‘Queen of the South’: Why Teresa Mendoza is the most badass boss on TV
Sun’s out, guns out – the high-octane Queen of the South is returning to USA with a fourth season starting soon (June 6th). Loosely based on a true story and adapted from Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s best-selling novel of the same name, the show stars Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza – a woman forced to run from a Mexican cartel and seek refuge in America.
As Teresa fights for survival, she strikes out as a drug smuggler and works her way up the drug cartel ladder while racking up a string of enemies along the way.
In Season 4 of Queen Of The South, Teresa expands her empire to the east by taking on the Big Easy: New Orleans, Louisiana. But when new enemies emerge and familial trust is broken, Teresa is forced to make difficult decisions that weigh heavy on her soul.
The show has been compared to all kinds of preceding crime dramas, from Breaking Bad, to Narcos, to MacGyver. But we think it offers its audience so much more: Teresa is one of the most badass bossbitches we’ve ever seen on TV. To mark the release of S4, here are all the reasons Teresa will always be the Queenpin of our hearts. Spoilers ahead!
The drug baroness is front and center
We loathe to state the obvious, but when this show first hit our screens back in 2016, it was refreshing to see a Latino female lead in an action-packed drug cartel story – a world that has traditionally been run by men.
We see Teresa go from a lowly money changer in Mexico to a powerful drug cartel of her own, fighting for survival at every corner. As such, Teresa is a strong complex woman who never chooses to be a victim, always takes action rather than relying on a man for her journey, and who doesn’t let her gender stop her from going after what she wants.
Speaking about her character in an interview with Bustle, Braga declared, “She is someone that was born and raised in very poor circumstances, then life throws her into this cartel world with her boyfriend.
Then, when he gets killed she starts being pursued by the cartel. It’s a very interesting journey . . . I think it’s a really beautiful journey of this woman who’s becoming this queen, powerful woman for the cartel world, which is a very male-driven world. So it’s nice to have this female power.”
Teresa’s no snitch
In almost every situation, Teresa Mendoza proves to have nerves of steel. This couldn’t be more evident than in S2E5, when the complex love triangle Teresa, James, and Guero travels to Bolivia in search of a new supplier: the enigmatic and dangerous narco cult leader El Santo. When the trail leads them to a bar in which Guero reconnects with Leo – their link to El Santo and Guero’s ex-girlfriend – the place is stormed by Bolivian militaries led by La Capitana.
Teresa covers up their identities by claiming she is just there “to party”. And party she does, huffing up three honking lines of coke. As she goes in for a fourth, visibly on her way to ODing, Guero steps in and offers to pay the police off with the $100,000 they were going to use to give El Santo.
It was a close shave and one that proved Teresa would stop at nothing to avoid snitching, even if it meant dying in the process. This is just one instance in which our Queenpin stayed loyal in one heck of a tough situation.
Teresa’s fight for survival has so many layers
On the one hand, Teresa’s quest started off as a fight for love – after all, everything that happens to Teresa in S1 is as a result of Guero’s death (who we find out is actually not dead in the season finale – curveball!).
In season one, we see her as a victim of the system as she has to be deadly as a matter of survival, outrunning the cartel who hunt her down for knowing too much. We’re sucked into Teresa’s story, not just because she’s running for her life, but because of her motives and the meaning behind her fight for survival.
As The Guardian pointed out, it’s easy to say that she is a female Walter White, but her motivations are entirely different.
Every male antihero on television (and there have been more than Donald Trump has bankruptcies) is compelled by mostly selfish reasons, especially White, who says he’s cooking meth to help his family but he’s really doing it to feed his own ego. Teresa, on the other hand, is forced into this situation where she has to be deadly and conniving as a matter of survival . . . We root for her as an act of defiance against the system that created her. Teresa is the aggressor, but she is also the victim and it’s a fascinating dynamic to watch.
Teresa comes through the other side even tougher than before
One of the powerful dynamics of Queen of the South is that it portrays women taking back the power, with Teresa refusing to back down no matter what hardships she endures.
No matter what happens to her as a result of Guero’s death – making it across the desert, becoming a mule for Camila Vargas (Veronica Falcón), almost getting arrested and murdered by Camila’s rivals, and the death of her best friend Brenda – Teresa does not buckle, but instead comes out the other side even stronger than before.
Even in the scene in which she is raped, Teresa envisions her future as the Queen of the South. Inspired by the apparition, she finds a gun, shoots her attacker, and escapes. “There’s no doubt that Teresa is a survivor and has also seen herself as one,” noted Bustle.
Teresa uses her smarts to manipulate – and survive
From the start, we’re shown Teresa using her intuitive smarts to control her own fate. This is evident in her relationship with Camila – Teresa knows she is not trustworthy, but she also knows that the best thing to do would be to partner up with her to survive.
We’re shown this right at the beginning in the pilot episode when she puts a gun to her head in front of Don Epifanio (Joaquim de Almeida), threatening to take her own life. “Let’s be real,” mused She Knows, “she knew exactly what she was doing. In fact, I think this was just the first glimpse of Teresa’s masterful manipulation . . . She knew that by putting that gun to her head, Epifanio would have no choice but to take her under his wing.”
All in all, Teresa is one of the most powerful, complex, and dynamic female leads on TV right now – a true survivor, we’re looking forward to S4 where she will no doubt continue to prove this is Teresa’s world and we’re just living in it.