Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza in "Queen of the South" season five, episode one, "Fantasmas." Photo by USA Network
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‘Queen of the South’ 5×01: Haunted by two ghosts

The "Queen of the South" season five premiere "Fantasmas," showcased what happens when the ghosts of people's past are faced with each other.

15 mins read
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Familiar faces, the classic bullet wound, a shootout and the age old trap set by enemies played out in USA Network’s “Queen of the South” final season premiere. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everything I loved about this show returned with season five Wednesday, April 7, and I’m so thankful.

Nerves wracked my body as I wondered what James had been up to since he left with Devon Finch in season three. How were Teresa, Pote, Kelly Anne and King George going to respond to him after his urgent arrival? How was Teresa going to maneuver her way through Judge Lafayette’s schemes? How was she going to work with the Russians in New York to grow her cocaine empire?

All these questions were answered and more in 5×01, and it’s clear this is the beginning of the end. 

I’ve seen shows that are heavily character-driven and others that are plot-driven, but “Queen of the South” has always done a brilliant job at weaving the two. This season premiere was no exception. It was refreshing to see all of my favorite characters back together in one place again (Oh James Valdez, how I’ve missed you). It was a reminder of why I fell in love with this show in the first place.

It was a solid introduction for what’s to come and left even more potential for the final storyline. That being said, it wasn’t a wild, out-of-this-world episode. I’m leaving room for this final season to breathe and for the plot to take off. I’m stoked.

Here is my star rating for the episode:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Spoiler alert warning:

Recap

Ryan O’Nan as King George on “Queen of the South” season five, episode one, “Fantasmas.” Image by USA Network

The episode opened with the Queen chasing someone to a rooftop. When the other woman turns around, we find out it’s Teresa circa season one. As the two versions of her are faced with each other, guns extended, the Queen makes her move and kills her past self.

Then the show cuts to the present. Judge Lafayette has partnered with Captain Gamble to frame his son Davis’ death on Marcel Dumas since the Judge is upset Marcel betrayed him to work with Teresa last season. 

Marcel goes on the run.

Next, Teresa gets answers from James. He’s been working with Devon Finch as a trade to keep Teresa’s business a secret from the government for the past year. After James handled a difficult job in Venezuela, Devon decided to share that there is a kill team after her. He let James go warn her, and when James found the kill team’s surveillance footage of her, he was shot in the process.

The familia is weary of James, so King George takes him on a “field trip” to where he was shot and they encounter the kill team. A shootout ensues. James proves himself trustworthy to King George in the process after saving his life.

Throughout all this, Teresa goes to New York to handle a waterfront property she needs to buy in order to be legitimate in the city. An unknown person puts in a counter offer, requiring Teresa to need $200 million to get it. She tries to make a deal with the Russians and offers to send them a double-sized shipment of cocaine, but as the clock ticks down, she runs out of time. She strikes a deal with the Russians’ competitor, Polanco, in order to make up the difference. 

The Russians get upset with her for it and offer to meet with her to discuss their deal. On the way to the meeting, King George and James call her to warn her that it was the Russians who ordered the kill team. Teresa sees it’s a trap and escapes.

The James of it all

Peter Gadiot as James Valdez on “Queen of the South” season five, episode one, “Fantasmas.” Image by USA Network

Throughout this entire episode, I just had one all-consuming thought. James is back, and all seems right in the world. 

“Queen of the South” will always own a piece of my heart and so much of that is because of the characters and relationships it’s formed on screen. James has played a huge role in that.

He made this episode what it was. James throwing himself into danger for Teresa’s safety breathed life back into this show for me. He’s done this multiple times throughout the series’ run, and though it was a simple parallel to other times he’d done it, it was effective.

This is all based in character motivation. Each one has their own driving forces for things. Teresa’s is all about survival and her heart to do right by this business that could have destroyed her. Pote’s is about fighting alongside Teresa as her right-hand man. King George is about loyalty to his people, which used to include Bilal (rest in peace), and now includes Teresa.

James has always been about protecting her, even if it means him looking like the bad guy and having to leave her to do so.

While he’s one of the only characters to hop around from group to group, his storyline is rooted in him trying to find a place where he belongs. 

I saw this in his scene with Kelly Anne.

Kelly Anne: We’re good now. And like Pote said, we’re a family.

James: Proves I was right. If I’d have taken the order, a lot of people would’ve regretted it.

His face falls when he talks to her about this. He seems relieved to hear Kelly Anne made good with Teresa after he pretended to kill her in season three. All these people growing closer together also proves his sacrifice to work with Devon wasn’t in vain. However, James knows he’s not included in this “family” she just mentioned. It’s a reminder that his sacrifice/one year away has further ostracized him from the group he desperately yearned to be part of in season three.

And just like they questioned his loyalty back then, they wonder if they can trust him now. Where has he been for the past year? Who has he been working with? Why did he show up now? How did he get away from Devon?

I appreciate the heck out of the writers for letting James come clean to the group about what he’s been up to at the beginning of the episode. He doesn’t try to hide anything from Teresa. He’s direct and sure of himself. All he cares about is making sure she’s OK. 

So much has changed since his season-long hiatus, but it felt amazing knowing that he’s still the same person he’s always been. This show has really taken off since his season-three departure. The characters have grown immensely and they’re all going through their new inner turmoil. I feel like he will be able to ground this show, connect it back to the first couple seasons and help make things come full circle. 

His presence could either be Teresa’s saving grace or downfall, but I like to believe he makes her better. Guero held her back, and I would hope the writers wouldn’t give James that recycled storyline. Either way, this show has never let me down (*crosses fingers that James makes it out alive*).

The ghost of you

Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza on “Queen of the South” season five, episode one, “Fantasmas.” Image by USA Network

That first scene of Teresa has to be one of my favorites on television.

It was shot beautifully and her voiceover gave me chills.

“There was a time I was always running for my life –– being chased, barely surviving. Now, I’m the one who does the hunting. You think you’re safe because you’re on the top of the world and you’re no longer the prey. Then one day, you realize there’s a bigger, badder wolf lurking around the corner. And you will have to ask yourself will you go back to running? Being chased? Barely surviving? I know my answer. What’s yours?” – Teresa

With both women extending their guns, it’s the Queen who pulls the trigger first. Teresa kills her past self, freeing her from the naive woman she used to be, so she can take the power to become the Queen of the South.

I thought so much of this show would be about her taking out her enemies to climb that royal ladder, but it’s really been about her going face-to-face with her own identity. 

We’re starting to see larger glimpses of the Queen we saw in those flashbacks at the beginning of seasons one through four. She’s wearing more white, and she’s become addicted to cocaine. The first clip of Teresa in 5×01 showed her sitting with her back to her closet, all white clothes hanging behind her, while she thought about James. Her new self is being forced to reconcile with the person she used to be. James is a palpable reminder of that. It challenges her to question who she is and who she needs to be to gain that power she’s been chasing.

Kelly Anne makes it clear to James that Teresa’s the boss. She’s the person in charge, and things may not be on the same playing field as they were when he left. Teresa’s become more sure of herself and is willing to make the difficult decisions she opposed in seasons one and two. There’s been a shift in her that was made extremely evident in that opening scene. 

It has me wondering if the very first scene of the series (the Queen being killed in her mansion) could somehow be an hallucination/metaphor like this one. Maybe it’s Teresa’s past self fighting back and killing who she’s become? Or maybe I’m wrong and she really is fated for death.

This episode was all about its title: “Fantasmas” (which means “ghosts” in Spanish). 

James and Teresa didn’t understand each other as well as they used to and were like two ghosts standing in the same room, haunted and confused by the other (big shout out to Harry Styles’ song “Two Ghosts”).

Then Teresa was haunted by her two identities and who she’s become. I’m even more intrigued to see the person she chooses to be and which of her selves ends up winning out in the end. 

“Queen of the South” airs its next episode Wednesday, April 14, on USA Network at 10/9c.

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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