth Mountain) is still alive, and more burning questions from the finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When the series began, Angel used to refer to EZ as "the Boy Scout." Now, four seasons later, EZ killed the love of his life, Gaby (Sulem Calderon), he staged a major club coup, and he's hell bent on destroying all of his enemies. Was this always your plan for EZ when you and Kurt Sutter created Mayans?
ELGIN JAMES: It was always my plan. It was our plan to show the dynamics of a full human being. You think someone is something and then they turn out to be something about 400 shades darker. To me, trying to explain it, even to the writers in the writer's room, it's like Bruce Springsteen's song "Backstreets" off of the Born to Run album. It comes in with a chorus and there's this piano line in there, but then in the post-chorus, there's are a few little notes. "Don't pay attention to us. We're just a little bridge, a little bridge to the verse." And every once in a while it keeps coming back, these few notes. Maybe you're paying attention, maybe you're not. They're buried underneath the guitar solo. And then at the very end of the song, the whole song flips and those few notes now become the theme of the song.
That's what we really wanted to do with both EZ and Angel. This is who they always were. So if you look back at EZ — Kurt and I did start to lay this stuff in from the beginning. Like, "Oh, this is the way he was always going to end. This was his fate from the start."
The episode opens with the funeral for Coco (Richard Cabral), where a distraught Letty (Emily Tosta) tells the club that they are responsible for Coco's death. How much did this influence Marcus' determination to keep the peace with the Sons?
I think it did make a difference. It came out of something that happened in my real life where our friend Danny had passed away. We'd all gone to his funeral, me and all the brothers, and the people around us in the gang. His aunt afterwards blamed us all and screamed at us all, saying this was our fault, that we did this, that we killed our friend Danny. We killed her nephew. That always really stuck with me, because in a lot of ways she was right. So I think with Marcus, he was always leaning this way. I think it's another part of his journey. If you go all the way back to Sons, and you see who Marcus was and he seemed just like this ride or die, this warrior, which he was — and he made some decisions [that he'd have to live with].
That's the difference with the last two seasons of Mayans — it becomes about consequences. Kurt and I always knew that. When I first sat down with him, I think it was actually our second meeting, I was just like, "No, I don't think I'm the right person to tell this story, because I'm not as interested in glorifying this lifestyle, having been close to it and around it, and having [known] people caught up in it. I think I'm just more interested in the consequences, and the pain and the fear that leads you there." And Kurt was like, "Well, that's exactly why you have to tell this story."
So we knew this is where we were going. The first two seasons really were the bridge, and then now these second two seasons have become about the consequences of those actions. And we got to explore with Emilio, who's such a phenomenal actor, things that happened in the first season of Sons of Anarchy, like with the death of his son. It's always brooding inside him. I think now he does have that right grounding and that right strength with his wife. As we say in the finale, he's not becoming an old man — he's becoming a good man.
You led me right to my next question because the character who says that line to Marcus is none other than Sons of Anarchy's Tig Trager, played by Kim Coates! How long have you wanted to bring him back, and why was now the right time?
It had to be organic. All the writers, the first season, we just had a whole list — we wanted to bring everybody back. And Kurt was just like, "All right, slow down. We have to find the right time." Ray McKinnon [who plays US Attorney Lincoln Potter] was actually the first [priority] to me. Ray is just a phenomenal actor, writer, director, human being, and he's turned into my most relied upon mentor. I've had so many amazing moments with him just grounding me, and also him pushing me to make sure that I get what I need artistically.
Ray was the first [Sons actor to appear]. Obviously, we wanted Tommy [Flanagan, who appeared as Chibs in season 2 of Mayans]. Tommy's my boy outside of this mythology. But then Kim is such a phenomenal actor, so we've always wanted to see that dude. He's so electric, he's so alive! And now we can't wait to bring him back to put him up against other people on our show who are also very electric and alive. We're thinking of these pairings that could be really, really fun.
So Kim Coates will be back on Mayans next season?
Possibly. If we get a season five, who knows? It was such a treat [to have him on set]. So many selfies were taken from the crew and the cast, he was treated like royalty.
Tig first shows up in the hospital, where he informs Terry (Greg Vrotsos) that the war with the Mayans "brought back that f---ing demon that we all thought was dead out in the desert." Later, Tig tells Marcus that Les Packer's "crazy" baby brother is back. Finally, who pops up in the episode but Isaac (JR Bourne) — king of Meth Mountain, who we all thought was dead — and he's wearing a Sons kutte. So... is Isaac's last name Packer, and is he the Big Bad next season?
Yes, one hundred percent. Some people picked up in season three that Isaac has the Sons of Anarchy tattoo, the reaper tattoo. So, we've planning this for a while to bring him back. Plus, JR Bourne is just another actor who's so alive, so present. So yeah, you may see Isaac again. He may come ready to set some fires.
In other big reveal news, Felipe Reyes (Edward James Olmos) finally told Miguel (Danny Pino) that they are Family with a capital F. How will this affect Miguel going forward?
I think it's gonna affect him in a very, very big way. Everything he's believed has just now crumbled beneath his feet. And now a lot of things are gonna start to make sense to him — about how he's treated by his father, why he has never fit so well into his legal father's footsteps. And the question is, once his brothers [Angel and EZ] find out, if they do find out, what's going to happen then — because he and EZ are not set up to be bosom buddies at this point. They are both plotting to take the other out as soon as they can. So this will complicate things.
In this season's penultimate episode, Potter paid Adelita (Carla Baratta) a visit and essentially told her he had a job for her to do. This week, she killed El Banquero (Guillermo Garcia) — and it now seems like she's working for El Banquero's sister, Soledad. Can we assume these things are all related?
Yes. I think we'll see that whether you want it or not, The Man usually wins. Potter has his fingers in everything, just as he did with [Miguel] Galindo. I think he sees something in Soledad and thinks this is a logical play now, and he roped poor Adelita in. And next season is going to be complicated for everyone. For the first time, we finally got to see some of the trauma in real time with Adelita. Now that she's become the monster that she was so terrified of — she became the same monster that destroyed her life and set her on this path.
So much of what we do is about generational violence. I know it's like a fun, though dark, television show, but we are working out our s--t. We think we have free will, but we don't — we're doing things because our great, great, great grandparents who we've never met have made these decisions, good or bad, that put us in this situation. [By killing Potter's agent Anna Linares], Adelita did that same thing to her own son that set her off on her path. Now as she's promising to stick around and to be with Angel and to be with the baby and to try to find some sort of happiness, she's now caught back up into this cycle. And given how the episode ends, I'm not sure that Soledad and the Mayans are going to be on very good footing when we come back.
I will ask you about that ending, but first we have to get to the coup. It's been clear for a few weeks that EZ didn't agree with how Marcus was handling the conflict with the Sons. But it was a real shock to see him activate the kill switch and then install himself as president over Bishop (Michael Irby). What was the turning point for EZ in determining that he is the only one who can save the club?
EZ is not a villain. That's the thing, he's not turning into a villain. He's doing what's right for the club, what everyone else can't do. Because everyone else lets their emotions, their personal life, their ego get involved. Even with Alvarez, who's trying to do the right thing and trying to make up for all the bad that they've done. All the damage that they've left behind them in this trail, he's trying to repair that in a way — and that's not what's best for the life of this club. Because the club is a monster, and the monster needs to be fed.
And Bishop was the same way. He let his own personal demons get in the way of what was best. EZ is clear-eyed and focused. He's like, this is what I need to do for my brothers. It may seem from the outside that it's selfish and about power, but it's not about power to him. It's about, this is what the machine needs. I need to help steer this machine and I don't trust anybody else. And in many ways, he's right.
He did have an off-ramp from this life in season 3, when he could have left with Gaby — but then Felipe convinced Gaby to leave without him. If Felipe hadn't done that, could things have been different for EZ?
Yeah. He'd be gone right now. He'd be working construction somewhere. He'd be talking about poetry at the construction site. He'd be happy, but maybe not fully because he would have avoided his fate. That was one thing that Kurt and I planned from the very, very beginning — he was never going to end up in Stanford no matter what happened. That is not what the universe had planned for him, even though it seemed so clear that [he was on] that set path, but [the universe] was always going to spit him back out. In season three, people were like, "You can't have your lead just run off into the sunset," but we really had to believe that he could. And then he got spat back out.
When he pulled that trigger on Gaby [in episode 7], it's a horrific decision, but in his mindset it's right decision. He had to do it to protect his brother.
His bond with Angel is so strong, but Angel clearly doesn't agree with EZ's actions. In the finale, EZ essentially tells him he needs to get on board or else. Was it hard to put them at odds like this? Because as a fan, it's hard to watch.
Yes. It is hard. With our show, you can take away the motorcycles, you can take away the violence, you can take away the six pack abs, but you cannot take away the chemistry between those actors. That is the show. We are an ensemble, and we work as an ensemble. But the truth of the matter is, our bread and butter is the love between those two and that's spark and the chemistry between those brothers. It's very rare to find. I reference Moonlighting all the time, which is not the first thing you think of, but there is a Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepard vibe with them. It just jumps off the screen.
But story-wise, it is tough to write against that. we've broken them apart before, but it's part of what happens with their destiny. Even with Angel, EZ even quotes the very first thing from the pilot, "I'm doing what the club couldn't do for itself." Angel failed [at] that. He tried to do that, but EZ's actually really going to do it. Even though Angel started off [in the series] seeming more like the rebel, there are times this season during Templo where [it's clear that] he likes the order. He's like, "Yo, don't interrupt him!" He needs that structure. So it's scary for him to see that structure [be upended], and he's not sure it's for the best.
Poor Emily got so close to freeing herself and her son, Cristóbal, from Miguel — but he caught up with her in the finale. What can you preview about that relationship going forward?
Sarah Bolger is one of the bravest actors that we have. What she's done to completely deconstruct her character, and the lack of vanity that she's had to get to the emotional truth of this character has just been phenomenal and staggering to watch.
This season, a lot of people were really compartmentalized, and now what we're doing is bringing people back. What's going to be great about season five is we've had so many storylines, but they've all been for a purpose. And in season five, we can finally focus more and have it all be centered around our core people like we did the first season. Emily has no choice but to come back for her child. We talk about parenthood a lot on the show, and [how] there's nothing you wouldn't do for your child.
Creeper made a huge sacrifice for the club in the finale by confessing to all of their crimes after learning that his girlfriend (Stella Maeve) is actually an undercover cop. Is this the last we're going to see of him?
I can't get rid of Joseph Lucero that easily, are you kidding me? That's my boy Joe! He's texted me five times today. I can't get rid of him. No, we're going to have to see. Where do you go from there? He made the ultimate [sacrifice] because that's who Creeper is. He's always been isolated, he's always been vulnerable, just like Kate said. He's never fully fit in with everybody else, and that's been leading to this moment where [he proves] that he's the truest Mayan of anyone who's ever been in that club.
Now we've gotta talk about that ending, where everything goes up in smoke, literally and figuratively. We see someone who looks a lot like Angel setting fire to Soledad's warehouse full of heroin. Clearly, the consequences of this fire are going to be staggering for the club and everyone in their orbit. What can you preview about how those ramifications will play out?
I was driving to set, I was directing, and I was listening to the band Strand of Oaks — Tim Showalter's band. He plays Hoosier on our show… We were going to shoot the clubhouse scene after Coco's funeral. We shoot at the clubhouse all of the time, and I was like, "What can we do different?" There's this part of Tim's song called "Hurry," where the song falls apart and then it reinvents itself — it becomes this other bombastic, crazy thing.
I was so inspired… so we shot the rest of the episode differently. In some ways, the finale looks different from the rest of the season… Because what's happening is, the show will never, ever be the same. The brothers will never be the same. I don't know if that's Angel [setting the fire], I don't know if that's Isaac, I don't know who that is — but there's someone who's burning all that down, and nothing on our show will ever be the same.
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