The Shakespearean phantasmagoria of sex, violence, inner turmoil and synchronized badassery (those everybody-is-riding-in-perfect-harmony-and-oozing-of-badassery-and-brotherhood-kind of high angle shots are cool, man!) that is Sons of Anarchy ended in a somewhat disappointing but not unexpected Shakespearean way.
To allow us our fix of engine grease and the satisfaction of even more shots of bikers arriving or leaving somewhere in perfect synchrony (those shots are still cool, shut up), Kurt Sutter brings us another series about the motorcycle club Mayans MC, a known rival and later business partner for SAMCRO. Although it partially goes back to the past, this series represents the next step in a much-needed evolution of SOA.
Nevermind that Springsteeny theme song – it really seems to suck at first but the lyrics are somewhat witty and then somehow it grows on you and makes you sing along.
Here’s how Mayans reaches further and does better than SOA.
For those of you who haven’t seen the first season of Mayans MC yet: There are no plot spoilers in this particular blog episode, and in any case spoiler warnings will always be given.
As compared to SAMCRO, in this world the club is not absolute. Reasoning for independent players is attempted in a logical and explicable manner, and there are some very simpatico rogue characters who serve their own agenda and their own agenda only.
(Treat them well and they’ll treat you better. Keep that shirt off, Logan. Har har.)
This means that the existance of a moral ambivalence which SOA tried to pinpoint at certain times, which always resulted in killing the competition or eliminating the other, the foreign element in very violent – and admittedly rather creative ways – did not reach a point where it actually held up. Loyalty to the club was absolute and death was certain to follow any dissidence. Mayans reached beyond that point and actually presents characters whose agenda can be of malice regarding the club, but who is a sustainable and independent, strong character.
Independent female characters. Yes, it’s quite ridiculous that the female mayor of Mayantown who supposedly has a hot wife comes to cry on the chief’s shoulder from time to time. But all of the main characters are individuals in their own right – male or female.
Sampling and comparing to SOA: there are three main female characters to be found, and they either can’t hold up an independent existence at all (Wendy), lose their personality, career, life goals and everything else to the club whilst trying to maintain their life and be an Old Lady at the same time (Tara); or they become so immersed in the Club that their whole existence is sacrificed to it (Gemma). Symbolically, Gemmas body is violated as an act of violence towards what the club represents. There is no Gemma outside SAMCRO. Sure, in Mayans there is also no Dita outside the Galindo family kitchen – but the next generation of gals sure steps it up a notch. And Mayans MC does the boys and girls justice when it comes to Character Development.
Mayans has two strong female leads. Both have a past and a present, which are revealed to the viewer piece by piece just like the male protagonists‘ biographies are shown bit by bit. Both of them seem to be mildly torn between an ideal and a love interest, but in the end know how to walk their own path. They become part of the operation by proving their intellectual worth, or they run the operation. In comparison to SOA this would have been absolutely ridiculous and not possible.
One could argue that the focus is shifting, but ghosts from the past and finding one’s true path still seems to be the objective for all of the characters. However, the nomad struggle has evolved since most of them have some kind of independent allegiance or a family to support and scold them.
Of course, this has only been season one. Massive betrayals, brutal murders and other shocking content is sure to come, since this is Kurt Sutter we are talking about. A major plot twist has concluded the first season and we know of part of the mayhem about to ensue. Apart from that, everything seems to be running smoothly for now.
Which brings us to another aspect of Mayans, as hinted at in the clingy title song – the poverty and deaths caused by – mostly – the cartel, and the constant social injustice happening in Mexico. I am very curious to see how Los Olvidados – if this series is really a true-to-form-follow-up of SOA – lets a ball of blood, tragedy and even more underage killing and dying untangle.
Furthermore, the meta-awareness is real as well, because a lot of the dialogue and most of the actors are if not of spanish ancestry then at least spanish-looking, and a cast this diverse would not have made it in TV Land just a couple of years ago. So in a very real white man’s world (remember Oscars So White?), Mayans MC also represents progress, equality and justice for overlooked talent who might have had the wrong „look“ to play a lead in a series or a movie not so long ago. The mainstream is finally actually appreciating the underdog as a legitimate individual and, eventually, the main player. Which is most definitely awesome and marks a significant step ahead. (Although here I must nod to SOA for including an actual arc for transgender prostitute Venus Van Dam, you go, LGBTQ+ equal rights cause! In that sense, both series are progressive, in regards to completely non-related but equally important causes. Love that.)
It’s actually a bit problematic, because we are conditioned by Sons of Anarchy to be in constant anticipation of violence and not trusting of any seemingly positive plot twists. But, as season one has shown, anybody can have his own agenda, and everything is connected. The past does most certainly not stay in the past.
Touching on a previous point, I am highly interested in seeing a seemingly fearless female character become ruthless to the point of no return and another one breaking down after seeing the conscequences of her choices. And it could really be either one going through either one of those experiences.
This series knows its roots and pays homage to them. Mayans MC is a spawn of SOA, and it has its‘ fair share of crossovers and cameos. It doesn’t strive to imitate Sons, because it knows it is another series in another world with similar subject matter. So while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and since the clubs to cross paths, I do expect one or the other shot or scene reminding me of SAMCRO, but I know better than to expect a copy. So does the amazingly gifted and creatively fearless Kurt Sutter.
So, all in all, Mayans MC has me positively hyped for another season. And yes, totally keep including about eight of those the-padrino-and-his-posse-arrive and el-padrino-and-his-posse-leave sequences. That bikebromance synchrony is still way badass, I can watch it many more times and enjoy the crap out of it.
Did you watch the first season of Mayans MC yet? What did you think?)