‘Queen of the South’ 501: Fantasmas

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Fantasmas" Episode 501 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza -- (Photo by: USA Network)

Queen of the South is one of the only Latina-helmed shows currently on TV. We’re talking lead by a Latina actress in Alice Braga, playing a Latina character in Teresa Mendoza whose written/stewarded by a Latina in showrunner, Dailyn Rodriguez. So of course, Queen of the South is ending. The fifth and final season premieres today on USA Network and to celebrate / commemorate / mourn, Fangirlish and LatinaMedia.Co have teamed up to give the show the coverage it deserves – weekly episode recaps, filled with our hot takes, commentary, and, of course, Latina perspective. Let’s do this!

CRISTINA ESCOBAR, LATINAMEDIA.CO CO-FOUNDER: It is SO good to be back with Teresita! Just seeing her run around in her white suit filled me with joy. I mean, I know we’re rooting for drug runners here, but it just feels so good to see all these different Latinx characters, with so much love and attention paid to their country, class, gender, etc. It’s this entire culture (and continent) that Hollywood ignores.

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ, FANGIRLISH EIC: I’m going to miss Teresa, and I’m sad that this is the final season, even if narratively speaking, the show might be making a wise choice by ending it here. The truth is that Teresa isn’t just one of the few Latinx characters who feel real on TV these days, but she’s also one of the few that takes the stereotype and flips it, makes it her own, so to speak. She’s the perfect example of what you get when you put Latinx actors playing Latinx characters in the hands of Latinx showrunners, and that little bright spot of representation will be sorely missed.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: So agree! And on the more superficial side, another thing I appreciate about Queen of the South is Teresa’s clothes. Camila wore all of those tight, body-con dresses and while she looked great, that’s not my really aesthetic – but it is the one we most often see on Latinas. So to have Alice Braga in these black and white architectural outfits is such a joy. I would wear every single thing they put her in! Although, as a real-life person with a budget, I’d be showing pit stains pretty quick on some of them…

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: The white suit, in particular, is so striking. Every time Teresa wears white, I feel like she just owns the room. And I do agree that it feels very deliberate to go this route with Teresa’s fashion sense, especially as compared to Camila. But Camila was always a more by-the-book kinda character, and Teresa really isn’t, which comes through in her fashion sense. I also really like how she’s truly the only one making these kinds of fashion choices – everyone else is wearing more regular clothes, especially the men. No one’s going to upstage the Queen! Not James, not Pote. No one.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Fantasmas" Episode 501 -- Pictured: Hemky Madera as Pote -- (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Pote: the man, the mustache, the legend

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: I really just want to shout out Hemky Madera’s Pote, though. He makes the show for me. His accent. His facial hair. The way he carries his body. How he ended up as Teresa’s number one – I just appreciate everything about him. He didn’t do a lot in the premiere, but what he did do was perfect, you know, his 100% on-brand line, “Teresa’s safety is the most important thing, cabrón!” And I’m glad he found love last season with Molly Burnett’s Kelly Anne, even if she is the worst actor on the show, a fact that is particularly highlighted when she has complex stuff to do (like her convo with the newly returned James).

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: I wholeheartedly agree, Pote is a bright spot always, even when we get episodes where he doesn’t truly have much to do other than standing around. The way the storyline developed was so well done, especially considering he was an outsider at first,  as Teresa’s emotional arc relied so heavily on James in the first few seasons. And well, that might not have changed as much as we thought it had, but in a world where the pieces are always moving and Teresa never seems to be sure who to trust, Pote has become the one character we can always rely on.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Yes, and outside of the reliableness of Pote, this episode really set up the conflicts to come – now that she’s at the top, the biggest question for Teresa is who to trust. The Russians? Her ally Alimi Ballard’s Marcel and his New Orleans gang? The judge (David Andrews)? At least as a villain, he’s reliably self-centered and selfish. There are all these players, who can make or break her business but obviously, the most interesting question is, can she trust James?

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: Honestly, I feel like at this point the answer has to be yes, if only because it makes more narrative sense than anything? Peter Gadiot’s James has done a lot we haven’t agreed with, but he’s almost always done dumb stuff with Teresa’s best interest at heart. And though that doesn’t always mean the best interest of the business, he seems to genuinely care for her, even if I don’t think he’s all that keen on this life anymore. Besides, who else is she going to have any shot at something resembling happiness with? 

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: I’d say I’m lightly rooting for James and Teresa to end up together. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, I have to say, she has the worst taste in men. Guero? Ugh. Not only was he greasy, but he also failed to ever really see Teresa. And remember that white jazz guy from last season? Terrible. James is the best of the bunch, but that’s not saying much.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Fantasmas" Episode 501 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza, Peter Gadiot as James Valdez -- (Photo by: Patti Perret/USA Network)
Teresa’s terrible taste in men aside, James is the best of the bunch

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: Agreed. The issue with James always has been not about them as two people who care for each other, but about how he feels about Teresa as an authority figure, as the boss. I don’t even think James minds that she has more power than him, but I do think he hasn’t always been good at balancing having these feelings for her with needing to respect her authority. In some ways, however, I think it has to be James, if it was ever going to be anyone, as he’s truly the only one left at this point with a *clear* romantic interest and who actually knows the other side of her.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Mostly, I just want Teresa to be happy and if James helps make that available to her, then I’m all for it. I just worry happiness is out of reach for her. With the deaths of Justina Machado’s Brenda and her TV son Tony (Teresa’s godson), I don’t know if she can reconcile her choices with where she is today. I mean, what else was the purpose of that whole, shooting herself sequence? Teresa may be choosing survival but I don’t think survival is enough, even for a drug kingpin (or should I say, queenpin??).

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: I don’t know that I ever envisioned a happy ending for Teresa, but this season premiere left me thinking one isn’t possible – which might actually be the game they’re playing, and I kinda hope it is. I’d love to see her get, if not peace, some moments of joy, and I do agree that I cannot see that happening with anyone other than James. Besides, I think the choice to bring him back to close the show is important. This has always been Teresa’s story, yes, but no woman is an island, and if there’s something I want for Teresa is the knowledge that, if she’s going to survive, she’s going to have some people who truly care watching her back. 

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Agreed. I guess we’ll just have to watch (and write about!) the remaining nine episodes to find out…

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