Elgin James continues to effectively explore the moral ambiguity surrounding the Mayans motorcycle club and how they relate to the other groups they associate with – bad guys vs. bad guys. Now that the Mayans are tangled up with Lincoln Potter’s (Ray McKinnon) government cronies, the bikers are realizing that their criminal methodology for getting the job done pales in comparison to how these military types handle business. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say there are kids, torture, and sharp objects involved.
Pardo’s EZ continues to struggle with killing. Sure, he can take a guy down with a bullet from distance, but when the situation calls for something up close, like strangulation, EZ is visually shaken by the experience. Perhaps he hasn’t completely broken bad yet? Time will tell.
Papa Felipe Reyes is going through his own unique metamorphosis in the Season 2 premiere, as he comes to grips with his violent past and what effect it might have on his children. Olmos imbues his character with the harrowing demeanor of a man who’s lost more than he’s gained over the years. The veteran actor speaks softly and purposefully as if Felipe is critically analyzing his own words before he says them.
While the plot thread surrounding the rebels and their relationship to the drug cartels isn’t the primary focus in this episode, Angel’s intimate relationship with Carla Baratta’s Luisa “Adelita” Espina is a good indicator that James isn’t tossing that story to the curb just yet – which is a good thing, since learning more about the people most affected by the cartel’s actions in Mexico is one of the more compelling subplots from Season 1.
With so much packed into one taut episode, “Xbalanque” cannot sufficiently set everyone’s season-long arc up with great satisfaction. Characters like EZ’s ex-girlfriend Emily (Sarah Bolger) and her drug-dealing husband Miguel (Danny Pino), are present in a “hey don’t forget about us” kind of way. Their brief appearances here lack the same emotional punch brought on by the Reyes family. But it’s early, so there’s still plenty of time to dig into their characters in future episodes.
Another standout from the premiere is Ray McKinnon’s Potter, who has some unexpectedly hilarious scenes. The government agent continues to frustrate the Mayans, however, James doesn’t overuse Potter as a Sons of Anarchy crutch. And the same goes for David Labrava’s Happy Lowman, who was revealed to be the potential killer of EZ and Angel’s mom. Like Potter, Happy is there, but he never outstays his welcome.