SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details from the Queen of the South finale, “El Final.”
Teresa Mendoza will always be one step ahead, even in death.
Queen of the South’s series finale, written by showrunners Benjamin Lobato and Dailyn Rodriguez, follows the sequence of events after Teresa’s (Alice Braga) assassination. Newcomer Samara recounts the moment of Teresa’s death to officials and bids farewell to Pote (Hemky Madera), who witnesses the cremation of his friend and decides to travel back to Culiacán to spread her ashes.
Meanwhile, James (Peter Gadiot) texts Devon (Jaime Hector) pictures of Teresa’s body at the morgue, confirming that he’s kept his end of the bargain. Over in New Orleans, Boaz (Joseph T. Campos) has not wasted any time and took control of Teresa’s home, business and bar while growing closer with Devon. Though Teresa may be out of the picture, Pote, Kelly Ann (Molly Burnett) and James still pose a threat to Boaz’s newfound power. While some of Devon’s guys search for James and Pote in Culiacán, Boaz’s crew looks for Kelly Ann, who swiftly escapes the suburbs to a motel where she hopes to meet Pote.
Pote catches the eye of patrolling officers and winds up in jail for hijacking a stranger’s car to escape Boaz’s sicario. With the father of her child now in police custody, Kelly Ann is left to fend for herself. By the time Chicho (Alejandro Barrios) reaches the Sunset Motel, Kelly Ann’s room is empty, leading him to fear the worst.
Three years later, Pote’s served his sentence and seeks out Boaz to avenge Teresa, Tony and all the loved ones the drug lord has taken from him. He reunites with Chicho and Dumas (Alimi Ballard), with the latter unveiling that he also intends to get even with the traitor. Before they can head back to NOLA, Boaz shows up outside of Chicho’s with a mini-gun, killing a number of Dumas’ men and taking Chicho hostage. Pote finds Boaz at Siete Gotas, where they engage in a mano a mano “Sinaloa style” knife fight and severely harm each other. Just when it looks like it might be the end for Pote, he sweeps Boaz off his feet and deals the fatal blow.
Before skipping town to finally leave the world of drugs and violence behind him, Pote once again reunites with Chicho and Dumas. He gifts the former ownership of Siete Gotas, again, and grants the latter Teresa’s waterfront property.
The next we see Pote, he’s on a white sand beach where he finds a girl playing by herself. He offers her a small hand-carved wooden soldier to protect her sand castle. When the girl shows her mother the trinket she’s just received, Kelly Ann appears and explains to young Lena that the man is her father. They retreat into a house on the shore, where James greets Pote. As it turns out, James tracked Kelly Ann at the motel and took her to the safe house, where Teresa, who is not dead, has also been hiding.
The final moments unfold the plan behind Teresea’s surprise revival. Before Teresa moved to Belize, she and her crew devised a plot to deceive Devon and satiate his conditions. James’ eventual betrayal, Teresa’s cremation and Pote’s return to Culiacán were all in the cards. Pote reassures Teresa that all loose ends have been tied, noting that Dumas and Chicho know nothing about the elaborate plan.
As they finally sit down for a family meal without fear of ambush or retaliation, Teresa looks into the distance to see her old, willing-to-risk-it-all self, nodding in approval of the secret, mess-free life she’s made.
“That Teresa did die, but she wasn’t murdered by an enemy or a rival,” she reflects. “She was killed by me, a money-changer from Culiacán who defied all odds to survive. And if either prison or death were my own options, what do you know, I chose life.”
Showrunners Benjamin Lobato and Dailyn Rodriguez broke down the series “beautiful” ending, teased what would have been season six threads and more. Read the full interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, below.
DEADLINE: How did the Pote-centered episode come about and how did that fit into the Teresa’s big reveal?
DAILYN RODRIGUEZ: We thought the best case scenario was to end episode nine with her death, so that we could really convince the audience that she was dead. We felt like the best way to do that is to make the entire episode be a Pote episode to then, completely lull the audience into this false idea that she’s dead so that the ending could be really satisfying – when you discover that she’s faked it.
We really felt like she had a plan like this, in the back of her mind, probably since the moment she got to New Orleans, in case everything went pear shaped.
BENJAMIN LOBATO: In general these types of gangster dramas are essentially tragedies. They were always built to be like morality tales, and within those morality tales there’s always a moment of grace. There’s one more thing they need to do, which then, ultimately, leads to their demise. In Teresa Mendoza’s case, because we’ve spent four seasons, really building up that she’s someone who’s bringing a moral code to the cartel business, we felt that she did deserve to get out, to escape, to survive.
She’s never had blood lust or sought to build an empire through violence. She has built an empire by building a family. We just felt like it made sense to turn the genre on its head, and go from tragedy, to something with a happy ending.
DEADLINE: How did you settle on the idea that Pote would be the one to take down Boaz?
RODGRIGUEZ: When it comes to Pote I think he has always been very weary of Boaz. Pote never trusts this guy.
To us, it’s the ultimate last death of the show, and especially coming from Pote, where he feels like he’s finally avenging this “death” of Teresa. But really, it’s about everything that Boaz’s done. He’s killed King George. The love of Pote’s life, he had her kidnapped, almost had her killed, and his unborn child. It felt like it was the most sort of, Shakespearean of all moments to have this man, who understands completely who Boaz is, and could at some point been Boaz, be the one to kill him.
It’s so Shakespearean for that death not be drive by, or a shooting, but this visceral, mano a mano fight. It felt like it was the most poetic justice for both characters, for this to be the final death.
DEADLINE: Where exactly do Teresa and her family wind up in the finale?
RODRIGUEZ: We kind of like the idea that it’s left to the audience’s imagination. It’s almost like it’s somewhere. We just know it’s not the United States. That much we know.
LOBATO: We wanted to go to Marbella, but because of COVID restrictions, we were unable to travel. We had to find something near our production offices in Louisiana, and we ended up on the gulf shores of Alabama. It was a nod to the book. If we can get her to Marbella, Spain, and if there was a season six, then we would basically reboot the show, and really dig in and start doing more of what the book did.
DEADLINE: Where do you think they are?
LOBATO: We went back and forth, because it was really about, what was the location we can find? We wanted it to be a deserted beach, so that there wouldn’t be other people around. So it could feel safe, and secluded, and we found a house that was great. Unfortunately, it’s a house that doesn’t look like a place that’s in Spain.
We went on this whole search of, where do they have architecture like this on beaches? We found a couple of places. One is South Africa. Another one was New Zealand. In our minds, and we were kind of split on this. Because the location, geographically, didn’t necessarily fit either one of those perfectly, we just decided to leave it open. We did an internal poll, and everybody felt that it was more New Zealand than anything else.
RODGRIGUEZ: New Zealand is so remote that it would make sense.
DEADLINE: Do you think Devon and the CIA are fully buying that Teresa’s dead?
RODGRIGUEZ: One of the reasons we did choose not to kill Devon Finch was the possibility of a season six, and leaving that doubt a little bit out there. We did toy with the idea of keeping that open, but once we finally got the word that we were not getting a season six, we decided to just let sleeping dogs lie when it came to Devon Finch.
LOBATO: I mean, I think that’s a really good question. Honestly, there were even a couple of scenes that we had written where Devon Finch got some flag, almost like a photograph of Teresa on surveillance crossing through Greece. And the moment Devon’s looking at the file, he hears a footstep, and he turns, and James shoots him, and then, it’s all cleaned, and wrapped up tidy. Once it came down to the show being cancelled, there was a question of, do we need that scene?
Do we have the space for that, or do we want to lean towards these more emotional moments when Pote hands the water front property over to Dumas and redeems him? That Pote and gets to carry on the dream that Teresa did – get out of the business, clean, and elevate his community. I think we just landed on, let’s go for the emotion, versus the plot.
DEADLINE: Speaking of the final sequence, what’s next for James and Teresa?
RODRIGUEZ: I definitely think that there is a world, like in the book, that she ends up up pregnant. I think they will have a family, and I do believe that these last years, while Pote’s been in prison, I think what they’ve been doing is trying to find who they really are, without the death constantly looming over them.
The day that we were shooting on the beach, Peter said, “I don’t think I’d have these tattoos anymore. I think I’d shed all of this, that I’m a new person.” And then Alice said, “I think he’s right, and I think I wouldn’t have my tattoo, either. I think we’ve spent the last three years trying to reinvent ourselves, find who we really are, without all of this death, and destruction, and fear. Those tattoos are of the past.” I think they were right.
I think they spent the last three years trying to find a level of peace. The story in my mind is that they do have a family, James and Teresa, and I think there is a happily ever after there. I really do.
DEADLINE: How do you think Pote and Kelly Ann will fare as new parents?
LOBATO: Pote is a Latino male, with a daughter. So, as a Mexicano, with two daughters, I can say he’s going to spoil her, and protect her, like the rest of his family. I, too, believe that the time in prison for Pote has also been a time of healing so that he can come to a place and now not be worried about, who do I have to kill? Now it’s a matter of, how do I become the father that this daughter needs? How do I become the best father that I can, to this child?
When I found out that my wife and I were having a daughter, I had no idea what to do. I was asking everybody questions and I ordered 100 books about how do you raise a daughter, because it was the most terrifying thing in the world, to me. I was in the military. I worked in law enforcement, but the prospect of raising a daughter, right now, was even scarier than that.
A lot of Pote’s perspective came from my perspective. I think that he’s going to be that guy that’s going to be like, what do I need to do. Instead of focusing on sharpening my knives, how do I sharpen my skills as a father? I see him as the guy who’s going to be reading the stories, and doing the tea parties.
I think that he’s going to be amazing, and it’s not going to be perfect, because he didn’t grow up with that example. I think that the love between him and Kelly Ann is really going to be redemptive, and I think that their daughter’s going to be raised in a beautiful way, and grow up to be, an amazing, empowered woman, because she’s surrounded by them, and she’s surrounded by a man who sees that, and appreciates it.
DEADLINE: What are some of the rewards creating your own ending for the story of Teresa Mendoza?
RODRIGUEZ: I felt this enormous amount of peace, ending the series, and an enormous amount of beauty. I think that this series can be so dark, and violent, and sad, on many levels, and it starts in a very sad place, with what happens to Teresa in the pilot. There’s so much poetry, and beauty, ending the series in this sunny, beautiful place which is like nothing we’ve ever seen before on the show. It’s like you’re living in this dark room and your window has paper all over on it, and somebody punches a hole through that paper, and that light comes in. That’s how it feels to me.
I find that ending to be very, very emotionally satisfying, and I’m hoping the audience feels the same way. When Ben and I were there shooting, we kept looking at each other, and we kept saying, this is so satisfying.
LOBATO: This is the first time we actually see them all together, and there’s no threat of death hanging over them. To see them liberated, in that way, was just so cathartic.
The last moments of the episode sum it up exactly, and beautifully, in a way, where Teresa says, they told me my only two options were prison or death, but I chose life.
And I think that that last line was so important to Dailyn and myself, just because we felt like this woman, who had been victimized, often times only had those two options. She fought and found something else. Specifically, coming out of this pandemic, just to say something along the lines of I chose life, it was exactly the way we wanted it to end.