The Mosquito Coast ratchets up the tension in Mexico City [Apple TV+ review]

By

The Mosquito Coast review on Apple TV+: Things keep getting dicier for the Fox family.
Things keep getting dicier for the Fox family.
Photo: Apple TV+

The Foxes hit Mexico City this week on The Mosquito Coast, the simmering new Apple TV show about a family off the grid and on the run. They’re fugitives, but that doesn’t stop them from becoming tourists, with all that entails.

This week’s episode, titled “Elvis, Jesus, Coca-Cola,” tightens the noose around the criminal family of four, while showing off the wider world they’ve been missing out on.

The Mosquito Coast review: ‘Elvis, Jesus, Coca-Cola’

Finally free of Chuy and his murderous family, the Foxes arrive in Mexico City with a wisp of a plan. Allie (played by Justin Theroux) still has contacts from his previous life, which remains a tantalizing mystery. The idea is that he and his wife, Margot (Melissa George), will try to establish contact with one of his old underworld connections, who will spirit the family to safety.

Easier said than done. It becomes clear right away that their old connections have become ex-connections. Each errand the mysterious voice on the other end of the phone sends them on might be leading them into a trap, though Allie refuses to believe it.

The Fox children, Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) and Dina (Logan Polish), do a little sightseeing of their own after their parents leave them at the hotel with strict orders to stay put. Dina does some unfortunate googling and uncovers an article planted by the FBI about Allie and Margot being embroiled in a kidnapping. The ping on the website allows the FBI to track the Foxes, so they have a few hours before the authorities descend, unbeknownst to everybody.

This is the first real clue Dina’s ever sought about her parents’ identities, and it shakes her pretty good. (I’m on the fence about the believability of that, even though the Foxes didn’t let their kids have phones or the internet.) She goes to tell Charlie, but he’s befriended a room full of young tourists and is high for what’s probably the first time in his life. The revelation will have to wait.

Lullabies to paralyze

The Mosquito Coast review: Ian Hart appears as a menacing hitman in this week's episode.
Ian Hart appears as a menacing hitman in this week’s episode.
Photo: Apple TV+

Charlie has an interesting moment of Platonic revelation when he listens to the foreign tourists describing the ugliness of Americans. He suddenly feels persecuted by their lumping all Americans together and points the gun he stole from Chuy’s estate last week at the backpackers.

You can start to see the same paranoia and alienation that defines Allie starting to trickle down to his kids. The curious thing is, Charlie agrees with the tourists about Americans in theory. However, he resents being called one. This fissure in his identity may turn into an abscess if he doesn’t find a way to talk about what he’s going through.

The other major development this week is the introduction of an assassin played by the great Ian Hart. Aunt Lucretia (Ofelia Medina) calls him and gives him images of the Foxes. So, as Allie and Margot run around the city looking for their ticket to obscurity, the hitman tails them.

The Mosquito Coast’s deployment of and canny understanding of suspense mechanics does tend to belay most of my other concerns, small though they may be. More so than nearly any other Apple TV+ show, I cannot wait to see what happens next. That is not to be discounted.

Fat and soft, pink and weak

Directors Natalia Beristain and Tinge Krishnan do a tremendous job handling texture this week. Hart’s assassin character is introduced standing under a disco ball, so half of the frame is taken up by queasy mirror motion. It’s a deliberate depiction of how everyone on the show feels, from the Foxes adrift in a new place, to the man Hart is about to kill. They’re all lost, confused and scared, and this phantom momentum, circling an abyss, is coming for them. Excellent stuff.

When Charlie, high and amped up, keeps getting lost looking in storefronts later in the episode, the directors navigate clarity with expert precision. We’re not totally in Charlie’s POV (we haven’t yet been given anyone‘s POV exclusively, so that would have been cheating) but we get exactly what he’s feeling.

The Mosquito Coast is stellar potboiler TV all around.

The Mosquito Coast on Apple TV+

New episodes of The Mosquito Coast arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.