Allie Fox finds himself in a tight corner this week on The Mosquito Coast, the absorbing Apple TV+ series about a family on the run from the U.S. government. His son Charlie’s been compromised, so Allie must do a local criminal kingpin a favor. And that puts him in a car with William Lee, the man who tried to kill him.
Also, daughter Dina learns something about her mom Margot that changes everything about their relationship. It’s a magnificently tense and very strong episode all around.
The Mosquito Coast recap: ‘Positive, Front-Facing Optics’
Season 2, episode 5: In the episode, entitled “Positive, Front-Facing Optics,” Allie (played by Justin Theroux) is in trouble. Isela (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) comes to him with a picture of Charlie (Gabriel Bateman), caught on a poacher’s camera. The poachers evidently didn’t like that Charlie tried to free their catch that day, so they found the image of him on their cameras and circulated it.
Charlie’s still wanted for murder back in civilization, so this is bad news for the whole Fox clan. Isela and Allie take a long, long ride in the middle of the night to go have a chat with the person who’s letting the commune exist on protected land. That man? Guillermo Bautista (Daniel Raymont), the drug lord who just hired William Lee (Ian Hart) as his new leg-breaker in last week’s episode of The Mosquito Coast.
Allie’s very overwhelmed to find himself at the local club (in full swing as a rock venue when they arrive) and across the table from a man who could kill him and dispose of the body without anyone knowing what happened to him. Director Alonso Alvarez does a very fine job showing us the warped perspective through which a very frightened Allie sees Bautista’s domain.
Time for a little teamwork
Bautista is a little shaken by Allie’s unflappable response to the ultimatum the little lord gives him (overcompensating, though you can see him sweating under the cool demeanor). But he knows he’s got Allie good and cornered.
Allie’s mission? Team up with William Lee to do something about the local logging industry. The loggers are tearing down the jungle in which Isela’s commune is hidden, and they need to be stopped before everyone has to find a new place to hide out. Allie fumes at the prospect of working closely with the man who tried to kill his family. But what choice does he have, really?
Bautista and Isela are similarly aware that they don’t have much choice when it comes to Allie. They need him, he’s a genius, but he’s also a huge liability in every way.
William and Allie head to a conference where a tech innovator pitches a state-of-the-art living and working space to be put in the rainforest, where they’ll re-create the forest after they cut it all down. Allie’s job is to sabotage it. He’s given a drive with pictures of the people attending the conference with their families. The message is clear: Move forward with this project and their families will be hurt.
Murder gets in your head
Meanwhile, Charlie continues to unravel, having nightmares about the murder he committed, and not having anyone he can talk to about what he’s feeling. (Props once more to director Alvarez — one of those nightmares is truly scary.)
Margot (Melissa George) and Dina (Logan Polish) try to tell Charlie that they’re here for him, if he wants. But he isn’t at all sure he’s ready to talk, or that he even knows how to. Just as they’re told that Allie will be upstream doing something for the commune, Isela comes back with a guest in tow: Richard Beaumont (Ariyon Bakare), the man with whom Margot made the bomb that turned the family into fugitives.
She all but attacks Richard when he shows up, but restrains herself enough to have a conversation with Isela about it. Tellingly, Isela never reveals why she invited Richard back. As they’re talking, Dina eavesdrops on their conversation and learns that Margot lied about the bombing. Now Dina knows that they aren’t on the lam because Allie stole important information from the government. They’re running from the authorities because her mom killed somebody.
Richard promises not to mess with the kids, but he starts talking to Charlie immediately. Margot doesn’t want them anywhere near each other because she still blames him for things going so awry with their bombing. Just as Margot catches Richard talking to Charlie, Allie drops his media bomb on the conference and recognizes the voice on the tape threatening the families of the executives.
It’s Richard’s. Now everyone knows what’s going on.
What a pair
I’ve stated before how much I love Ian Hart and it’s just great to have him and Justin Theroux matching wits this week. They create fireworks. Between Allie’s gimlet-eyed pragmatism and paranoia, and Hart’s folksy menace, it’s just wonderful stuff.
This episode was all breaking developments and interpersonal conflict, both done breathlessly and confidently. First we get to relish Allie and William’s oil-and-water dynamic. Then we get to watch Margot and Dina having to talk through the worst decision the Fox matriarch ever made.
It’s stupendous work from everyone, and taut direction from Alvarez. I confess the only real trouble with reviewing The Mosquito Coast is that I’d rather just pay attention to the developments rather than having to write them down for review. What a well-built machine Apple TV+ has on its hands.
Watch The Mosquito Coast on Apple TV+
New episodes of the second season of The Mosquito Coast arrive on Apple TV+ every Friday.
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 author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.