An improvement on last week's episode, which cranks up the tension but still relies on too many tropes.
- 🦋Margot taking charge.
- 🦋Justin Theroux and Melissa George's performance.
- 🦋A few answers, finally.
- 🦋Justine Seymour's costume design.
- 🦋It still lacks subtlety in the dialogue and symbolism.
- 🦋Some tired drug cartel tropes.
Escaping America was Allie Fox’s (Justin Theroux) goal, but making it across the border into Mexico isn’t all he dreamed it would be in this week’s episode of The Mosquito Coast. A lot of the hardships experienced have been of his own making, which includes the dangerous situation he has put his family and reluctant guide Chuy (Scotty Tovar) into. The latter did not want to return home as he owes some very dangerous people money, however, thanks to the deaths of multiple Americans (and his friend Juan) he can’t go back to his simple life fixing old cars. There was also the unfortunate incident with a snake and Chuy’s in no state to control his future when they arrive at the heavily fortified compound. Nothing about this set-up suggests it is going to end well for any of the tired travelers but they are in no position to argue.
“He could be useful to her,” Chuy remarks to Enrique Salazar (Bruno Bichir) as he attempts to prove he can pay the family “madre” Lucrecia (Ofelia Medina) for the debts he owes with a unique proposition. In the previous episode, he explained that “cartel” is just a word but that doesn’t make him in any less danger. The obscene amount of taxidermy and the high number of guns reflect the business being conducted here, although Allie tries to convince his wife that everything is fine. Whether he is naive or cautiously optimistic isn’t entirely clear, however, there is no doubt that his ego takes a beating before the episode is out.
The trek across the desert highlighted some of the Fox patriarch’s biggest flaws and this examination of his character continues in “Bus Stop.” Last week, Margot (Melissa George) insisted that Allie has never hurt anyone and we get further insight into her fierce nature during the incredibly tense dinner scene. Margot says she is a retired English professor but there is a lot more to her than teaching as she has no qualms facing off against the woman Chuy is terrified of. The gun-toting woman is far from the hippie academic who gave up her comfy existence to be with her husband and she is likely complicit in whatever NSA business Allie is caught up in. Finally, an answer to the big on-the-run mystery is given or rather, a vague approximation of what led to this fugitive status. Allie confirms he worked for the NSA and is not particularly forthcoming about what kind of work he did or why he left — other than saying they didn’t see eye to eye. The latter suggests my Enemy of the State comparison wasn’t so out of leftfield, but whatever he did or didn’t do, it was enough to go off the grid in a major way.
What The Mosquito Coast lacks in subtlety, the actors make up for with their impressive shift in body language. Justin Theroux is excellent at maintaining Allie’s fake sense of ease as he downplays his worth and it is up to his wife to do the heavy lifting during this confrontation. Melissa George is also striking during the dinner sequence as she locks eyes with the head of this family business and Medina is an intimidating scene partner. It is unfortunate that Lucrecia is a somewhat typical drug lord character; the slight twist being that she is a woman in power. Dressed in dark tones to her nephew Enrique’s leisurely linen suit ups the dramatic imagery — the opera gloves are a nice touch in adding sartorial flair. It is likely no coincidence that costume designer Justine Seymour has chosen such a strong visual for Margot and Lucrecia’s so that we know these two women are taking the lead, while the men are somewhat inconsequential to this bargaining.
Much like Allie, Lucrecia’s confidence gets her into trouble and the Fox’s have already solved the conundrum of being separated from their son Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). Margot comments, “I’m a mom. I catastrophize. Always thinking about the worst thing that could possibly happen to them.” Their host is less worried about teenager Hugo’s (Luis de la Rosa) fate but she does register a slightly questioning look to these seemingly innocuous comments. As far as she is concerned, she can trade Allie for her friend being held in the Florence, Colorado supermax (current home to infamous Mexican drug lord El Chapo) and likely kill the rest of the Fox family. She is so certain of this that she doesn’t even consider that Chuy will defy expectations and consort with the Americans.
Sending the naive Charlie out to hunt with Hugo is a distraction and one that initially works. It has already been established that Charlie has lived a sheltered upbringing of collecting oil waste from fast food restaurants with his dad — he is unaware of an Xbox or Star Wars. The gun that he secretly squirreled away gives him the semblance of being somewhat rebellious, although he cannot bring himself to use it toward the end of the episode when Chuy is threatening his father. Hugo is a rich brat who is content with swanning around his compound shooting at the wildlife that is both stuffed and still breathing. Much like the rest of his family, he is taken by surprise when the tables turn on him.
Before all goes to hell, they have been treated with kindness from the initial rescue to the clothing and warm bed offered to them. The change in costumes includes some notable garments that establish this place is somewhat frozen in time fashion-wise. Dina (Logan Polish) wears a Backstreet Boys t-shirt and the dress she is given for dinner suggests a teenage girl last stayed here a long time ago. Allie’s print short-sleeved shirt gives designer Seymour an opportunity to directly reference the 1986 Harrison Ford-starring version of Paul Theroux’s novel. And at dinner, both Margot and Allie are resplendent in their Mexican attire, which includes Allie’s buttoned-up guayabera shirt and black suit. The tie-less style is different enough from his version of this look that he wore in the memorable Leftovers episode “International Assassin” thanks to the embroidered detail. As I mentioned earlier, Margot looks formidable in red and her frock elevates the relatively calm escape path that sees the Fox matriarch shooting out tires so they cannot be easily followed.
While this episode is much better than last week’s slog across the desert, it is concerning that the images the series is attempting to avoid are upheld. They might not call them a cartel, however, these archetypes play into that imagery (with or without calling it by this name) and the tropes remain. It is also unlikely that this is an end to the “pharmaceutical” boss coming after them as Lucrecia is not going to let them roam Mexico freely (not to mention the NSA agents who are still looking for them). Chuy’s decision to leave them at the bus stop is an issue that Allie cannot talk his way out of and this course of action is motivated by Chuy's concern for his daughter. That he even has a child is brand new information to Allie and he cannot keep his feelings bottled up after this seemingly innocent comment. “You didn’t ask. Because who am I to you? Who is anyone to you?” Chuy spits at him regarding his surprise. What follows is a pointed takedown of everything Allie is:
“You wanna run away from America, but you can’t. You’ll never be able to because of the way you are. The way you think you can buy people. The way you think you can buy anything you want. Take anything you want from anyone you want. And anything you don’t like you just burn it to the ground, right? You are America, asshole. And you’ll never get away from that.”
This pitch-perfect assessment of Allie is a further reminder of what we have already been told about the fugitive American. He talks a big game but he also resembles everything he despises about the United States. His holier than thou rants about throwing people away are hypocritical in light of what we have seen him do over the course of these four episodes. Family is his excuse, however, his arrogance is a contributing factor. Humiliating him in front of the people he cares about isn’t Chuy’s endgame because all he wants is to take the car, but this final affront from Allie leads to this breaking point. Chuy is not the bad guy here and while Allie is left in a pool of his own urine — as a result of the gun being waved in his face— it is a valuable lesson that underscores his privilege. Will he take this humbling experience onboard or will he keep on making similar mistakes?
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