Some impressive moments, but the frustrating elements that have plagued this series remain — and will need to addressed if Apple TV+ renews it.
- 🦋It is very fun to see Allie in full MacGyver mode.
- 🦋Justin Theroux's performance elevates the writing.
- 🦋Tense action sequence.
- 🦋Who knew butterflies did that?
- 🦋The lack of answers regarding Margot is extremely frustrating.
- 🦋Why buy such an easily recognizable Camper when you are on the run?
- 🦋More bad teen choices.
- 🦋Heavy-handed animal symbolism.
The Fox family lives to tell the tale once more during The Mosquito Coast finale that leans into Allie’s (Justin Theroux) philosophy and ability to fix anything when he puts his mind to it. The Apple TV+ series adapted from Paul Theroux’s novel of the same name looks incredible throughout the seven-episode run and the thread of beauty and horror is intrinsic to “The Glass Sandwich” — you will never view butterflies in the same way again. As with previous installments, thrilling scenes cannot make up for some plotting decisions that are frustrating and answers about their past are not forthcoming. Despite narrowly making it out of Mexico City alive with their freedom intact, danger still lurks at every corner, and teenager Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) retains the bad decisions crown that he has been sharing with his sister.
Stealing a car and driving quickly away from a bloodbath is where we last left the Foxes and the choice to buy an orange Volkswagen Camper seems ill-advised when fleeing a hitman ordered by a notorious cartel leader. Why would you choose something as distinct as this? Sure, there are probably plenty of Camper’s floating about but this speaks to the arrogance that has plagued Allie throughout this series. Of course, Lucrecia (Ofelia Medina) is not going to let them off the hook this easily and assassin Bill (Ian Hart) has been incentivized to complete this assignment through veiled threats of torture. Instead of using children to help track the four Americans, this more expansive hunt requires adults with their own cars to scour the area. All Bill knows is they are headed for the beach because when they bought the brightest vehicle, they also didn’t keep their destination plans secret. Sure, they haven’t spilled the specific location but this is a major clue and it isn’t long before one of these men has stumbled upon the flashing orange beacon.
Before it all goes to hell in Pichilingue, Allie gets to live out his fantasy on an isolated beach with his family. Roasting S’mores and drinking beer sounds like paradise, but Allie didn’t factor in that his wife and daughter would hate his guts at this point in time. Margot (Melissa George) hasn’t got over the fact that he was so willing to sacrifice her and Dina (Logan Polish) still maintains her position of wanting to go back to America, rather than whatever plan her father has. Not to mention, she is also still weighing up whether Allie is her birth father as the NSA words still rattle around her head. It doesn’t help that Allie claims those agents are probably back at Langley celebrating when she knows they are very much dead. He cannot maintain the ruse no matter how many snacks he buys to pretend it is all fine. Charlie is the only person on Allie’s side, but this whole “adventure” is taking its toll on his psyche as depicted by his erratic behavior ripping crabs legs from a corpse and violently attacking his sister when she voices her anger at the travel itinerary.
The season opened with Allie showing his impressionable son how fire could be transformed into ice and there are always solutions to seemingly unfixable things. This is his way of life so it stings when Dina references his failures and the following day when they have arrived at Pichilingue he refuses to play into the plan to cut a deal and send the kids back to America. “There’s no America, it’s just us. We don’t just throw that away, we fix it” he spits before heading out to buy a boat for the next part of the journey. During this pointed conversation with Margot, she comments that it is now her choice because whatever went down was her fault. When Dina asks what she is referencing, Margot blows her off, and guess what? We end the season never finding out what this big secret is and this is incredibly frustrating. I get keeping some of the mystery alive but creators Neil Cross and Tom Bissell have barely given us crumbs. All we know is if Margot did something and Allie is the brains behind the operation.
All Margot tells her daughter is they are not going to buy the supplies Allie asked for, instead they are going to find Charlie and make their way back to America. Yeah, good luck with that because Charlie has other plans! He realizes they have a tail and when he sees a mystery man taking a photo of their not so inconspicuous vehicle he pulls out the weapon he stole from a corpse in Episode 3. The gun he has come close to using finally goes off after begging Bill's man to not send the photo. The moment he hit send on the image, Charlie pulled the trigger, and everything spirals for the adolescent. Bill’s man drives away with half his cheek hanging off and the teen is apprehended by the police. Margot’s plan to leave is thwarted by this Chekhov’s Gun moment, and it also gives Allie the chance to bond with his daughter — even if his wife still hates him.
Allie takes Dina on a recon mission to see how they can break Charlie out of jail and her ideas involve fire and running a car into the station — he jokes this is her go-to move. Workshopping different plans gives us insight into Allie’s inventive mind and this charming side has been lacking in recent episodes. Theroux has made this character's inflated ego bearable but he has been doing a lot of heavy lifting and in lesser hands, I would be feeling similar to Margot in regards to her husband.
“The Glass Sandwich” pulls threads from previous episodes that include the repeat visual of storm drains (and manhole cover misdirects) and Allie deduces that one runs beneath the police station and this will provide the means for escape. Putting the plan into motion involves fire (through setting cars alight not the station) and Allie pretends he has been assaulted and robbed in order to distract the cops. Margot gladly punches him in the nose to make it look convincing and this is the one part of the scheme she isn't reluctant about partaking in.
The manhole cover is not the only callback, as the butterflies that have flittered through this journey offer further juxtaposition between natural beauty and manmade horror. The latter is no more apparent than when Bill comes upon his fallen man with butterflies feeding on the gunshot wound inflicted by Charlie — yes, some butterflies do drink blood. The use of animals as metaphors has been pretty heavy-handed throughout this series (particularly birds and dead carcasses) and the butterfly tableau is the one effective choice in this area, unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Charlie’s crab leg-pulling incident at the beach, the birds reacting to the gunshot, a dog in a frame with litter, and a conversation about dolphins being assholes (aka the America of animals in Charlie's eyes) oversaturate the point.
Speaking of animals, the Fox family has more lives than a cat, and the planned prison breakout coincides with Bill’s arrival. Allie’s meticulous plan isn’t derailed by this extra incentive to free Charlie and they successfully make it to their boat. The season ends with them together as a family unit, even if this marriage is irrevocably damaged. This also speaks to one of the main frustrations of The Mosquito Coast that while Allie wants to be better than the America he perceives, Chuy’s (Scotty Tovar) earlier assessment was correct, “You are America, asshole.”
They have left a trail of devastation in their wake with multiple people losing their lives in the process while the Fox family are physically fine — other than Allie's broken nose. While this series is commenting on negative aspects of capitalist culture, it is also perpetuating in these final moments because the Foxes are still free. Allie’s demeanor oscillates between wild laughter and tears, which is also me realizing they didn’t give any answers about what Margot did or didn’t do in the past. The series was renewed by Apple TV+ for a second season earlier this week, so hopefully, these issues will be addressed because it has the bones and talent for something special. As the dawn breaks, the final image is another stunner, but more is required than great cinematography and a solid performance from the lead.
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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