‘Mayans M.C.’ Season Finale: Showrunner Elgin James Teases Darkest Chapter Yet For EZ In Season 4

SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains details about tonight’s Season 3 finale of Mayans M.C.

At the end of Mayans M.C.‘s Season 3 finale, which aired tonight on FX, EZ (JD Pardo) and Santo Padre seems on the brink of all-out war with the other Mayans charters.

Written by Debra Moore Muñoz and directed by Elgin James, “Chapter the Last, Nothing More to Write” opens peacefully, with EZ dreaming of his late mother, before awakening to the love of his life, Gaby (Sulem Calderon). The pair are planning to start a new life in Lodi, after EZ ties up loose ends for the club.

For EZ, “tying up loose ends” means staking out a garage where members of the Yuma charter hang out, along with Angel (Clayon Cardenas) and Gilly (Vincent Vargas), taking out Canche (Jimmy Gonzales) with a bomb, so that Bishop (Michael Irby) can take over as the Mayans’ “one king.” Little does EZ know that cartel boss Miguel Galindo (Danny Pino) has ordered Marcus (Emilio Rivera) to kill him, with Nestor (Gino Vento) on hand to make sure he goes through with it.

While Marcus wrestles with his conscience, he’s far from the only one having a tough time. Emily (Sarah Bolger) awakens after being drugged and nearly drowned by Miguel, and begins to piece together what her husband did. Taza (Raoul Max Trujillo) gets a call from Laura (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), letting him know that El Palo (Gregory Cruz) is still out to kill him. Meanwhile, Leticia (Emily Tosta) pleads with Gilly (Vincent Vargas) to help her retrieve Coco (Richard Cabral), who hasn’t returned from Meth Mountain after leaving to find Hope (Vanessa Giselle).

Around the same time, Adelita (Carla Baratta) dips into a restaurant to surprise Agent Linares (Efrat Dor), who at the beginning of the season helped Assistant U.S. Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) abduct her son, and tried to have her killed. Linares apologizes, but the leader of Los Olvidados isn’t there to kill her. She just wants to know where Potter is. As it turns out, Potter is near the beach, toying with Miguel from afar. He lets Miguel know that his assets on both sides of the border have been seized, and that federal agents are descending on his house. This leads him to call Emily, telling her that the “remote possibility we always talked about is happening,” and that they need to go on the run with their son.

When Canche shows up at the Yuma garage, he’s with his own son, so EZ looks to set off the explosion without harming the kid. Ultimately, he triggers it and there are a number of casualties, but the kid survives. Unfortunately, Canche does too, though EZ doesn’t realize this until episode’s end.

While Bishop and other members of Santo Padre celebrate the apparent success of their mission, EZ shares with his brother his plans to leave. “If I stay, all I see is more bodies,” EZ says, “[but] if I go with Gaby, maybe there’s some hope.” Given the fact that he and Nails (Justina Adorno) have a kid on the way, Angel understands EZ’s desire for a second chance, and the long-quarreling brothers reconcile.

But before EZ can take off with Gaby, Felipe (Edward James Olmos) speaks with her at the butcher shop, telling her that his son is broken and that she needs to save herself by leaving town without him. When EZ learns what his father did, he’s devastated and rides off to Gaby’s uncle’s house. But it’s too late and she’s gone.

While tailing EZ with Nestor, Marcus refuses to kill his friend, which leads to a momentary standoff. But by the end of the episode, the pair have clearly reached some kind of agreement, with Nestor ignoring Miguel’s calls. Taza heads to Laura’s place to bring her a gun, so that she can protect herself if El Palo comes back—but by the time he arrives, the president of the Vatos Malditos  is already there. Laura had set Taza up because El Palo threatened her son, but she ultimately shoots him, saving Taza’s life.

In San Diego, Potter runs out to the farmers market, returning to find that his wife and son are gone. Adelita has found him. But to save his own skin, he reveals that her son is still alive.

Meanwhile, Miguel anxiously awaits for Emily to arrive, so that they can escape from the feds. He ultimately realizes, though, that Emily caught on to him and his marriage is over, when her bodyguard shows up in her place, holding in his hand her wedding ring and leftover pills from the bottle he used to drug her. Emily takes her son Cristóbal to her sister’s, while Miguel takes off in his helicopter alone.

Later, Gilly shows up at Meth Mountain and rescues both Coco and Hope from Isaac (JR Bourne). Back at the clubhouse, Taza warns Bishop that El Palo has set something in motion, while EZ reaffirms his commitment to the club. “This is who I am,” he says. “This is where I belong.”

Shortly thereafter, EZ walks outside, and Molotov cocktails start coming over the clubhouse wall. Outside are countless Mayans from other charters, who are hell-bent on taking Santo Padre down.

Ahead of tonight’s finale, showrunner Elgin James spoke with Deadline, to break down its pivotal events. He also teased what’s to come in Season 4, which promises to be EZ’s darkest chapter yet, touching on the “consequences” Santo Padre faces for its attempted coup.

DEADLINE: How long ago did you figure out your ending for Season 3?

ELGIN JAMES: What’s wild is that we finished Season 2 and then the hiatus, at least for me, was about a week and a half, and then it was like, “We need to start Season 3!” So, it took off and I was just like, “I need to figure this out.” By the time we started the writers’ room, I knew our first scene and the last scene, and I just needed the help of the brilliant writers to…piece it all together. But we knew pretty soon on, where we were going to end. Then, I went in and actually pitched that to FX and 20th. Being fired up, I just plotted out, “This is what we’re going to do,” and [FX Chairman] John Landgraf, after I finished and took a breath, was basically just like, “Okay, pull it off.” [Laughs] And hopefully we did.

DEADLINE: Did you consider any alternate endings? Were there storylines that you considered taking in a different direction?

JAMES: Being lucky to have worked with Kurt [Sutter] on Mayans for the first two seasons, he flies so loose. He will just write something and then we’ll figure it out later, and I don’t mean to be flippant at all about mental illness, but I have crazy story OCD, so it was always terrifying to me. My brain works very different, so this time, I knew from the funnel cake in Episode 1 [that] that was going to come back somewhere in the middle. So, all of those threads that we were laying in throughout were all intentional. And one [way of writing]’s not better than the other. It just comes from my own panic and fear.

It’s like, I don’t know what the f**k I’m doing in this industry, so the way I direct, I over-prepare. I’m so afraid of being caught flat-footed, so I hyper, hyper prepare, and I kind of write the same way of just, we know everything. Then, you stay loose because these are all ideas in my head, and then you bring it into the writers’ room, and you have these minds that are much smarter, and have much more experience than me, and we figure out how we’re actually going to pull this off. Then, they bring in their own ideas of how to make it even better, and then you bring it to the actors, who take our little words and give it blood and muscle, and get it to a level none of us ever could.

DEADLINE: Did you write Season 3 with confidence that you’d get a Season 4 renewal? Or did the thought of another season not even enter into the equation?

JAMES: Honestly, I knew this was our shot. JD and I…we’re so used to seeing each other every day that even in hiatus, we’ll still talk on the phone several times a week, if not a couple of times a day, and we would just get each other fired up at three o’clock in the morning on the phone like, “This is our shot.” Like, “We have one shot, ever. This is it, and we’ve just got to lay it all out.” And I came at the actors really hard like, “Everyone needs to show up. All of us together may never get this again, so every scene needs to be a heavyweight bow.”

I think there’s this thing that happens, as a writer. Art [can become] this ethereal thing, where you need inspiration, and I always see it much more blue-collar. Like, you show up, you do the work. This season, everyone brought it beyond what I ever even could have imagined, so there was actually never any thought of a Season 4. We just were all about, “Let’s show them what we can do. We know what we’re up against. We know a lot of people are going to stop watching because there’s been a change. We know we’re going to do something different. This is our shot; we’re going to take it.”

I’ll tell you, at the end of shooting…we were just exhausted. We’d been on set 91 days straight, besides weekends, and at the end, I kept saying to everyone, “Yo, we said we’d do it, and we did it, and it’s not up to us now. It’s up to the world, how they’re going to react.”

Then, it came out and no one cared. Like half the audience disappeared, and I had to take a moment of, “Oh, I have to really believe what I said.” Like, we finally got to have our say, to use our voice, tell our stories, and then people left. We didn’t think we were going to get a Season 4 when we noticed [audience drop-off] the first two episodes, and what we’re so grateful to is, we have so many amazing, loyal fans that stayed. Then, new people came, and we actually ended up doing better than we ever thought that we would have.

DEADLINE: You’ve touched on the fact that you became sole showrunner of Mayans in Season 3, following Kurt Sutter’s exit. Were there subtle changes you looked to make after the fact, to put your stamp on the show?

JAMES: There were no intentional changes. I think what happened is that Kurt and I are just very different storytellers. Even with violence, there’s a reason why people love him, and a reason why he’s a great storyteller. There’s a glee to his violence, there’s a glee to the storytelling, and watching it as we’re going, I’m like, “Oh, there’s just a straight sadness to mine.” [Laughs] There’s a melancholy in every scene.

Honestly, too, I think when people talk about, “Oh, this season is so different,” what’s interesting is, it’s exactly what I pitched when I went into FX, with Kurt and I.

Richard Cabral is a perfect example of this, of the story we get to tell. Because I mean, I’ve spent my whole life being first the victim of violence, and then the perpetrator of violence, and that gets into your DNA. For me personally, I’m filled with shame and self-loathing. I have to deal with the consequences of my own actions, as well as the consequences of the actions of others against me, and that’s what we really wanted to be able to talk about.

With Richard, with Coco, in his first season, when he has the incident where he kills his mom, it’s beautifully acted, but there’s two different takes on that—and to me, it was like, “Well, where’s the repercussions?” Like, every violence, every action has a repercussion. There’s a consequence, and that’s where naturally we just started to go.

Then, this season…to watch what my friend [Richard] did, beyond even losing the 30 pounds…Just the dedication to choose the suffering. We both want to tell the stories of addiction in your family, of generational trauma. That’s what we wanted to get to, and to watch my friend and be so scared for him…I was terrified, and I asked him two things, one of which was, at the beginning of the season, like, “Please, man. Just stay alive.” There were times where honestly, I really didn’t know if he would. Everyone was really, really scared because he just went to this place. But man, [I was] also so awestruck at where my friend was going, and what he was achieving. It was just like being in the presence of greatness.

DEADLINE: Mayans was just recently renewed for a fourth season. Has the turnaround between seasons been equally intense this time?

JAMES: Yeah. We’re going to turn around really quickly because we want to get on the air as soon as possible for everyone. We’re not in the writers’ room yet, but we’re starting to figure out what…the stories are going to be.

DEADLINE: What can you tell us about where the show will be heading next season?

JAMES: This season, we dealt with consequences, and I think we’re going to continue to. I think everything is going to continue to spiral…So much of EZ and Gaby’s story was the story of me and my wife, who started dating me when I was still in the gang. So, [with] where he will go now, it’s like I’m exploring what would have happened if she had left, if she didn’t have the patience that she had, if she hadn’t have given me a second chance.

Luckily, it’s paid off for us, but it is this other side that you want to explore. I think [with] EZ, what we always talked about is, there’s this inevitability. No matter what, he was always going to end up in this place. There’s just a darkness he can’t help but get swallowed up in, and I think that’s what we’re going to watch. We’ve watched him for three seasons try to get out of the darkness, and I think now… he’s f***ing in it.

DEADLINE: Can you imagine a happy ending for EZ? Maybe now that he and Emily are both on their own again, there’s a chance for them to find their way back to each other.

JAMES: You know, I think we have to explore the darkness, and then I think there could be. I really do. Again, it’s trying to figure out how this is the same show [following Sutter’s exit], but then how it’s different. There is a brokenhearted nihilism that kind of came out. [Laughs] And with the nihilism, I think there’s also beauty and hope in that. That’s what I kept trying to talk about to everyone [in Season 3]. I’m like, “This has to be poetry.” In poetry, you do have despair and hope right next to each other, in the same line, and I think that’s what we’re going to try to balance.

DEADLINE: I imagine we’ll soon learn more about what happened with Alvarez and Nestor.

JAMES: Yeah. [Laughs] We’re going to see the return of Marcus Alvarez in a real way. How we’ve known him in the past, to double down on that, that’s where we go in the future with him.

DEADLINE: Do you have an endgame for the series in mind yet?

JAMES: For sure. I had lunch with John Landgraf between Seasons 2 and 3, and I told him if we’re lucky enough to able to get more seasons to finish the story, this is where we’re going to end up. So, we do know exactly where the whole thing’s going to end.

DEADLINE: Do you think Mayans can match Son of Anarchy’s seven-season run?

JAMES: Definitely, and that’s sort of how we have it planned out, just because that’s the model that we knew. Then, who knows? Shows usually don’t run seven seasons anymore, so it may just be one [more] season. We just know, each time we get to live another day, we’re just going to lay it all out.

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