Queen of the South is a drama airing on USA Network. It recounts the story of Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga), a young woman who starts off as a moneychanger in Mexico before events propel her into drug-trafficking in America, where she eventually rises to become the "Queenpin".
The show is an American remake of the telenovela La reina del sur, which is an adaptation of a novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
Queen Of The South contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: In season 3, Kelly Anne develops a drinking problem as a way of coping with the trauma of being tortured by Devon Finch. It's also how she deals with the guilt of becoming Finch's mole. When she returns in season 4, she reveals that she got clean while in exile, and has been sober for six months.
- Ambiguously Bi:
- In "El Nacimiento de Bolivia", Leo is revealed to be Guero's ex-girlfriend, but she also insists on sharing a dance with Teresa.
- King George's relationship with his right-hand man Bilal is never explicitly stated to be romantic, but Cortez does try and use Bilal as leverage to get George to turn on Teresa, and after Bilal's death, George and Teresa discuss him in such a way that it implies that he was George's lover. On the other hand, George gets an explicit female love interest in season 4.
- An Aesop: It's best to Know When to Fold 'Em and abandon the wealth and glory brought through ill-gotten gains than to risk everyone you love and care for.
- Teresa: (last lines) So, what do you think? Not exactly what you expected, right? I wasn't lying when I said that I would be dead in 30 seconds. That Teresa did die. But she wasn't killed by an enemy or a rival. She was killed by me. A money changer from Culiacan who defied all odds to survive. They say that prison or death were my only options. But what do they know? I choose life.
- Antagonistic Offspring: Over the course of the first three season, Isabela gradually turns against Camila, pissed off that her mom has all but ensured that everyone knows that she's a mafia princess.
- Anti-Villain: Epifanio ultimately becomes this by the time his story is fleshed out. As a teenager he saw his mother and father get murdered and hung from a tree for not playing the Cartel leader his money on time. He forms a crew and fights to hold on to his family farm that the Cartels tries to take from him by force. He genuinely loves his wife Camila and the show makes it clear that their marriage problems were mostly created by her and her pride. He tries to go legit once he has the means to do so, but is stopped by is wife who refuses to give up the criminal empire she helped built, despite not being a criminal at all in the beginning of their relationship. And he gives up his life trying to kill Teresa, because he saw how his wife would never let her become the new queen of the south. These things ultimately makes him a sympathetic character and not the ruthless drug lord the show initially makes him appear to be.
- Ax-Crazy: In season 2, Teresa, Guero, and James try to score a new source of cocaine by reaching out to El Santo, a religious fanatic who views cocaine as a sacrament.
- Badass Israeli: In the final season, Pote and James hire a small army of ex-Mossad officers to protect Teresa after a hit is put out on her.
- Badass Native: Taza, the head of the Hakan Tse reservation, first appears as a tired, broken man who has resorted to letting La Comision use his people's land to smuggle cocaine in order to earn enough money to keep the reservation functioning. However, after making an alliance with Teresa and thus getting some insulation from La Comision's wrath, he quickly proves to be a competent leader, and by the end of the season, he's managed to negotiate his way into being a partner in Teresa's empire.
- Bad Boss: One of the things driving Camila's conflict with Epifanio is that he chose Cesar to be his successor, and Cesar has proven to be an incompetent bully who's more interested in consolidating his control over the business than in actually expanding it.
- Berserk Button: Isabela hates it when her friends bring up the fact that her parents made their fortunes with drugs.
- Boomerang Bigot: Sheriff Mayo is of Latino descent and makes very little effort to hide it, but he has been profiling his fellow Latinos for years in order to make a name for himself.
- Boom, Headshot!:
- Olivia takes a bullet to the head in "Todas las Horas Hieren".
- After learning that she was a mole for Devon Finch, James seemingly executes Kelly Anne with a headshot.
- King George takes a bullet to the head after learning that Boaz has been plotting against Teresa.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Teresa fires Lil T in the hopes that she'll get out of the drug business and go back to school.
- Bullying a Dragon: In "Plato o Ploma", a pair of real-estate moguls try to scam Teresa out of money by informing her that the road to her new waterfront property is privately-owned, thus denying her access to the property in the hopes that she'll be forced to sell it back to them at a loss. She responds by shooting one of the scammers, convincing the other to give her the road, and then shooting him, too.
- When a cocky punk tries to take over Marcel Dumas' gang for himself, Dumas attempts to talk him down. He doesn't listen and continues to threaten Dumas, so Dumas resorted to telling him to back down and rethink his life at gunpoint. Despite Dumas trying with all his might to give him another chance, the punk still has the gall to insult him again. Dumas finally loses his temper and guns him down without mercy.
- The Bus Came Back: In the fourth-season premiere, Tony calls Teresa, claiming that someone is after him, and thus Teresa sends Pote to Texas to extract him. Along the way, they also find Kelly Anne, who turns out to still be alive.
- Career-Ending Injury:
- In the third season, Pote is captured and tortured, resulting in extensive injuries to his dominant hand. These injuries end his hopes of remaining a sicario in Mexico, where he'd be unable to keep up with the younger men in the business. Thankfully for him, Teresa appreciates loyalty and keeps him on as her adviser.
- In "El Diablo", Bilal is given a crude lobotomy, effectively ending his career as King George's right-hand man.
- Camila's career as a dancer ended because she kept suffering injuries. She decided to marry Epifanio instead.
- The Cartel: Teresa gets involved in the cocaine trafficking business which is primarily controlled by the Vargas Cartel (a thinly-veiled pastiche of the real life Sinaloa Cartel). Eventually, she leaves the organization to start her own drug cartel.
- Chekhov's Gun: In "La Muerte", Teresa is given a special plastic gun to protect herself during her visit to El Santo's compound. It ends up being used as evidence against her when El Santo suspects her of betraying the location of his old compound.
- Chekhov's Skill: Teresa worked as a moneychanger before she met Guero and learned how to recognize fake US currency, since her boss would beat her if she brought back counterfeits. During a drug deal she realizes that something fishy is going on and asks to check the money. She is quickly able to tell that part of the money is counterfeit because it feels wrong to the touch and is too light (US banknotes are printed on special cotton paper.)
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Guero has a nasty habit of selling other people out. He's even betrayed Teresa a few times.
- CIA Evil, FBI Good: The show has a couple of DEA Agents that try to do the right thing, despite having many factors, including their own superiors standing in their way. Meanwhile Devin Finch and his crew are revealed to be CIA Agents, and he doesn't hesitate to commit amoral acts to get his way, making him appear no different that the criminals he targets, which for most of the the show was El Santo.
- Cool Car: In "El Carro", Taza loans the gang a trio of nice cars for one of their operations.
- Creepy Child: El Santo's attendants are a bunch of little girls who wear terrifying masks and speak calmly about cleansing and purification. They also serve as his little assassins.
- Daddy's Little Villain: In season 3, Isabela falls under the influence of Cortez, who cheerfully makes himself into a surrogate father figure so that he can turn her against Camila.
- Dating What Daddy Hates: In season 2, Isabela tries to rebel against her parents by dating Kique Jimenez, the son of a rival family. This backfires terribly when it turns out that one of Kique's friends is the son of a man who was killed by Epifanio's men. Camila later has Kique kidnapped and murdered in order to flush out his dad.
- The Dog Bites Back: The final season reveals that Rocco de la Pena died after one of the girls he'd enslaved got tired of being abused and killed him.
- The Dreaded: Bolivia has two - El Santo and La Capitana. The former is a drug dealer who runs his organization like a cult. The latter is a police officer who is determined to wipe out the drug trade in her country, even if she has to slaughter every dealer and user in the country to do it.
- Driven to Suicide: In "La Reina de Espadas", Teresa goes into a downward spiral after Guero's death, to the point where at the opening of the episode, she tries to crash a plane.
- Due to the Dead: In season 5, Teresa's house now has a shrine to Tony.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After a four-year stint in jail, Pote manages to avenge the destruction brought upon by Boaz's betrayal and leave the cartel life behind to live peacefully with James, Kelly Anne and Teresa, the latter of which faked her death in an incredibly elaborate misdirection.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
- Epifanio and Camila are despicable people, but they both love their daughter Isabela.
- El Santo may be insane, but he loves his wife and unborn son. In "La Muerte", a drone attack kills his wife, and he barely manages to save his son by cutting him out of his wife's stomach. Consequently, his sanity deteriorates very badly.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- King George's crew is made up of Somalis, and he is supremely loyal to them, to the point that he no longer does business with neo-Nazis after one of them insulted his right-hand man Bilal.
- In "Reina de Oros", Teresa immediately calls off her alliance with Rocco de la Pena, even though doing so costs her much of her business in Europe, after learning that he made his fortune on human trafficking.
- Family-Values Villain: In Season 4, Judge Cecil Lafayette is corrupt as all get-out, but he is a consummate southern gentleman, the sort who has a minor associate killed for insulting a woman in his presence.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride and Wrath for Camila. In the end, it causes the destruction of her family and her empire.
- A Father to His Men: King George loves his Somali henchmen as if they were his own flesh and blood.
- Fidelity Test: In the third episode, Camila arranges to have Teresa "captured" by fake federal agents in order to find out if she would name Camila as her boss in order to save her own life. Teresa is smart enough to know that snitching is a bad idea, and thus refuses to give up Camila's name, even as the agents threaten to throw her in jail.
- Foregone Conclusion: In the flash-forward scenes at the beginning of each season, of all of Teresa's friends and allies, only Pote has appeared, suggesting that no one else survived her rise to the top. Eventually subverted in that James, Kelly Anne, and Chicho are all alive and well, and are now better off without the cartel business.
- Foreign Remake: Queen Of The South is an English-language remake of the Spanish language telenovela La reina del sur.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Absolutely nobody likes working with Boaz Jimenez, but he is a major player in Mexico's narcotics underground, so everyone else is forced to tolerate him. This becomes worse at the end of season 3, when Camila's empire collapses and he is given control of Sinaloa. Even banishing him to Miami fails to keep him out of trouble, as he just starts picking fights with the locals, forcing Teresa to deploy George to keep an eye on him.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The point of the series, detailing how Teresa went from an innocent poor woman just doing a minor crime to the most powerful, ruthless and feared drug cartel leader in Mexico.
- Groin Attack: During Teresa's gang's attack on a neo-Nazi warehouse, Lil T shoots one of the racists in the crotch.
- Gut Punch: The opening scene of the pilot has Teresa boasting about how rich and powerful she is... right before a sniper's bullet rips through her chest.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Cortez claims that he ate Batman after killing him. He also claims that he's got plans to do the same to Camila.
- Important Haircut:
- As the Queen, Teresa has straightened hair tied in a severe bun. As "Teresita", she wears her hair down and in natural curls.
- In season 4, King George now has shorter, neater hair.
- Inspector Javert:
- In "El Nacimiento de Bolivia", Teresa and her friends run afoul of La Capitana, a brutal Bolivian police officer who's determined to wipe out the cocaine trade in her country and nearly kills Teresa in her quest to find El Santo.
- In "La Fuerza", Sherriff Jed Mayo portrays himself as a Javert, tirelessly committed to eliminating the cartels in his town, but in reality, he's been taking bribes from La Commission.
- Jacob Marley Warning: Throughout her rise to the top, Teresa repeatedly sees visions of her future self, who gives her advice on what to do.
- Karmic Death: After Jed Mayo sells out the La Commission for Teresa, she pays him the money she promised, but breaks her word by sending a video of Mayo torturing a Mexican immigrant in one of his jail cells to a rising politician in Phoenix to help with his election campaign. Jed Mayo is arrested and thrown in jail, where he is soon beaten to death by many of the Mexican immigrants he imprisoned.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: In the final season a number of characters realize that if they stay in the drug business, they will end up fighting an endless number of wars till finally one of their enemies will succeed in killing them. Marcel Dumas decides that he is tired of killing so he hands over his illegal operations to his second in command and tries to run a legitimate business. Teresa would love to follow his example but realizes that she made too many enemies and any attempt to retire will only get her and her friends killed. She ends up faking her death so she, James, Pote and Kelly Anne can disappear and live peacefully far from her drug empire.
- Mind Screw: In "El Camino de la Muerte", Teresa, James, and Guero travel along the titular road in Bolivia and get ambushed by the military, resulting in Guero getting shot... and then Teresa wakes up, they're back on that road again, and Guero is still alive. They reach the same military checkpoint, but this time, they abandon the truck and split up to lead the military in two directions at once, resulting in James getting shot... and then Teresa wakes up...
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Camila is able to buy the loyalty of at least one of Epifanio's suppliers because Cesar has mistreated him.
- The Mole: Kelly Anne becomes a reluctant mole in Teresa's organization in order to help Devon Finch find El Santo, because she's convinced that El Santo plans to kill Teresa.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sheriff Jed Mayo, the racist Sheriff who's been making trouble for La Comision, is a rather transparent expy of Joe Arpaio, the notorious former Sheriff of Maricopa County.
- Morality Chain: Brenda and Tony serve as Teresa's link to her humanity as she gets deeper and deeper into Camila's web.
- Mugging the Monster: In season 4 Teresa is expanding her operations to New Orleans and opens a bar as a front. Soon various criminals try to shake her down, unaware of who she is. The top guys quickly wise up and play nice with her but some of the other lowlifes cross the line and end up dead.
- Naughty Narcs: Subverted; the DEA agents are genuinely trying to stop drug trafficking in the US, but are stymied by corrupt CIA operatives.
- No Honor Among Thieves: Judge Cecil Lafayette sells protection to the local criminal organizations like Teresa's drug distribution network. However, once he has made enough money, he plans to make himself a local hero by having them all arrested and sent to jail.
- Promoted to Parent: Teresa is Tony's godmother, and thus was theoretically supposed to take care of him if anything happened to Brenda. In practice, her career as a drug smuggler means that her ability to parent him is limited, so instead Kelly Anne becomes his new mother figure as part of her penance for betraying Teresa.
- Poor Communication Kills: In "La Maledicion", Boaz and Javier drive off into the swamp in order to bury bodies on the same day that the Siete Gotas brewery is attacked by Marcel Dumas' goons. Boaz and Javier don't want anyone to know about the bodies, so they don't tell anyone where they're going, so when Teresa and the others find out they're missing, they naturally assume that Marcel had them kidnapped, which sets off a chain of events culminating in one of Marcel's henchmen being kidnapped and shot, triggering a war with Marcel's gang.
- The Queenpin: Teresa becomes the leader of her own drug trade empire.
- Rape as Backstory: In the first episode, Teresa is raped by one of Epifanio's enforcers, which triggers her first vision of The Queen.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "Quinientos Mil", Isabela delivers one to her mother Camila after the latter arranges to have her kidnapped "for her own safety" (because Epifanio threatened to take away Camila's access to Isabela.) Isabela tells her mother that she's long demonstrated that she cares more about power than being a mother.
- Rescue Romance: Camila fell in love with Epifanio after he saved her from gunmen.
- Sacred Hospitality: Invoked by Teresa after Pote tells her that Kelly Anne is still alive and is staying in Pote's home. Teresa is angry but she trusts Pote's judgement so she decides to Take a Third Option. She will not disrespect Pote by taking action against his guest but Pote assumes responsibility for everything the guest does.
- Sacrificial Lion:
- Brenda is killed off in the first-season finale.
- The second-season finale sees the death of Epifanio.
- In the third season, King George and Bilal are captured by Cortez, with Bilal being reduced to a walking vegetable. He later dies offscreen.
- Towards the end of season 4, Tony is killed by a car bomb, which starts Teresa on her path towards becoming the brutal Queen.
- In the final season, King George is murdered by Boaz after discovering that his Miami operation has been sabotaging Teresa's supply.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Teresa calls off her agreement with Rocco de la Pena after finding out that his empire is built on human trafficking.
- The Sociopath: Given the subject matter of the show, you can point out a number of examples, but the one who sticks out the most is the military leader Cortez. You can read the Complete Monster entry on the other wiki page for a more in depth example. But to break it down, he has superficial charm, he lacks empathy, he is a compulsive lair, a Manipulative Bastard, he acts impulsively (and its this trait that led to his downfall in Season 3), and he kills without hesitation if a person gets in his way, no matter who that person is or what he thinks of them at the time. What really makes him stick out, is that even some of the most ruthless criminals in the show like El Santo have some redeeming qualities about them. Cortez has none.
- The Stoic: Part of how Pote has survived as long as he has is his ability to remain calm in ridiculously stressful situations
- Start of Darkness: After managing to mostly keep her values for the first three seasons, Teresa starts going off the deep end in season 4 when Tony is suddenly killed by a car bomb.
- Terms of Endangerment: Epifanio and Camila repeatedly call each other "mi amor" or "my love". This is most certainly not out of any affection between them.
- Too Dumb to Live: One episode sees a pair of real-estate guys, Shaker and Bledsoe, try and scam Teresa and Kelly Anne out of their new waterfront property by claiming ownership of the road leading up to it. After realizing that the two idiots are going to keep trying to squeeze her out of the property (and will keep pulling the same scam over and over), an annoyed Teresa has them kidnapped and shot.
- Tough Love: Afraid that Teresa will kill herself after losing Guero, Pote and James lock her up in her own wine cellar, hoping to prevent her from harming herself until she regains her senses.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: El Santo's "angels" are very young girls who have been trained to torture, kill, and administer tattoos.
- Undying Loyalty: After being declared dead by James, the logical thing for Kelly Anne to do would have been to get as far away from Teresa's empire as possible. But she still loves Teresa, so instead she took it upon herself to return to Texas, get sober, and watch over Tony, which turned out to be a good idea when cartel thugs tried to kill Tony.
- Villainous Breakdown: El Santo loses what's left of his mind after his wife is killed and his infant son is taken away from him.
- Villain with Good Publicity:
- In the first and second seasons, Epifanio manages to become Governor of Sinaloa despite everyone and their mother knowing that he's involved in the drug trade.
- In season 3, Camila manages to play the game even better than Epifanio did, parlaying her status as a grieving widow and philanthropist to win over the public until Isabela publicly accuses her of having Kique murdered.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In "Quinientos Mil", Isabela, Camila's daughter, calls her out for trying to destroy Epifanio's political career, pointing out that because of her meddling, all of Isabela's friends now know that her parents are gangsters.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In "Todas las Horas Hieren", Camila takes drugs to induce a seizure as part of a plan to break out of prison. Epifanio fouls up these plans by intercepting the prison van.
- You Are What You Hate: Sheriff Jed Mayo is of South American decent, but hates his own kind because he blames their actions for white people's racism towards them. Of course, he is no better if not worse, since he takes money from the cartels or any criminal organization who will pay him more, and at the same time tortures and kills his own kind claiming he is bringing justice to Phoenix.