Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched the Mayans MC episode titled "Overreaching Don't Pay."
While the old saying goes, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," it would appear as if Mayans M.C. showrunner Elgin James follows the modified adage "If you can't beat 'em, just keep on swinging until they join you." Season 3 is something of a crossroads for the FX biker drama, which is sidestepping its way out of Sons of Anarchy's bloody shadows all while putting SAMCRO's characters in the crosshairs. Oh, and also by hilariously blaspheming against Charlie Hunnam's Jax Teller.
In the episode "Overreaching Don't Pay," SAMCRO's Happy (David Labrava) and Montez (Jacob Vargas) showed up to pass on the overtly stern "advice" that the Mayans need to give the Sons a heads up when they're passing through. When Montez mentioned not wanting to disrespect Jax Teller's last wishes, it sparked the following exchange between new prospect Steve (Momo Rodriguez) and Gilly (Vincent Vargas).
STEVE: Who's Jax Teller?
GILLY: Who the fuck cares?
That the scene went right back into Bishop and Happy's tense exchange makes this epic bit of trolling all the more enjoyable and hilarious, especially since the pratfall-centric Steve remains clueless about what is arguably this franchise's most important character. There's a rare beauty in the way Elgin James& Co. are able to approach spotlight callbacks like that, in that off-screen respect is paid through on-screen disrespect. And can you bet that even without Kurt Sutter around for Season 3, showrunner Elgin James absolutely still has a lot of love and admiration for Sons of Anarchy's characters and creator. When I recently spoke with James, I brought up how much fun it was to hear such a barbed Jax Teller name-drop, and here's how he responded:
Yeah, exactly, and it's done with such love. It's a thing of like, everyone who comes from all the Sons fans are people who love that mythology, and we're part of that, but I feel like for two seasons, we were forced to genuflect, we were forced to get on our knees. You know, our brown guys get into trouble, they call the white guys to come save them – here comes the cavalry. [Laughs.] And they're talking about a guy, Jax Teller, who is such an incredible character – Charlie Hunnam did such an amazing job – but then you have people hundreds of miles away from a rival club, or maybe a best frenemy club, talking about him with such reverence? It just was not...it never felt truthful. That's done with all the most love, particularly to Charlie. I love these guys. I love Tommy Flanagan, I love DL, these guys are like my brothers. We can't wait to continue to get to play with them, but this is our show, man, this is our shot. We're not gonna be in anyone's fucking shadow anymore.
I love that reasoning, both because of its general boldness, since TV spinoffs very seldom get to take shots at flagship series, and because of how practical it is. It's not like Jax, Chibs, Tig and the rest of SAMCRO only ever spoke highly of Marcus Alvarez when his name came up on Sons of Anarchy, so it would be weird if the current Mayans members only ever talked about Jax like he was an angel martyr that hadn't totally fucked with the motorcycle club scene in huge ways. I'm sure the stipulations surrounding his death make a ton of charter members angry in various ways, and Gilly's "Who the fuck cares?" is a perfectly catty distillation of that viewpoint.
Mayans M.C.'s separation from Jax Teller isn't just about the always appreciated Sons of Anarchy crossover scenes, either. It's also about making damned sure audience know that J.D. Pardo's EZ Reyes isn't just a re-skinned version of Charlie Hunnam's character. While there are obviously comparisons to be made on a macro level, as well as on a "boyish grin that can make anyone swoon" level, EZ has definitely become his own character at this point. Elgin James wants everyone to know that's not going to change, either, as Season 3 will take EZ down some dark and personal roads. Just in case his happiness in the Season 3 premiere had anyone fooled, here's how the showrunner described EZ's current arc.
It's like this is EZ's 40 days in the desert, that's what we say. I guess we'll see how it ends; it didn't end up well for Christ, but we'll see how it ends up for J.D. and EZ. That's really what it is. This is the deal. I mean, J.D. and EZ have been sitting in the shadow of Jax Teller for two seasons; that's just the truth of it. And let me tell you, that shadow... J.D. shines his fucking light bright now. That shadow does not exist. He fucking explodes this season, and it's just the beginning...just the beginning. But yeah, when we first started the writers room, it was about how everyone is in a battle for their soul. Who's going to find their soul and who may lose their soul possibly forever, so everyone's gonna have to wait to see where EZ ends up.
Hearing that kind of talk makes me feel very worried about Edward James Olmos' Felipé Reyes, especially since he's been in such a funk over learning the truth about his wife's murder, and with EZ having killed Ada Maris' Dita Galindo. Sure, it would be heartbreaking if he lost Gaby in some way, considering how well they've bonded thus far, and EZ would definitely be devastated if something awful happened to Clayton Cardenas' Angel. But if we're talking about souls being on the line, I don't think there's a more direct way to EZ's soul than through his father. I really don't want to have to say "R.I.P. Felipé" at any point this season, or any other season.
So remember, even though things aren't looking so grim for EZ at the moment, Season 3 is still only getting started, and there are many bumps in the road yet to come. (And I'm sure it won't just be EZ paying the mental and physical costs.) Be sure to tune in Tuesday nights on FX at 10:00 p.m. ET, with episodes hitting Hulu the next day.