Thursday, July 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Queen of the South' - Camila Begins Her Big Move Against Epifanio's Operation in 'Lirio De Los Valles'

USA's Queen of the South - Episode 1.04 "Lirio De Los Valles"

A deadly mistake mars Teresa's first solo drug run and she soon finds herself in peril. Meanwhile, Brenda and Tony make the risky escape to Dallas.

"Lirio De Los Valles" has some much appreciated forward momentum for Queen of the South. The show has had a fine and consistent first season so far. But it has started to feel a little monotonous as well. Similar things would happen to the characters in every episode. The specifics of their struggles would defer. But Teresa would always be placed in perilous situations but find a way to survive, Camila would always be calmly planning for the future war with Epifanio, Brenda would be hopelessly running around Mexico not sure how to survive while James is baffled by why Teresa is so stubborn and refuses to listen to his advice. It's a familiar structure that really does help establish the tone and propulsive energy of the show. But now, it's about time the show tries to do something different. Things can only be like this for the main characters for so long. Their circumstances need to change and allow their reaction to that help define the people they are going to be. Fortunately, it seems like that moment is just on the horizon - even though it's not completely there yet.

Teresa continues to climb exceptionally fast in Camila's operation. At first, she was just a mysterious quality that no one understood. Neither Camila nor James know why Epifanio is so interested in Teresa. They know she's important. But instead of digging for information, they've put her to work and are building a relationship with her. That could be a very effective strategy later on when Teresa decides to give the notebook to someone. Of course, she's only planning on using that for her own survival. She's not sharing that with anyone because she isn't loyal to either side in this upcoming war between Camila and Epifanio. She's holding it closely hoping it can buy her freedom. Of course, that contradicts with her desire to grow in this business. She has moved up in this world. She became a drug mule. And now, she's being entrusted to go on runs by herself. She more than proved herself in the field in last week's episode. But it still feels sudden that Camila and James trust her to go out into the world alone and not run away from them. Teresa has every reason to but she's choosing to stay because she wants to be a part of this world.

But again, it's not surprising at all when this drug run doesn't go according to plan. Nothing has been smooth sailing on this show so far. There is always some complication that can ramp up the tension for the sequence. In this instance, Teresa walks into her contact's home to discover that she's been tied up and two men are trying to steal the product. It's a tense situation. And yet, it's purpose is to show just how creative and cool under pressure Teresa is. She still has so much to learn about this business and how to survive in this harsh world. But every episode so far has highlighted just how smart she is and how willing and desperate she is to survive no matter. Sure, that contrasts with her naivety in some awkward and overly complicated ways. She still has an innocence to her as well. She's not the cold-hearted leader that Camila or her future self are. She makes sure that her contact has the knife to free herself and then kill the man holding her prisoner. Teresa doesn't kill anyone. She just points the gun to make sure no one can escape. She doesn't pull the trigger. She's obviously shaken by this experience. But it hasn't affected her resolve at all. She needs to continue to do a good job so that she and Brenda can escape to a better life.

That's looking increasingly unlikely though. Teresa isn't able to rest comfortably for a moment. She's immediately flung into action from the moment she wakes up every day. There is a target on her back and everyone wants to exploit her for their own benefit. It's shocking and surprising to see Cesar show up and kidnap Teresa just outside of Camila's base of operations. He knows how important she is. He's bringing her back to Epifanio to make sure that she pays for what she has done to his operation. It's a thrilling moment that suggests consequences are about to come to the show. Of course, Cesar isn't able to get Teresa back across the border. Camila is able to stop him with some state troopers she has on her payroll. So, Teresa's world doesn't change too much. Her life is still in danger. But she is still able to successfully navigate building trust in Camila's operation while trying to survive with this life-changing information. Her kidnapping also has purpose as well. It's not just a failed attempt by Cesar to get Teresa back for Epifanio. It forces a confrontation between Camila and Cesar that is really exciting for the future.

Camila keeps making all of these plans for the future. Her story and character arc have been such a slow build over these first few episodes of the series. She's meticulously planning for war. That's more than Epifanio is doing. He's simply maintaining his business unaware that this threat is coming for him. He's concerned about Teresa but that's not distracting him from his gubernatorial campaign either. But now, Cesar has confirmation that Camila is protecting Teresa. That's information that he can take back to Epifanio and really get this war started. Camila sees herself as this master strategist who can convince him not to do so out of his own self-interest. She spins a tale about Epifanio one day needing to kill Cesar in order to seem strong as Governor while simultaneously taking control over his cartel again. It's also significant that Camila refuses to kill Cesar. Just last week, she was telling Teresa that women need to be strong in this business in order to survive. She has that steel resolve. She lets Cesar go because she doesn't want to escalate this war right now. She's afraid not everything is in place to succeed yet. And yet, things will have to be. Cesar doesn't listen to her advice. He is loyal to Epifanio and tells him Camila has Teresa. That's such a fantastic tease to end the episode on.

So, Teresa will find herself caught in the crossfire of this war between Camila and Epifanio. All she wants is to look after Brenda and Tony. She wants to make sure that they are okay and can escape to a better life. Teresa's reunion with Brenda is an important moment. It's something the show has been building to ever since they were separated in the series premiere. And now, it has finally happened. Teresa meets her old friend for just a second to make sure she has enough money to survive in Dallas until this whole mess is sorted out. But she also wants to protect Brenda from the depressing state of her current reality. She doesn't want to worry her about her job with Camila or the fact that Epifanio's men are all over Dallas as well. It's not going to be any easier for Brenda and Tony here than it was in Mexico. But their reunion is enough to give both of them hope. Hope that they will be able to survive and look out for each other no matter how difficult things become. And it's looking like things are going to become much more complicated very quickly - which should be very good for the show.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Lirio De Los Valles" was written by Scott Rosenbaum and directed by Zetna Fuentes.
  • Camila may not have been able to lure Cesar to her side in this war but she's also making plays for even more individuals in Epifanio's operation. Not only is she bribing them with cars, she's filling the trunks of those cars with money. Though she's also too cheap to go for the bulletproof windows.
  • James has plans for his future and worries that Teresa could ruin that for him. That's a cryptic tease for that character. Right now, he's just a middleman between Camila and Teresa. It should be interesting to see what he wants to do with his life moving forward.
  • Tony very rarely listens to Brenda. He's always complaining about being hungry. He talks a lot which makes him very annoying. And yet, he is surprisingly able to play the part when it comes to exploiting people in a supermarket parking lot for money.
  • Teresa is planning on returning to Mexico in order to retrieve the notebook. How is she planning on doing that? Camila and James would notice if she were gone for that long with no understandable reason.
  • Teo is willing to bend a couple of laws for Camila because he finds her presence so alluring. Her confidence really is intoxicating. It's what has made her such a compelling character to watch so far. So, it's no surprise that Teo wants to become romantic with her. But it's also telling that Camila refuses because she can't afford to be distracted right now.