‘Queen of the South’ 5×09: Did [spoiler] really die?

6 mins read

Hook, line and sinker.

The “Queen of the South” penultimate episode circled back to its opening scene right as we’ve begun our descent into the finale, and I have many emotions about it.

There’s nothing quite like a full circle moment to keep you on the hook, but I can’t tell if we’ve been baited or not. I’ll do a deep dive about the ~that scene~ later in the review, because right now I want to prepare a farewell to this show.

I’ve been like a broken record saying how much I love “Queen of the South,” but I shall keep shouting it into the void if I must. The latest episode –– season five, episode nine “A Prueba de Balas” (“Bulletproof” in English) –– kept me on my toes just like the first few seasons always did for me.

It was intense. It was emotional. It was twisted. It was captivating.

“Queen of the South” is special because of the way it handles its characters. The writing is complex and real, and “A Prueba de Balas” proved that. This episode did everything right, in my opinion. There isn’t one thing I think could’ve been handled better, and I can’t think of the last time that happened with any show for me.

Here is my star rating for it:

5 out of 5 stars

Spoiler alert warning:


Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza in USA Network’s “Queen of the South.” Photo by USA Network.

There were two storylines happening in the episode.

We got to see what happens when Kelly Ann and Pote try to live a domestic life in the suburbs after Teresa forced Pote’s retirement. Watching Kelly Ann thrive in the environment and seeing Pote paranoid with the calmness of everything (i.e. shooting a raccoon in the middle of the night, thinking the neighbor’s snickerdoodles are poisoned, snooping around the neighbor’s house during their garage sale) was the comedic dynamic I never knew I needed.

Even though Pote’s storyline had its lighthearted moments, however, we got to see him struggling to transition into civilian life. This wasn’t the life the ex-sicario (hit man) ever expected to have, so he is constantly looking over his shoulder, feeling like a failure because he doesn’t fit in with this world.

On the business side of things, James and Teresa had a strong episode. Devon told them he ordered the Colombians to stop their cocaine shipments, halting Teresa’s business, in order to blackmail Teresa into killing Kostya. The United States CIA has been trying to take out the Russian drug cartel for a while but couldn’t find the head of the snake. It turns out Kostya is a Russian diplomat.

Teresa partners with the Dominican drug cartel in New York to kill Kostya’s men, but Boaz beats them to it by joining the Russians and warning them. The Russians hit the Dominicans first, making Teresa’s job even more difficult, and Chicho calls Pote for help.

Throughout the stress of her empire slowly falling from her grasp, Teresa and James get steamy and profess their love for each other. (I would like to personally thank all the windows with a view and soft lighting for almost always guaranteeing a #Jeresa scene. They understand the assignment.)

Teresa sets up a meeting with Kostya to make a deal and she poisons his glass when they talk business over tequila. A shootout begins and Pote bursts in right on time, saving Teresa. Afterwards, Teresa tells everyone it’s time to leave the business and move to Belize.

Before they make their move though, Devon pays James a visit. James holds him at gunpoint when Devon tells him it’s time to kill Teresa. His face falls and hope dissipates from him as he argues that he won’t do it.

That’s when we catch up to the opening scene from the show’s pilot. Teresa and her crew get off the helicopter at their new mansion, she steps into the bathroom and gets shot. However, this time around, the camera zooms out to where the shooter is hiding in the bushes, and it’s none other than James Valdez himself.

On Wednesdays, we wear white

Alice Braga and Peter Gadiot as Teresa Mendoza and James Valdez in USA Network’s “Queen of the South.” Image by USA Network.

“Queen of the South” gets many things right, and one of my favorite things (there are many) is how Teresa’s clothes are used to signify her power.

She wore loose, dirty clothes she could find during the first couple of seasons until she switched to wearing more polished, black clothing in season three, to slowly including more white items to her wardrobe in the final two seasons. She’s been in white the majority of this one, proving she doesn’t need to get her hands dirty anymore because she has people for that now.

James has been teetering for a while with his color palette. His shirts switch from black to white constantly, but his infamous black leather jacket has remained a constant. Sometimes he and Teresa are wearing black and white at the same time, but other times he’s decked out in black while she reps a full white ensemble, showing how at odds they are with each other.

However, they both wore white this episode. They’re on the same page with her business. There isn’t a power dynamic separating them. James and Teresa are a team fighting for the same things now.

So, if they’re both on the same page, why did he shoot her?

Fake it ‘til you make it

Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza in USA Network’s “Queen of the South.” Image by USA Network.

It’s time for theories (*smirkingly wiggles my fingers together*).

OK, so can we all agree that James didn’t actually shoot her? Thank you. 

I’ve always commended this show for its great writing and how natural everything feels to the characters all the time. James killing Teresa after seasons of sacrificing himself to protect her, along with an entire episode of them professing their love for each other, doesn’t make sense.

“Queen of the South” has always had a lot of action, but it has never done surprising things for shock value. It’s never stooped that low and I doubt its grand finale would do that too. Why spend the show’s penultimate episode proving how much James and Teresa love each other just to have him kill her in the end? It would be a waste of precious time just to upset the fans.

There’s always been motivation that suited the characters’ agendas when it came down to the show’s plot twists. James “killing” her has to be some kind of misdirect, the show’s grand scheme.

We also cannot forget that another flash forward from previous seasons showed Teresa shooting a brunette man she had just slept with, which led to her going to the bathroom and getting a bullet to the head too. Because that same exact scene zoomed out to show James hiding in the bushes with the gun in this episode, we can assume that the man Teresa killed wasn’t James. If it wasn’t James, then who would it be? 

There isn’t another man in the picture right now, and the show wouldn’t just throw that at the audience during the finale. It would be too convenient. “Queen of the South” is better than that, which leads to my theory.

Teresa and James have been discussing getting out of the business for the past couple of episodes. However, they can’t just walk away because of their involvement with Devon Finch. The CIA would never leave loose ends like that. 

“I’m only legit until Devon decides I’m not,” Teresa said.

So, what if James and Teresa faked their deaths? What if Teresa killed a James-look-alike on purpose, and what if she isn’t really dead? James would have to be the one to pull the trigger to make Devon believe he followed through with the plan, but that doesn’t mean they still couldn’t escape. 

Maybe “Queen of the South” has never been about Teresa’s journey for the crown where she meets her ultimate death. Maybe it’s about her confronting who she wants to be and breaking free from the business that imprisoned her from the very beginning.

There’s one thing that could interfere with this theory though. The preview for the finale showed Teresa’s body at the morgue with Pote promising to destroy the person’s life who did that to her. However, maybe James and Teresa are playing Pote too to get him to kill Devon for them and make their untimely ends look more realistic. Maybe they pulled a Romeo and Juliet where Teresa took some concoction to represent signs of death. 

Many fans have been presenting similar theories, pointing out how strange the episode’s ending was. People could tell things felt off, and there’s normally a larger game at play when that happens on “Queen of the South.”

Or perhaps we’re all wrong, sitting in a cold room with our denial wrapped around us to keep us warm, sifting through theories to prove the characters we admire love each other back.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Until next time, la familia, salud.

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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