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The Mosquito Coast - Least Concern Species + Talk About the Weather + A Rag, A Bone, a Hank of Hair - Review

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Episode 2, Least Concern Species

One thing that is alarming about this season of The Mosquito Coast is that it its episode count is quite long, and it’s early to tell but when you have to raise the question – is it a filler episode? – already – things are potentially wrong. But when filler episodes, if this is one – is as good as this mini struggle of survival that picks up with the Foxes in jeopardy on their boat in the middle of the unknown, you need rest easy as you’re in safe hands from director Stefan Schwartz and writer Ian Scott McCullough.

The episode allows for some family bonding time – Allie teaches Dina to drive the boat – after the revelations that came in the previous episode; this feels like a testament to the resilience of family – they’re forced into trouble when their boat loses gas and gives in after a struggle with rapids, thunder and lightning – all reinforced by a score by Antonio Pinto, who’s just superb creatively. This puts the Foxes in a whole world of trouble, and there’s only a few hours before the water rises.

Chekov’s crocodile takes Allie out of action after he tries to avoid it; not only is the tree he tied the rope to not strong enough to hold the boat together but it’s also the fact that he’s suffering from a major bite. This leaves Margot and Charlie pairing up as this week’s dynamic between the family – and the two have a heart to heart with both characters being responsible for the death of someone who they barely know – Charlie last season, and Margot technically this season but the flashbacks that incited the whole thing. Both have guilt on their shoulders, massively.

Following the source of smoke to a settlement riddled with bullet holes and a turned off electric fence, you start to get the feeling that something’s wrong – especially with dried blood inside. It’s not enough to deter Margot and Charlie, who keep going – and find some medicine. A warning of things to come, for sure – there are darker things at work that the Foxes are about to stumble into.

The other dynamic between Allie and Dina was explored effectively and the family are able to restore the boat and put it back on the water again. It’s a split up of the family and puts them in separate headspaces to allow them to deal with the revelations of last week and acts as a breather that gives Allie a rest of sorts, for the first time since he’s been on the run. I do think a greater sense of urgency was the only thing missing from this episode though – there could have been more done with the crocodile but I like the Jaws-esque decision to keep it hidden and create that nature of suspense.

Episode 3, Talk About the Weather

And the award for worst parents of the year go to Allie and Margot. This feels like what we’ve seen the show do before – introduce the characters to a community that welcomes them and takes them in, but there’s more to that community than meets the eye. It’s the repetitive cycle that The Mosquito Coast has used as a storytelling device and at least Talk About the Weather anchors the Foxes to one place that has enough substance to keep them there.

The language is the main obstacle and the villagers aren’t happy to see them there – Isela, remember her? Is able to get the Foxes into their good books by showing them that the village is a working community and they need to work, which fits in with Allie’s workhorse driven agenda and clashes with Margot’s increasingly desperate need to get the group back into the society that they left behind. Allie’s defence is to argue that they should see things from the villagers’ perspective – and two weeks later, he’s proven right – the family make it their home within the confines of the language barrier.

Charlie’s been exploring the jungle on his own and can’t really be spotted doing this, as he’s warned by Isela. It creates a predictable conflict that you know where this storyline is leading, especially given his newly developed connection with nature and the flock of butterflies that are breeding – eventually fitting in with the villagers and bonding with them over a game of football – but risks being targeted by Lucrecia’s assassins. His arc – and the direct consequences of his actions from the first season being the driving force of the narrative here very much give much of The Mosquito Coast its biting edge that looks set to bring the series to its head. We’ve seen examples of AppleTV+’s budget and on location shooting really favouring The Mosquito Coast in giving it a luxurious edge, and you wouldn’t be surprised if you were watching the series in a theatre on a giant movie screen. Appropriately cinematic.

William Lee is looking for the family which puts Isela’s community potentially at risk, and he has the motivation needed to succeed in his goal. Isela is more forgiving of the Foxes than most would’ve been, but she needs Allie for now for their own ends – and she’s already manipulating their interests by selling the trawler to Ridley and taking away their get-out cause. Dina suggests that a way out would be to get the trawler back from its new owner, but Allie is one step ahead, having sunk it before it could be sold rendering Dina’s escape plan mute, and putting Allie’s perfect example of paranoia in motion for all to see – the dislike of him as a main character is such a fascinating direction for the show to take and it puts him essentially in the role of a Tommy Shelby-type figure, hated by the rest of his family – but there’s a greater evil out there, and they’re willing to work with him. This pours everything into a real melting pot – leaving everything on a knife edge simmering underneath the surface – waiting to explode.

Episode 4, A Rag, A Bone, a Hank of Hair

Margot and Allie are held loosely together by the need to protect their kids, and Margot is starting to go sick and tired of her life in isolation. She comes up with a plan with Dina – again pairing one of the parents up with a different child this time; to go behind Allie’s back and try to cut a deal with the government – complete and total immunity for her, Dina and Charlie – in exchange for their old lives back. She’s the one that’s over the most of it – reminding Allie that he’s holding them all prisoner, doubly so as a result of the boat-sinking – and it really exemplifies the tension here. It feels a little late for Margot to come to this realisation given how long they’ve been on the run for – this is where more flashbacks to their past could have come in handy, but the welcome premiere flashback gave us a source of answers which I’ll always appreciate this show given how rare they can be.

The show has needed to bring the problems between Margot and Allie to light for a while now and A Rag, a Bone a Hank of Hair gets there even if it’s not done in the most convincing ways. Margot using Dina to essentially manipulate Alfonso shows just that she’s as cruel as Allie is – especially when calling up the FBI – who tell her that Allie isn’t enough for them – and a reminder that she used to be an activist, too – it wasn’t just Allie that was the one in trouble with the government. Margot has blood on her hands too. Dina and Alfonso get some quality time together – Alfonso’s joke about Transformers: Age of Extinction grounded The Mosquito Coast in a sense of place; and the beautifully shot cave cinema sounds like something where I’d love to watch a movie at.

William Lee is doing his own side things too – investigating the criminal underworld and further advancing his quest. It’s a plot that’s surely building towards another showdown with the Foxes. Charlie has a question of his own that brings him into contact briefly with the outside world; his discovery of nature and life prompts him to square of with some hunters who chase him through the woods. They know that Charlie is there now and what’s more is that cameras have been set-up in the woods – which he points out to Allie, who tells him to keep quiet about that for now. The chances of people connecting the dots between Charlie and a murder on the other side of the world are second to none, Allie says.

But as we’ve seen The Mosquito Coast has its fair share of coincidences, and something has to happen fairly soon to give this show the spark of life that it needs – and four episodes into the second series, still is struggling to find. But then should we have expected a faster pace? The first series gave it a slow burn that kept it closed off. We’ll see where that leads.

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