The Mayans were an ever-present threat in SoA, but they eventually turned into vital allies after years of conflicts and betrayals. Mayans M.C. is all about a charter set up after the end of SoA that is set up far away from the show's original stomping grounds of Charming, California.
These facts alone help set Mayans M.C. up to be more than just SoA 2.0. There are fairly regular reminders that we are still in the world SoA creator Kurt Sutter carved out in the original series, but the show leans heavy into what makes itself unique.
The crux of the show's uniqueness is lead character Ezekiel "EZ" Reyes (JD Pardo). EZ could not be more different than SoA lead Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam). EZ is not a heavyweight in this Mayans charter; he is simply a prospect looking to earn his stripes. He is also remarkably intelligent and less accepting of brutality. Those characteristics paired with his lack-of-clout often land him in hot water with his fellow club members and their associates (no matter how right he may be at the time).
He is also given some unexpected plot developments early on that make his character so much more than a simple biker out to prove his worth.
The setting itself is also one of the show's strongest attributes. The border town and surrounding areas all paint a picture of a beautiful culture paired with seedy powers behind the scenes. It is a much more interesting place to sit around in than the "everytown" that was Charming.
Speaking of the dark underbelly of Mayans M.C., the cartel is a major player in the plot, for better or worse. They have a steady alliance with the group, but it is quickly made clear that the pair's partnership is far from morally justifiable. The cartel's misdeeds also are shown affecting the outside world, putting the Mayans in the middle of a precarious struggle for power and revenge.
It is also worth noting that from the cartel spawns Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino), an ally that is clearly being painted as the baddest of the bad guys the Mayans are in bed with. Pino's performance is second only to Reyes', with Miguel becoming a villain that feels much more personal than many SoA foes.
The show has promise, but is not without its flaws. Most of the supporting characters do not pop out in the same way the backing SoA crew members did. There is plenty room for these characters to grow, but do not expect to be attached to them from the get-go.
Mayans M.C. also spends a little too much time chewing up the scenery in its first episode. The first section of the series premiere is a thrilling reintroduction to the world of bikers, but things soon slow down a bit. Time is taken to flesh out some long-plays that could have been teased and held onto for future episodes.
That being said, those flaws are all fixable with time. Sutter and co-creator Elgin James clearly have a vision for where Mayans M.C. is heading and are determined to let the show blaze its own trail.
In the meantime, Mayans M.C. is exactly what SoA fans have been gearing up for and well worth the wait.
Photo Credit: FX / James Minchin