This week on Echo 3, showrunner, writer and director Mark Boal — known for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty — gets lost upriver trying to graft some semblance of a worldview onto his hollow, sadistic Apple TV+ jungle adventure.
The kidnapped Amber’s captivity is explored, as is her captors’ thin psychology and political motivation. She tries to escape and everyone else suffers for it. It’s a boring and grim edition of Boal’s G.I. Joe fantasy.
Echo 3 recap: ‘We Reject Your Influence’
Season 2, episode 5: In this week’s episode, entitled “We Reject Your Influence,” Amber Chesborough (played by Jessica Ann Collins) is still rotting in a Venezuelan jail. She’s visited one day by a hotshot higher-up, so she takes her first proper tour of the prison, seeing what appears to be a bevy of sex workers and drug processors hanging out in the sun (as well as fellow starving prisoners).
The man who’s here to see her is named Tomas (Alejandro Furth), and he was educated in the United States. She’s still claiming to be innocent, but the fact remains that Tomas and his crew witnessed an enormous armed response when she was kidnapped. Seems odd for that kind of a thing to happen if she was simply a civilian scientist.
Amber tells him what he can do with her offers of friendship and cooperation, which doesn’t really help her cover. A normal woman wouldn’t be so cool and collected. She tells a bone-chilling story about seeing her brother Bambi (Luke Evans) kill someone with a hunting rifle when they were kids, and then Tomas goes on his way.
Daydreaming in a Venezuelan prison
For the next several weeks, Amber daydreams about her husband, Prince (Michiel Huisman), almost rescuing her and getting shot in the process. She spends her days observing the behavior of the military cadres training out of the prison, and her nights not sleeping very well.
Tomas’ boss Cortazar (Edgar Durán Jr.) isn’t impressed with the very little info Tomas wheedles out of Amber. Nor does he like Tomas’ idea of broadcasting her captivity on YouTube to raise morale for the rest of their embattled countrymen.
Amber meets another captive in the cell next door to her, a German captive (Franka Potente) who has gone about 60% crazy. She can still understand that she’s in captivity and that she shouldn’t trust anyone, but the rest is all nonsense. If Amber’s neighbor is going to help her, it’s going to take a lot of coaxing and a lot of patience. But she does eventually prove useful. She tells Amber to make herself helpful around the prison and she’ll get privileges. So Amber starts assisting in the drug creation operation.
And now for something ridiculous …
A few more weeks pass, and Tomas returns to put Amber on camera. Here’s where things get goofy. Tomas claims that this illegal Colombian/Venezuelan drug-running operation has partners in intelligence in Russia and Cuba. (Ehhhh … no. Mark Boal is plainly still operating under 40-year-old anti-communist mania, the kind that led John Milius to author the movie Red Dawn. He makes it sound like Cuba is happily spying on American CIA agents.)
Anyway, Tomas turns the cameras on and Amber gives a deranged performance where she laughs during her forced confession that she’s in the CIA. She’s playing him, of course, but it’s nuts.
“We don’t want to be like you,” he says. “Democracy is dead!” And she botches further takes.
Later, Amber’s German friend finally tells her a surefire way to escape: The guards have an ATV they use to ride into a nearby town to have sexual escapades. She can sneak out at night and ride it to freedom. So Amber creeps out of the prison, loosens a piece of chain link fence, steals the ATV, rides it a few miles, then starts hiking through the jungle.
She falls, hits her head and starts screaming out of frustration — always smart when armed guards are after you — but she keeps walking. She finds a local fisherman and hitches a ride with him But when the Venezuelans find him, they shoot the guy dead. Then they take Amber back to jail — and kill her German friend for good measure.
Someone should be punished
Hoo boy, does anyone know a way I can hitch a ride out of this TV show? Mark Boal writes and directs this week’s episode of Echo 3, so he can finally just go full-bore into the kind of sensationalized propaganda he loves so much. Boal goes to such great lengths to show what inhuman monsters the kidnappers are, while continuing to fill Amber’s mouth with all this Freudian nationalism about how she can’t wait for her brother to come kill everybody and how America’s done so much for her and how she won’t play ball with her captors.
Then her captors are seen as sadistic opportunists, and yet they have no idea why they’re still holding Amber.
Amber was their ticket out of the jungle a few episodes back — just their cover. Now that they can’t make her say she’s a CIA plant, and she’s trying to escape all the time, and they aren’t planning to ransom her or use her for leverage … just what exactly is going on? They’re holding her … what? For fun? Because somehow, kidnapping a CIA agent makes them seem righteous to people who can’t afford shoes?
None of this makes sense
I’m lost, and I don’t care what this all means or where Echo 3 is going. Amber is just as much of a psycho as anyone holding her hostage. Worse yet, she doesn’t have an ideology to back it up — at least the idea of objecting to interventionist U.S. foreign policy is something. Amber is just a petulant sore loser.
I don’t like any of the characters in this show because no one here is written as a person. They are dead-eyed mouthpieces for Boal’s absurd dog-eat-dog political worldview, where everyone will kill everyone at the drop of a hat. I’m supposed to enjoy a show where innocent people get shot because they’re at the wrong place and wanted to help people who don’t care about them at all? Shows don’t necessarily need heroes to be good, but they need more than just villains.
Furthermore, why would these people shoot an innocent boat captain if they’re trying to curry favor with the locals?!
None of it makes sense and none of it is fun. I truly cannot fathom how Boal got another half-dozen episodes of Echo 3, but I do know I’m very over the idea of watching them.
Watch Echo 3 on Apple TV+
New episodes of Echo 3 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.