In Season 2 of Mayans M.C., we saw a man hung upside-down and shot by a firing squad, Alvarez have a finger lopped off by a crazed torturer, a traitor chained to a hook and injected with a lethal dose of fentanyl, and the mother of a cartel head get strangled and burnt to a crisp. (Adios, Dita.) Such graphic violence is to be expected from Mayans M.C., a show that relishes murder and torture in all sorts of inventive manners to attract burly dudes and those who love the dangerous outlaw lifestyle. It’s arguably television’s most barbaric show, a title it took over from its equally vicious cousin Sons of Anarchy, from which it spun off.
But in Season 2, Mayans M.C. also became clutch-the-pearls sudsy, with the kind of absurd plot points the preposterous world of soap operas needs to pull off on-the-dime U-turns with stories and characters. Dramatic soap opera zoom! In Season 1, the big to-do was about who killed EZ’s (JD Pardo) mother, or how the rebels would take down the cartel, or how Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) would squeeze the vice on EZ and Angel (Clayton Cardenas) and get them to rat out their club. In Season 2, there are still a lot of tangled connections between rival motorcycle gangs and law enforcement, but the more interesting threads involve waiting for the results of paternity tests. And boy were there plenty of them.
Season 2 saw the fruits of the star-crossed romance between Mayans member Angel and rebel leader Adelita (Carla Barrata), as Adelita revealed she was pregnant with Angel’s child. Their relationship was never a major factor in the plot, but the child certainly was, putting Angel in a difficult position where, after expressing a puzzling amount of concern for Adelita to the club, he finally admitted to his bros that he helped bake the bun in the oven. And in the finale, Lincoln texted Angel a picture of the freshly born little guy, who is in Lincoln’s possession and becomes the cutest piece of leverage since Abel was kidnapped by the Irish in the Season 2 finale of Sons of Anarchy.
Even Lincoln — a man so singularly focused on getting the bad guy that it’s hard to imagine he has time to hang upside-down anymore — wasn’t immune to borrowing from All My Children. The craziest (and laziest) revelation of Season 2 of Mayans M.C. was that Lincoln *gasp* previously had an affair and a lovechild with a witness in a trial he was involved in, information that could kill his career and the ironclad reputation he’s built. (I thought the weirdo’s only true love was chocolate milk!) But when he’s got the Reyes brothers against the wall, word of the affair conveniently finds its way via a game of telephone to Angel and EZ, who use it as — you guessed it — leverage against Lincoln in the season finale.
The operatics came to a crescendo halfway through the season, when secrets of Felipe’s (Edward James Olmos) past surfaced. Before Felipe got together with EZ and Angel’s mom, he was hooking up with Dita (Ada Maris), and that produced (duh) another lovechild. Only this one is all grown up, and it turned out to be Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino), the show’s bad guy, which means that Miguel is half-brothers with EZ and Angel. Yikes! It’s a reveal so fundamentally game-changing to the show’s main characters that it’s shocking it wasn’t planned out before Season 2.
Coco (Richard Cabral) — who had his own lovechild problems in Season 1, a warmup for the out-of-wedlock kids of Season 2 — even ended the season wearing an eye patch, another soap opera trope made famous by Days of Our Lives‘ Steve “Patch” Johnson. It all adds up to a show that isn’t even trying anymore to mask its intentions as a prime-time melodrama rather than a tough guy prestige drama.
That’s not necessarily a slight; these plot twists have been entertaining in a ridiculous way. But it does diminish some of the authenticity of the Sons of Anarchy universe that creator Kurt Sutter insisted was real, even though Sons of Anarchy itself was a soap opera in a beard and a leather jacket. It’s just that with Mayans M.C., it’s become more pronounced.
Why? Because Mayans M.C. is having a harder time telling compelling stories than Sons of Anarchy did, and it all starts with the foundation. Where Sons of Anarchy focused on the relationships and brotherly bonds between the members of SAMCRO, Mayans M.C. abandons the tight-knit motorcycle club in favor of double agents, undercover informants, and thicker relationships between members of different factions. The camaraderie between Chibs, Juice, Tig, Opie, Jax, and others was Sons of Anarchy‘s lifeblood. I still don’t know the names or backstories of some of the dudes who sit at the Mayans table, because they haven’t received the same attention. Without the connection between members of the club that’s right there in the show’s title, Mayans M.C. is taking extreme measures to build connections elsewhere.
And that’s OK! I say Mayans M.C. should continue to lean into its telenovela roots and keep the soapy shocks coming. As proven in Season 2, the big moments came from the salacious secrets, not the convoluted business demands of more illegal gun running opportunities (zzzzz…). I can’t wait for Coco’s long lost identical twin to show up.
Mayans M.C. returns for Season 3 in fall 2020 on FX.