Issues from the first two episodes are magnified further during this trek across dangerous terrain.
- 🦋It looks incredible and captures the sweeping terrain.
- 🦋Tense scenes.
- 🦋Strong performances (despite some of the more frustrating plot points).
- 🦋Dina breaks free from the annoying teen trope.
- 🦋Allie's arrogance coupled with his many bad choices.
- 🦋Unanswered questions are stacking up.
- 🦋Charlie takes the annoying teen title.
- 🦋The lack of hats worn in this episode.
“Your dad never hurt anyone, okay,” is a claim made by Margot Fox (Melissa George) when her daughter Dina (Logan Polish) repeatedly asks what her father did to make them take the extreme path they are currently on. The third episode of The Mosquito Coast is not willing to give Dina or the audience an answer about this particular mystery but considering Allie’s (Justin Theroux) paranoia coupled with his technological skills, the 1998 thriller Enemy of the State springs to mind when it comes to possible crimes Allie has committed — or at least why the NSA are hellbent on catching up with him.
The suggestion that Allie hasn’t hurt anyone is also a stretch considering the final scene of the second episode. Sure, Allie didn’t pull the trigger but it is his actions that led Juan (Tommy Martinez) and Chuy (Scotty Tovar) to be in that car in the first place. If he hadn’t convinced them to remove their ankle monitors they would still be working in a junkyard fixing old cars. Instead, Juan is dead (along with several racist guys patrolling the border) and Chuy has no choice but to stay with the Fox family, otherwise, he will either die in the desert or get arrested for murder. The odds of survival even if he guides them across the border aren’t great either as there are other “coyotes” to consider, the deadly terrain, a severe lack of water, and whoever is waiting for him back home. People want him dead in Mexico but he doesn’t have much choice about where to turn. “You’re what happened,” Chuy spits at Allie in Spanish and there is no arguing with this logic. For Allie to hurt someone, he doesn’t need to use a weapon but rather his charm and privilege are dangerous assets. Arrogance is his tool for destruction and while Margot can deny his villainy, from Chuy’s (and the audience) perspective, Allie is the root of this terrible scenario.
Throughout this episode, the Fox patriarch makes more mind-boggling choices including choosing the most dangerous route. Sure, it is much quicker but they are also almost caught out on several occasions. First, he wants to cut through the military test site, in which soldiers train for combat in the Middle East while on home soil. “That is the weirdest thing,” Dina comments about this set-up. Of course, a helicopter flies overhead and the unhappy group hides in one of the makeshift target practice buildings. Here, they find an undiscovered dead body of someone who was trying to make it to America and the mood becomes even more somber. Allie uses this moment to lecture on the importance of staying hydrated as it is a terrible thing to die with water still in your flask. His scavenging ways are motivated by self-preservation, and yet, I can’t help but bristle against the way he explains this survival tip to his wife. A small costume detail also points to an issue I have with Allie in “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” He is the only person who consistently wears a hat, and considering the weather conditions it could be a purposeful choice that he is protected when no one else is. Alternatively, this might be an oversight as at times Margot has a scarf over her head, and his son Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) sports a cap during the mountain shortcut. Either way, for a family so good at fashioning useful devices, they are not so adept at protecting themselves from the sun.
The desert is full of reminders that death is a very real consequence of traveling through this region. Cautionary tales are littered along this path and it is surprising that Allie’s family aren’t angrier at him for getting them into this mess. It is better to reserve energy than fight, but Chuy uses his time to sew seeds of doubt targeting Dina and Margot — they did bond over a Morrisey record in the second episode. He attempts to find out why they are on the run, which is why Margot later emphasizes that he has not hurt anyone. Maybe she is the one who did something violent? We don’t know much about her history beyond the fabled “we had a bond” love story, her estranged parents, and that she is capable of breaking into a safe. This is not a sheltered wife blindly following her husband but a woman who has seen (or done) what she deems necessary to survive. Chuy wants her to take the kids and return home as he thinks Allie will “be the end of you.” They are all in a terrible situation but it makes sense that Chuy would use this opportunity to find out whether he can use Allie as leverage when he gets home. He owes money to some bad people and while Allie is the cause of his current circumstance, these probing questions suggest he is looking for a solution to his predicament. Lucky for Allie, the show is not willing to divulge what he did, and therefore Chuy doesn’t have anything to go on other than Dina’s guess that the government is involved.
What we know about Allie so far is that he rails against America but he is closer to the system he despises than he realizes. The scavenging might be sensible for survival but he has zero regard for the customs that memorialize the dead. He steamrolls Chuy regarding the mountain shortcut and he also doesn’t listen when he is told not to take from the multiple corpses they stumble upon. Unlike the person they found in the military test site, these bodies have been here a long time and their weather-beaten remains are still in possession of most of their things. The haunting image coupled with the utter disregard doesn’t do the Fox family any favors when it comes to feeling sympathetic toward them. Allie does not believe it is bad luck to disturb them or take things, and Allie is very wrong about this assessment. What follows next is likely unconnected to those actions but it is hard to not draw a line between the two. Furthermore, Charlie finds a gun and keeps this discovery a secret. Dina hands the 'bad teen decisions' crown to her little brother this week and there is no way this pistol will stay hidden for long. A weapon is useful considering how precarious this situation — probably not in the hands of the extremely sheltered child.
The aforementioned bad luck comes back to bite them — quite literally — when a group of “coyotes” and their human cargo come through this section of the mountain. The Fox family and Chuy manage to hide in time, but the candle Chuy lit in memory of the dead indicates their presence. This is another episode featuring more heavy animal symbolism (so many butterflies!) and a snake throws a spanner in the works. Chuy protects Charlie and gets bitten in the process, which feels like penance for the corpse thievery. Allie lacks a good bedside manner, insisting their reluctant guide needs to make that phone call otherwise they will all die. He isn’t wrong but it is pretty galling, and Allie’s charm from the first two episodes cannot make up for this situation. The arrogance he has displayed throughout has been an issue but now he is truly the asshole American he loathes.
By the time they make it to the beacon, Chuy is on the verge of passing out and he makes the call before he collapses. It is in this sequence that I got the Enemy of the State vibe from Allie, as he connects Chuy’s cell phone to the rudimentary emergency beacon. The family also fashions a stretcher out of polls from the tower and materials they have. As with the rest of the episode, the cinematography by Guillermo Garza is stunning and for all the other flaws, you cannot fault how incredible The Mosquito Coast looks. Alas, more is required than impressive vistas and the dialogue tries to do some heavy lifting regarding Allie’s motives. “You put a decent guy in a bad situation, the decent guy is gonna be a dangerous guy,” Margot tells her husband about Chuy but this also doubles for Allie. As we approach the halfway mark, answers are required and now they are in Mexico, hopefully, the Fox will show us why we should be rooting for them.
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