QUEEN OF THE SOUTH Review: “Quinientos Mil”

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puts Teresa and Brenda in a really bad place for “Quinientos Mil.” Only the finale remains and a lot of questions need to be answered. Did Epifanio Vargas win the election? Camila put him in a really tight spot but she thinks he’ll win. How will he retaliate against Camila for moving against him? There is a slim chance Camila could make the argument she did him a favor by having his stash houses hit publicly. What happened to Cesar? He goes to see Camila and never returns. Will Manuel Jimenez honor his alliance with Camila? These are big plot narco world questions. More pressing, what is going to happen with Teresa and Brenda?

James carries the action for the episode when he leads his team to a DEA safe house to rescue one of the Jimenez Cartel leaders. The raid is a success, which leaves many DEA dead, including Camila’s informant. They needed to do it as part of a deal Camila made with Manuel. He should honor the bargain, Epifanio doubles down publicly about taking on the cartel when he becomes governor. Manuel needs a strong narco leader like Camila. Then again, we haven’t seen enough of him to really know how he might act, he makes a good storymine.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- Season:1 -- Pictured: Veronica Falcon as Camila -- (Photo by: Justin Stephens/USA Network)

Camila’s daughter, Isabella, threw a dramatic wrench into Camila’s plan this week. Camila snatches Isabella from school to keep Epifanio and Cesar from using her as leverage. Isabella does not appreciate Camila’s agenda and says some mean and hurtful things. She had her heart set on being the daughter of the governor and feels like Camila takes that from her. Isabella is really the only person who can hurt Camila, it’s important that we see her do it from time to time to add dimension to Camila’s character. Children-as-leverage is also at work in the Teresa/Brenda adventure.

Teresa and Brenda use the coordinates they translated from their magic narco book to treasure map their way to freedom. That’s the plan anyway. There is a lot of discussion about how much money they need. Teresa only wants to ask for the minimum, $250k. Brenda makes a strong case that they’ll need more than that. Their treasure map leads them to a tunnel vault. They don’t find money, drugs, or weapons. They discover a heap of plastic-wrapped corpses.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Quinientos Mil" Episode 112 -- Pictured: (l-r) Justina Machado as Brenda, Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza -- (Photo by: Bill Matlock/USA Network)

Teresa wants to leave, but Brenda pushes to use the knowledge of the corpses as leverage against Epifanio. There has to be a few valuable secrets they want to keep buried in that pipe. This plays out well within their characters. Brenda is more aggressive about making money, Teresa is more cautious about her life. They get captured and start to act out of character. Teresa seems stunned with fear when she faces the main site hench. She’s faced many dangerous situations before and she’s closer to freedom now. This doesn’t seem like the time or place for her ideas to run dry. Brenda doesn’t say anything. She panics, we’ve seen her do that plenty, but her mouth is usually running full out.

They make their pitch to Hench for the $250k. Brenda still isn’t happy with the number, but Hench is happy enough and agrees to release them. As they are leaving, Brenda loses her cool and begs Hench for her son’s life. It’s in character for her to worry about Tony, it’s out of character to practically offer him up as leverage. Hench grabs Brenda and opens fire on Teresa. The whole Brenda scene seems a little forced, but the result is compelling. It keeps them both in danger. Teresa attempts to escape with the money but her vehicle is shot off the road. This feels like a solid dilemma build for the finale. Teresa could face a choice between survival, freedom, or Brenda’s life.

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH -- "Quinientos Mil" Episode 112 -- Pictured: Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza -- (Photo by: Bill Matlock/USA Network)

This whole season we’ve seen Teresa struggle with taking of life, but she has done it. She killed a guy to save a woman in trouble. She killed another guy to save herself. She also walked away and let a guy get killed. She didn’t know any of the victims but she had a good idea one of them was really bad news. It’s time for her to kill or cause the death of someone close. There are only a few options; Camila, James, Brenda, or Tony. Brenda is a great character but she would also cause a huge directional impact for Teresa. Kill Brenda and Teresa’s life could spin in a whole new direction. Her thirst for revenge would double. Kill Tony and something similar happens in Brenda’s life, her whole purpose would pivot. The finale offers great emotional battles for a few characters while leaving room to restructure the narco landscape for season two.

TB-TV-Grade-A
Season 1, Episode 12 (S01E12)
Queen of the South airs Thursdays at 10PM on USA

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Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Twitter: @Etom2012

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