What to Watch Verdict
Impressive tension building is undermined by some character choices.
🦋Finally a few answers about Allie's past.
🦋Builds up the final confrontation at the hotel effectively.
🦋'The Leftovers' reunion.
🦋But more questions and vague remarks about the past.
🦋Impulsive teens continue to cause problems.
🦋Some more cliches and unsubtle animal imagery.
Allie Fox (Justin Theroux) wants a normal experience with his family hanging out on the beach making S’mores, but the penultimate episode of The Mosquito Coast keeps throwing obstacles in the way of this fantasy. Once again, both the teens and parents make some frustrating choices and still remain unscathed physically while the same cannot be said for seasoned professionals. Mexico City proves to be more dangerous than even the border crossing episode and everything comes to a violent head at the Hotel Isabel.
At the end of “Elvis, Jesus, Coco-Cola,” Allie and Margot’s (Melissa George) Calaca scavenger hunt leads to a light bit of kidnapping, and this week’s episode kicks off with Allie in DIY restraints. A previously unseen British figure in a suave linen suit stands before him and things are far from okay. Paterson Joseph plays the yet unnamed character who is tasked with finding out whether Allie is legit or a government stooge. Fans of The Leftovers will clock this reunion as Paterson played the enigmatic Holy Wayne in Season 1, and his dialogue was just as elusive as this particular role. The conversation veers into a brief history of torture territory; from the witch trials to the post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” rebrand. The man who later admits he is the mysterious Calaca remarks that torture doesn’t work before slapping Allie hard across the face. In this time Allie has asked where Margot is, but he also never mentions getting back to his children — who by all accounts would still be in the hotel room without any food if they had paid any attention to their parents’ note.
Finally, Allie’s role within the NSA is revealed although it feels like there are some major gaps to his story. He explains that he worked for the NSA, not with — this phrasing makes a huge difference to the inventor. A one-man start-up was acquired by some “Silicon Valley assholes” and this led to the government involvement. What Allie had dreamed up was an algorithm that tracked bird migration patterns — suddenly all those shots of birds make sense now — but he didn’t want the NSA to have it. There is obviously something deeper at play here and my guess is they were going to weaponize this technology for espionage or bombing purposes. He claims he refused, went off the grid for the last decade, and then wham he had to go on the run. Calaca is dubious about the details and is intrigued when Allie comments the algorithm now only exists in his head. Even when tied up he is supremely smug about this win over the US government but he should probably dial back the arrogance.
In the previous episode, Allie was angry about having to play a game to prove he can be trusted and Calaca takes it a step further this week when he puts Margot’s life in Allie’s hands. After denying he is Calaca, he later confirms this was a ruse to protect the sanctuary that the Fox family seeks. With a gun to her head and countdown, Allie is asked to spill everything he knows and he doesn’t crack. Margot takes a bullet to the head or she would’ve done had this not been a bluff and Allie is thrilled he passed the test. He bounds up to find her in the abandoned building, affectionately calling her “hunny,” but Margot is in a state of shock combined with fury. For the second time, Allie is slapped hard across the face, and he is surprised by her rage-filled reaction. What follows is his claim that he knew Calaca was bluffing and she was always safe.. This is BS as the montage of their relationship was from his POV, and that sure did look like him flicking through their life together. Whatever happens in the finale, I think it is safe to suggest that the bond joining them is frayed. But there are bigger concerns even if they still don’t seem all that bothered about leaving their children alone all day without food.
Of course, Dina (Logan Polish) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) continue to make impulsive choices including dining and dashing — this is bratty but their parents didn't give them any cash so I guess it isn’t entirely their fault. They are unaware that all eyes are on them and don’t even spot one of the many posters that bear their faces on it, perhaps because they aren’t looking for it. At one point they stand in front of a mural of a woman wearing a mask, which is the only outward reference to the pandemic that shut production down last spring. Other subtle changes include fewer background actors, but the switch to cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino is rather seamless and still effectively portrays the environment.
Animal symbolism is still heavy-handed and Charlie’s stoned mind contemplates freeing caged birds before Dina tells him they will die as they have no idea how to avoid predators. In this case, the Fox siblings are the birds and yet they still avoid a bloody death at the hands of the quirky hitman Bill (Ian Hart). He is under pressure as Lucrecia (Ofelia Medina) has rocked up in Mexico City in her finest boss threads and ornate walking stick. She offers not-so-veiled threats about cutting his balls in half if he fails and that is an incentive to get the job done. She doesn’t care who he has to kill to get to them and she wants Allie alive — presumably, so she can make a trade (or cut off his balls).
Bill and his squad of children — yep, still not great — aren’t the only people who are on the hunt as the two NSA agents have arrived in Mexico City after tracking Dina’s email search. When Estelle Jones (Kimberly Elise) brags to her colleague about Dina calling them again, he tells her to cool it. He doesn’t like how much pleasure she is taking in telling Dina that Charlie is not her biological brother but there is no suggestion this is the truth either. When Calaca speaks to Allie he mentions Allie’s real name is Alec Finn, which is the same as the news report Dina read (and the same image) but this doesn’t confirm anything beyond the moniker change and we have seen how easily their parents switch aliases. Her main evidence is she remembers holding Charlie as a baby but not Margot being pregnant and this unraveling leads her to call Jones with their location. They are at the hotel when Allie and Margot finally return and this is far from a happy reunion.
The agents warn that there is a bigger threat coming and while the debate rages about whether they are leaving or not, Dina stomps out of the room into the firing line. One agent takes multiple bullets protecting her, and when Allie comes running (joined by the rest of his family), he quickly realizes that Bill cannot shoot him and uses his body to protect his daughter. For all my grumbling about choices these characters make, The Mosquito Coast deftly ups the tension, and this shoot-out scene is another solid example of this. The police arrive en masse but this is not a good sign as Jones remarks they are not here to protect them — another box ticked on stereotype bingo — and they need to find a way out unseen. While the Fox family escapes into the night, Jones holds off Bill and is unaware that a much smaller assassin is behind her. This is the most violent moment of the series so far and while it is mostly off-camera, the sounds of the repeat stabbings are chilling. The Fox’s have found the nearest parking lot, in which they find a car to hotwire and their time in Mexico City is over. Now the journey to Guatemala continues but Margot made her feelings clear about this earlier:
“No, it’s not going to be great because it never is. You promise and promise and never deliver, and that’s my fault. I let you do it, we both know why, but that’s not happening anymore. That’s over.”
The “we both know why” of this conversation is another mystery to be solved and it would be wonderful if this series could give a few more solid pieces of information before adding more fuel to the fire — although this plays into my theory that Margot is the one who committed the crime and not Allie. “Calaca” finally answered some questions, but threw up more vague references that add to the frustration of watching this series. The only certainty at this point is that dangerous forces are still in pursuit of the Fox family and paradise is still far away.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.
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