For an episode that was about the race to rescue a woman before she dies, “Maria of the Desert” lacked a surprising amount of tension and suspense.
The series is losing its footing as it struggles to interweave the disparate parts of its story. Plus, the episode wallowed in a well-worn trope—the bumbling federal agents who come in and don’t know what they are doing and hinder the investigation. Sure, this time there was the added wrinkle that FBI Agent Geldman is somehow connected to the crime and got his head cut off as a result. But there was still something way too familiar about Hank, Sonya and Marco’s exchanges with the FBI agents. At one point, Sonya tells the agents that “ransom demands are an atypical methodology for a serial killer.” She’s right, of course, and I feel like even I know that just from watching crime dramas. How can the FBI be so ill-informed? The series needs to show viewers that Sonya and Marco are great detectives without making everyone else look completely incompetent.
And I’ve definitely reached my saturation point with Steven Linder, who no longer seems like such a bad guy. He delivers Ava, who up until this point I thought was dead, to a ranch where he promises her that Hector can’t find her. I’m not totally convinced that the ranch is going to be such a great place for Ava, but it certainly seems like Linder’s intentions are not as nefarious as we were lead to believe. But the character vacillates between boring and distasteful, and I’m no longer interested in how he fits into the big picture.
The episode spent a lot of time with drug lord Fausto Galvan, who is prone to throwing nail polish remover in people’s eyes to make his point clear. Galvan has a couple of problems in this episode. Because Maria is dying in the desert, the cops are all over the border, which doesn’t help his drug-running business. And two of his tunnels are no longer available—one was lost to a flood, the other discovered by the DEA. Looks like he will be using Charlotte’s tunnel next. Galvan comes up with the million-dollar ransom for Maria, and viewers learn that he and Marco have some sort of previous relationship.
Charlotte’s tunnel is reopened, and she is rightly freaked out that she is actively participating in something completely illegal. But I’m losing sympathy for Charlotte, who is silly enough to drop off Marco’s wallet at the police station. Really, Charlotte, you couldn’t come up with a more discreet way of getting that back to him? And really Marco, you wouldn’t notice your wallet is missing?
Reporter Daniel Frye remains my favorite part of the series. Matthew Lillard is turning in a simply fantastic performance. He easily fluctuates between humor (loved him trying to fist-bump Marco) and sheer terror (his gruesome discovery in the dumpster). Plus, he is the perfect character to take no prisoners with his remarks. “Because I’m betting if it was a pretty little coed with blonde hair and perfect teeth and big tits that the money would come raining in by now,” he tells the FBI agents who have yet to come up with the ransom money.
“Maria of the Desert” wasn’t a great episode, but it did leave viewers with a great question: If Steven isn’t the serial killer, who is?