Alica Braga as Teresa Mendoza in USA Network's "Queen of the South." The 10-episode final season premieres April 7 at 10/9c. Photo courtesy USA Network
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Recapping USA Network’s ‘Queen of the South’

10 mins read

Shoot outs, escaping from enemies, sacrificial deals, drug cartels, family and the occasional romantic love interest have all been part of USA Network’s “Queen of the South” since it premiered June 23, 2016.

However, this story about Teresa Mendoza rising through the cartel ranks to create her own powerful international drug empire is about way more than those things.

It’s about the strategies of learning when to bite your tongue and when to fight back. It’s about perseverance when it seems like the entire world is against you. It’s about sacrificing everything for family and the chance at freedom. It’s about growth, love, standing up for your beliefs and never backing down. Strangely enough, this show about drug cartels is about life.

Now, after about five years, the queen’s reign over our TV screens is coming to an end. The fifth and final season premieres Wednesday, April 7, at 10/9c on USA Network.

Here’s a recap of Teresa’s journey so far:

Season 1: Survival

Image by USA Network

If I had to sum up the entirety of season one in one word, it would be “survival.”

Teresa had a hard life after her parents were murdered and became a money exchanger on the streets of Mexico. That’s where she met Guero, a member of a drug cartel run by Epifanio Vargas. They fall in love and live together for years until Epifanio’s men kill Guero for betraying the cartel. They immediately go after Teresa to cut any loose ends.

She, her friend Brenda and Brenda’s son Tony barely escape with their lives. Teresa gets separated from the group and ends up in the hands of Camila Vargas, Epifanio’s wife, in Dallas. 

Luckily for Teresa, Camila despises her husband and keeps her whereabouts a secret from him under one condition: Teresa works for her now.

She’s teamed up with Camila’s right-hand man James Valdez to learn the ropes of the business and see if she can be trusted.

Through the process, she proves herself as a drug mule, assists cocaine delivery and helps with any other deals Camila has up her sleeves.

In the end though, Brenda gets caught and killed and Teresa keeps Tony a secret from Camila.

Season 2: Rising up

Image by USA Network

With Camila and Epifanio’s tension increasing in season two, Teresa finds herself in the middle. 

She’s still working for Camila and growing closer to James when she’s at a dinner party meant to expand Camila’s business. She rounds a corner, sees someone she recognizes and follows him into an empty room. It’s Guero.

Turns out he’s been alive this entire time and has been working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He’s been sharing Epifanio and Camila’s secrets to them in exchange for his freedom and potential protection for Teresa. 

Teresa keeps this a secret while she continues helping expand Camila’s business, but eventually the truth comes out and Camila threatens to have “the rat” killed. Guero breaks away from the DEA, swearing to help Teresa but hoping to run away with her to start their own lives together.

Things go awry as she likes the power, but then she finds out Camila has legal plans for her to take the fall of the business. Teresa turns her back on Camila to escape and finds herself captured by Epifanio. But just like the first time, she escapes, only now she has one of his men as a hostage: Pote. During the escape, she unknowingly saves Pote’s life and he vows to protect and work for her.

Camila and Epifanio find their way back to each other because Teresa becomes their mutual enemy, but Teresa kills Epifanio and runs off to create her own drug empire with the connections she made for Camila. She escapes with Pote, and Guero gets left behind during the action.

Season 3: Making a name for herself

Image by USA Network

Season three starts with a time jump of Teresa and Pote hiding in Malta, running their business from there since Camila is determined to avenge her husband. 

Their location doesn’t stay a secret though when Camila’s people find her and James shows up in the nick of time to save Teresa’s life. He had been working for Devon Finch, the leader of a drug cartel in Chicago, when he remembered Teresa offering him a spot next to her side. He knew that she wanted to do a better way at handling business –– one without so much torture and murder. 

James offers his services and all three escape from Malta to one of James’ safehouses in Phoenix. In order to do business here, Teresa joins La Comisión, a group of drug leaders in the area who work with one of the local, corrupt police officers. 

Kelly Anne, a friend of Teresa’s from season two, helps her set up a winery to hide the cocaine business. Their business is looking good and James and Teresa consummate their relationship. However, things go south the next day when she gets kidnapped by Colonel Cortez, a man who betrayed Epifanio’s orders and is now working for Camila. She finds out Guero has been held captive by them and tortured this entire time. James and Pote come to save them but Guero dies in the process. 

Teresa also loses her cocaine supplier and makes a deal with old enemies from Mexico. There’s danger on another front as well. Devon Finch works for the CIA and comes to collect James’ service in a trade for Teresa’s protection from federal prison. James agrees and sacrifices himself and leaves her business with her thinking he just doesn’t want to work for her anymore.

Season 4: Establishing her business

Image by USA Network

After defeating La Comisión and the corrupt police officer, Teresa and Pote move their business to New Orleans.

They start a tequila distillery and use the bottles to sell cocaine in liquid form. But similar to Phoenix, they have people in the city they have to answer to. A man on one of the governmental seats, Judge Lafayette, causes problems for her business and wants Teresa out.

Kelly Anne shows up with Tony to live with them. His time with his remaining family is short lived though. He gets in a vehicle meant for Teresa and it explodes, killing him and injuring Teresa with the shrapnel. She vows “to kill them all” and defeats her enemies there.

She makes more connections and expands her business, so it covers Phoenix, New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami and New York.

“We doubled our operation in three months,” Pote said during the season four finale. 

An unexpected face shows up at the very end though. A black vehicle speeds towards them and James falls out with a bullet wound to the stomach. Teresa catches him as he tells her, “They’re coming for you.”

I can only assume he’s talking about the government because of his recent entanglement with Devon Finch, but the audience was left with this urgent sentence when the screen cut to black.

Check back to Bri’s Binge for weekly “Queen of the South” reviews for the final 10 episodes.

Brianna Taggart

Brianna Taggart gets way too emotionally invested in TV shows and loves to bring her love of stories and writing to her work in journalism. She has two degrees in journalism and communication from the University of Minnesota Duluth and works full time at a weekly newspaper in Minnesota. When she’s not covering community news, she’s covering entertainment for Bri’s Binge right here on the Daily Planet.

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