Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza in "Queen of the South." Photo by USA Network
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‘Queen of the South’ finale: ‘She who creates herself’

17 mins read

All hail the queen. Teresa Mendoza’s reign was long, but her legacy is everlasting.

The “Queen of the South” aired its series finale “El Final” Wednesday, June 9, on USA Network, and while some characters went out with a bang, others walked out peacefully with their happy endings.

The episode’s final scenes tied this often-brutal show together with a glorious bow. The pilot’s very first scene blended seamlessly with the finale’s ending frame, staying true to what this show has always centered around –– its characters and fans.

Common tropes like shock value and main characters conveniently dying in an explosion (which I was initially scared was going to happen when I first started this show years ago) stayed out of the picture. 

It’s clear the writers always had a plan for what this story was going to be. Every single character motivation and plot point led to this finale. 

I found myself crying when that final scene faded to black. I couldn’t form the right words, but I still called my friend to share the brilliant news. One of my favorite shows ended, and for the first time since watching “The Vampire Diaries” finale in 2017, my tears were happy ones.

It was brutal. It was complex. It was hopeful. It was perfect (and every other positive adjective). 

I couldn’t have been happier with it. “El Final” blew my hopes wide open in the water and expanded upon them instead of letting them drown. It was a tribute to the characters and fans while still keeping the mystery alive one last time.

Here is my star rating for 5×10:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Spoiler alert warning:

Recap

Hemky Madera as Pote in “Queen of the South.” Photo by USA Network

“El Final” opened with Teresa’s death.

Pote, Kelly Anne, Chicho and Oksana’s daughter mourned this ending while Boaz cheered to his new beginning, taking Teresa’s throne that Devon Finch handed him on a silver platter.

Teresa’s “death” opened the floodgates as the CIA went after the rest of her crew to kill loose ends. Pote went to Sinaloa with Chicho to spread the ashes while James secretly followed them, taking photos of the event and sending them to Devon proving Teresa’s reign was over.

This kickstarted the finale. James was walking back to his vehicle after her celebration of life when a man started shooting at him, nicking him in the shoulder, before James took him out. Photos of all of them were on the man’s phone and that’s when James knew Devon wasn’t letting the rest of them get off that easily. He warned Pote and Kelly Anne to go into hiding as soon as possible and that was the last we saw of James until the final 10 minutes.

Kelly Anne escapes to a motel before Devon’s men show up to kill her. The audience gets left on a cliff hanger wondering what happened to her before the show cuts to Pote and Chicho in Mexico.

A flat tire forces the duo to stop at a gas station where police officers offer to help. However, the police officers soon get a call from Boaz and Devon (who are now in control of Mexico’s borders) and Pote gets sent to prison for four years.

After the time jump, we see that Marcel Dumas has joined the business in New Orleans again after partnering with Boaz who has taken over Teresa’s business (and even living in her old house *cringes*). Dumas has always been an ally to our crew, however, and reaches out to Pote about the current situation. Pote takes out Boaz in a knife fight, and Teresa gives one last gift to our pals in New Orleans. Chicho gets the tequila distillery and Dumas gets the New York waterfront property while Pote chooses to disappear.

This left 15 minutes for the story’s conclusion as Pote was found walking along a beach to a little girl building a sandcastle. He gives her a wooden soldier when the girl’s mom walks around the corner –– who is none other than Kelly Anne. They hug and cry as they reunite for the first time in four years and Pote meets his daughter. The family strolls up the boardwalk to a beach house where James walks outside, welcoming Pote to their home, followed by Teresa.

Teresa knew Devon was going to ask James to kill her, so they made an escape plan. They would fake her death, Pote would pretend to cry over her body making Oksana’s daughter the perfect witness, and they would burn a fake body after bribing the workers at the morgue. Teresa disguised herself and escaped on a sailboat while everyone else planted the seeds of her death before making their eventual escapes too.

In the end, Teresa and the audience get one final glimpse at the Queen before the Queen smiles and walks away, leaving Teresa safe and happy with her newfound family. The Queen might have killed the money changer from Culiacán, Mexico, in the season’s opening scene, but Teresa Mendoza fought back and reclaimed her life.

A well-deserved happy ending

Image courtesy USA Network

“Queen of the South” really ended with the main group of characters reunited on a beach, walking off into their happy ending. That really happened. I didn’t imagine it.

The queen of a drug empire, her hit man boyfriend, her sicario right hand man and her best friend who killed her husband really got to escape and live peacefully. That was better than anything I was hoping for. I don’t know how to handle this immense respect that was given to the characters (fans included).

It was like the writers wrapped us in a blanket of love with its final scenes, comforting us after the difficult year we’ve all faced. Series finales are difficult for me to watch. I build so much up in my mind and pour my expectations onto it, and they often hit a wall and spill over as tears on my hallway floor. 

“El Final” did the opposite for me though. Yes, tears sparked my eyes as my heart pounded with each moment of anticipation, but hope filled my lungs with the final breath I spent watching it. 

Some people may feel the show doing the “fake my death to get out of the plot” trope could feel like a rushed cop out, but I couldn’t disagree more. Series finales shouldn’t be about shock value. It should be about what the characters and fans deserve, and we deserve happiness.

We deserve to watch our beloved characters find an escape from their dark lives, living in the light together. That’s the hopeful ending people need right now. 

The beauty of that final scene feeling like an alternative universe is that it almost is an alternative universe. That’s the point. Teresa has spent the entirety of her life fighting for something better. 

(Also, not me crying over Teresa telling James “You and me… it can’t happen. Maybe in another life, but not this one,” in the second episode this season, and now they get to live that life.)

Her parents were killed when she was a child. She was abused as a money changer in Culiacán. She had a financially stable life with Guero until he “died.” She worked her way up the ladder in Camila Vargas’ cartel. She left that cartel to start her own. She grew, creating an empire. 

She did all these things, because she thought the only way to keep her loved ones safe was to be so far at the top that no one could touch her. However, she learned the top of that ladder could never be reached with Devon and the CIA in the game. The only way off that ladder was to jump to a new one. So that’s exactly what she did.

Teresa took control of the game, changing the rules until she snuck her way out of it, leaving only whispers in her wake haunting the players who think they’ve won.

They deserve this happy ending in a place so separated from their past lives it doesn’t even have a name (seriously, where are they?!). Pote and Kelly Anne deserve a peaceful life with their daughter. James deserves to live his life for himself, learning how to surf during the meantime (now that’s a spin-off I would love to see). Teresa deserves to learn how to cook and take time for herself doing what she’s always wanted to do without the threat of her life hanging in the balance.

So many shows have tried the “newfound family reunited living happily ever after on a beach” trope but this is one of the first times I’ve seen it executed well (sorry, “Lost” and “The 100” but you failed that one).

Moyocoyotzin

Image courtesy of USA Network

One of the beautiful things about this ending is how well it connects with the entire “Queen of the South” story.

There’s one word in particular that kept screaming in my mind throughout the finale –– moyocoyotzin.

This translates into the following:

“She who creates herself.”

This word has played a key role in Teresa’s journey. It was tattooed on her by El Santo’s people around season two, episode six “El Camino de la Muerte.” 

El Santo poisoned her with a beetle in Bolivia that temporarily stopped her heart saying she needed to be reborn to take on her new role. That’s when her journey to becoming the Queen started, but audiences have seen that forearm tattoo since the Queen’s appearances in season one.

This isn’t anything new with the show though. Death marking a turning point for these characters has been a motif since the beginning.

Teresa has had many identities, all separated by her being reborn in some way:

  • Her fight for survival started when her parents were killed by gang members during her Confirmation as a young girl.
  • Guero’s fake death sparked Teresa’s story in the pilot, turning her from a naive girlfriend to a member of Camila’s drug cartel. 
  • Her temporary death in season two by El Santo turned her into a valuable player in the game that initially aimed to destroy her.
  • The Queen version of her shot the money changer version of her at the beginning of this season, fully turning her into the Queen.

Fake deaths and slipping into exile has played a major role in the series with Death being one of the main characters alongside Teresa.

The show has been leaving hints left and right that this was the only way her story could conclude. The Queen told audiences in the beginning that her options were either go to prison or die, and then we saw her get shot and seemingly die on our screens. She never did though.

In the end, Teresa had to leave the business the same way she entered it. She had to “die” and be reborn. In my review of the first episode of this season, I wondered which version of her would win out in the end.

It wasn’t necessarily the money changer from Culiacán or the Queen who claimed the throne. It was Teresa Mendoza herself, the woman who was balanced between the two characters she’s claimed to be throughout her life. She’s no longer haunted by those two versions of her. She’s rocking the white clothes like the Queen but she’s also wearing her hair naturally curly like the woman from the streets of Mexico. 

Teresa’s life after her fake death is bright, full of solitude and loved ones. It reminisces what people may assume Heaven looks like, and in a way, that’s exactly what it is. This final death was Teresa’s release to live the peaceful life she’s always yearned to live.

“So what did you think? Not exactly what you expected, right? I wasn’t lying when I said I would be dead in 30 seconds. That Teresa did die, but she wasn’t murdered by an enemy or a rival. She was killed by me, a money changer from Culiacán who defied all odds to survive. They said prison or death were my only options, but what do they know? I chose life.” – Teresa’s last line

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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