‘Queen of the South’ 504: La situación

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "La Situacion" Episode 504 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza -- (Photo by: USA Network)

Queen of the South 5×04 “La Situacion” once again focuses on Teresa’s “code” and whether the changes in her – and the way she does business – are for the better. Is there any way for Teresa to find middle ground between what she wants to be and what she needs to do? We’ve only got six more episodes to find out. 

One of the only Latina-helmed shows currently on TV, Queen of the South is in its final season and LatinaMedia.Co and Fangirlish are teaming up to give it the coverage it deserves. So join us each week as we celebrate/commemorate/mourn Queen of the South through episode recaps, filled with our hot takes, commentary, and, of course, Latina perspective. Let’s do this!

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ, FANGIRLISH EIC: This episode once again focuses on Teresa’s “code,” on the decisions she’s had to make to get to where she is, and also on the ways she has changed as she’s accumulated more power. I just feel it does a much more effective job of showing that from Teresa’s POV, and it also seems to soften my earlier slight criticism of this angle, which is James’ reaction to it. We all know the world Teresa lives in, and we understand the decisions she’s had to make. It’s not that we exactly condone it, but it being TV, we do understand it… and even sympathize with it. 

CRISTINA ESCOBAR, CO-FOUNDER OF LATINAMEDIA.CO: I hear you. I was still annoyed at James’ role in this arc, his line about never expecting to use his assassin skills for Teresa and his sad puppy dog eyes when he looked at her. Seeing him react that way made me want to double down for Teresa. Let her live, James! But I guess, also, remember when she went to those great lengths to keep Camila from killing that innocent witness? That Teresa’s gone and I can see why James would mourn her – she was everyone’s conscious. Now, brother’s got to get his own and I’m not sure he can (or wants to) do that.

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: One interesting thing about James is that, despite the conflict you can still see within him, he ends up doing exactly what Teresa wants, without even that much pushback. I thought this was setting up some sort of “breakup” but maybe it’s just setting up James finally processing the woman Teresa has become? Now that Dumas put into words what we all know, that James is in love with Teresa, the question truly becomes, is he in love with the idea of her or can he truly love the woman she was, the one she is, and the one she might have to become? Any possibility of a relationship might hinge on this. 

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "La Situacion" Episode 504 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Alimi Ballard as Marcel Dumas -- (Photo by: USA Network)
Teresa put Dumas in jail. Will that be her fatal mistake?

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Yes – he’s been gone so long that even if he did once love Teresa, he doesn’t even know her now. He certainly loves his idea of her and I’m not sure he can reconcile it with the real life woman in front of him. But also, I guess, what irks me about the whole thing is that Teresa doesn’t need him! I don’t mind Pote or Kelly Anne holding Teresa accountable, trying to guide her to be the best version of herself, as her friends and confidants. But there’s something about a romantic partner (past, current, or potential) that just feels icky. And by icky, I mean patriarchal. And if there’s anything Queen of the South is clear about critiquing, it’s the patriarchy. I mean, just see what Teresa and co. did to Lucien, the erstwhile patriarch of Marcel’s gang this week (and Epifano, the judge, and all the ‘strong’ father figures before that)…

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: I wouldn’t say I’m going to miss Lucien, and I’m glad Teresa got the best of him, but I do wonder about Dumas and where this storyline is going. Because he didn’t just disappear after being jailed, that means storytelling wise, there’s still something the show wants to achieve with him. And he looks about as likely to ultimately be Teresa’s downfall right now, as he looks to be the final piece of the puzzle towards her getting what she wants. I’m just still not sure if this is leading to a good ending or to a lot more pain.

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: I think Dumas may end up surviving Teresa but if he is that last man standing, I don’t think it’ll be because he hurts/kills/defeats her. If Teresa goes down, she’ll do it to herself. And in some ways, I still think Teresa needs to atone for her sin of siding with the judge over Marcel upon arriving in New Orleans and now turning him into the police. How she treats him feels a bit racist to me and so I hope the show goes there. Can you imagine a Latina show holding its Latina lead accountable for colorism? It’d be so powerful (although she doesn’t have to die to be held accountable – just saying!).

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: I’m just going to sit here for a minute and imagine a world where a Latinx show dares to touch on the issue of colorism in more than a passing way. Considering this is Queen of the South’s last season, it would especially be powerful as this story comes full circle. I just have the feeling right now the full circle moment is coming by way of the Feds. And I will admit they surprised me a bit this episode, or at least the way they’re so casually being woven into the story of season five. Does this mean we’re going to see Teresa come up against them again? Is it a red herring? Because it feels a little too obvious, considering previous seasons. I feel like if the show is going to attempt a bittersweet ending, it’s not going to be with Teresa in jail, but maybe Teresa without power. I also don’t think they’re going middle of the road with this. I think it’s either going to be really good for her, or possibly really bad. 

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "La Situacion" Episode 504 -- Pictured in this screengrab: Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza -- (Photo by: USA Network)
Will Teresa turn to the dark side? This jacket says, “maybe!”

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Yeah, I imagine we’ll be seeing more of the Feds but I’ve got to say, they seemed in way over their head this week. Teresa and Kelly Anne dominated them so easily! Part of me felt such satisfaction watching that scene. Like, how dare they profile Teresa? Call out that racism and make them eat it, Kelly Anne! But then, again, they were right, no? Teresa is a drug dealer! And that faux indignation makes it harder for the rest of us. Teresa and Queen of the South are part of the problem, part of why that racial profiling is so common – they support the narrative that Latinxs are criminals. Yikes! I’m still having all these mixed emotions about it.

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: Right. Storytelling-wise it was the right choice, and Kelly Anne is a really good lawyer to use that against the Feds, but I was also left feeling pretty conflicted about it. I guess there’s no way to watch a show like Queen of the South and not feel conflicted about the morals of it. And I will say… Teresa and Kelly Anne were both forces of nature this episode. It was great to see Teresa take charge, and trust her gut, but it was also great to see Kelly Anne go up against a man who was 100% sure he knew more than the two women he had in front of him, and just read him the riot act. I will say I truly enjoyed it. I know we’re actively rooting for the antiheroes here with this show, but the antiheroes are interesting, engaging characters, so I don’t even truly feel bad about it. And it’s such a simple thing to write women owning their own decisions, their own lives, but that also feels rare enough that I’m here celebrating. 

CRISTINA ESCOBAR: Facts! And I mean, defund the police. The judge, the Feds, the CIA, they’re all just as bad as the criminals in this show and I think that’s pretty accurate! On the political side, watching Queen of the South I do feel like we’d be better off legalizing cocaine and bringing the whole industry out of the shadows. BUT it doesn’t seem like Teresa cares about drugs per say, she’s just trying to find a way to make it in a world that’s stacked against her. That she does says as much about her as anything else. Even if “making it” economically doesn’t mean happiness for her or the people she cares about.

LISSETE LANUZA SÁENZ: Which brings up the question of, can anything really do that? Teresa’s reaction to the baby news is positive, not that I ever expected otherwise, but the sense the episode leaves you with is that the happiness Pote and Kelly Anne are trying to build on, the life Teresa dreams for herself, and for everyone around her, is tenuous at best. Even Pote hiring Kelly Anne a bodyguard of sorts, speaks to the kind of life they have, the kind of life they will probably never put behind them for good. Is happiness even possible in these circumstances? I guess we will find out, but I don’t have a good feeling about it. 

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