Cast: JD Pardo (“Revolution,” “The Messengers”), Clayton Cardenas (“American Crime,” “Snowfall”), Edward James Olmos (“Battlestar Galactica”), Sarah Bolger (“Into the Badlands,” “Counterpart”), Michael Irby (“The Unit”), Danny Pino (“Cold Case”)
Airs: The 10-episode first season premieres on FX on Tuesday, Sept. 4
The premise: Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (JD Pardo), the gifted son of a proud Latino family, had a bright future that never was realized. A personal tragedy turned EZ’s life upside down, and he’s never recovered. EZ, recently released from prison, now is a prospect in the Mayans Motorcycle Club, which works as hired muscle for a local drug lord. Highly intelligent and full of regrets, Reyes is adjusting to his new identity as a gang member in the same small town along the U.S./Mexican border where he once had it all.
“Mayans MC” is co-created by Kurt Sutter. The series is set in the same universe as Sutter’s popular FX series, “Sons of Anarchy."
Highs: When viewers first see Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes, he’s riding his motorcycle near the U.S./Mexican border wall and looks like any other member of a biker gang. Excuse me, motorcycle club. He’s muscular, covered in tattoos, and has a permanent sneer that says, “Stay away from me, I’m not someone to be trifled with.” But there’s a lot more to EZ than what you see on the surface, which is evident moments after we meet him.
Stopped at a high school crosswalk, the tatted Mayans MC prospect has a fond flashback to his younger days. Clean cut and a student at Stanford, he paid a surprise visit to his high school girlfriend. Then the memory vanishes, and off he goes. What derailed this promising young man’s life? That still wasn’t clear after the first two episodes, but series co-creators Kurt Sutter and Elgin James do an excellent job of making EZ a layered and conflicted character who’s fascinating to watch. You’ll want to know what happened to this man and where his path takes him from here.
Reyes isn’t the only interesting character in this series. EZ’s brother, Angel (Clayton Cardenas), is a full member of Mayans MC and a valuable contributor to the group. Angel has his own plans, however, and they don’t necessarily align with what Mayans leader Bishop (Michael Irby) has in mind. A lot of power struggles are afoot in Mayans MC, and not just between club members.
Adding a pinch of gravitas is the iconic Edward James Olmos, who plays EZ’s father. Olmos isn’t onscreen nearly as much as I’d like, but his actions have purpose every time he is. Pop, as EZ calls him, does what any good father does: He helps his son and guides him as best he can.
Lows: The storylines in “Mayans MC” are complex, sometimes confusingly so. Aside from the drama in the club, the Mayans have a drug lord named Galindo (Danny Pino) constantly dictating their actions, rival gangs that complicate their lives, and the inconvenient fact that EZ’s childhood sweetheart is Galindo’s wife. Considering how elaborate the story lines can be and how attractive the cast is, at times “Mayans MC” can give off a telenovela vibe.
Grade: (B+): Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we prospect for a motorcycle club. But what an enjoyable web it is to dive into. I never got into “Sons of Anarchy.” It’s one of my pop culture blind spots. But if it was anything like this series, I’ll have to rectify that. First-rate acting, drama galore and high-risk activity make “Mayans MC” must-see TV.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.