Season 2 Of Apple TV’s Engaging Family Drama Gets Lost In The Jungle

Jan 14, 2023

“People don’t change, Allie. They just reveal themselves over time.” The final line of the season premiere of Apple TV+’s “The Mosquito Coast” could be about the show itself, a program that maybe never had the gravity or potential that its first season implied it could. The first season felt like it was setting up an interesting study of conflicted morals, white privilege, and family tension. It was a tight 7-episode season with a pair of episodes directed by the great Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) and taut screenwriting that filtered through a coiled performance from the underrated Justin Theroux. Everything that worked about the first season has an inferior counterpart in the second. It’s unnecessarily three episodes longer—a decision that’s not supported by plot but just drags out the action of the season—and it leans into clichés that it felt like the writers actively avoided in the first season.
The first season ended where the Harrison Ford film based on the book by Paul Theroux (Justin’s uncle) began. Allie Fox (Theroux) fled from the authorities in the United States and made it through dangerous terrain populated by vicious criminals. Allie’s son Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) had killed a man to save his family, a decision that will lead to trauma that hangs over the young man in season two, but the Fox family seemed somewhat safe for the first time since the season premiere. It left the show with sort of a fresh start, sailing off on an ending that almost felt like it could have been a series closer but also left the door open to build something new in season two.
Now what? The sense that the Fox family could go in several different directions feels like it led to a writer’s room that lacked direction. This feeling emerges right from the premiere, which is actually a flashback that fills in some details on what led Allie and Margot Fox (Melissa George) to go off the grid in the first place. It turns out that they were split up when Margot and her boyfriend, Richard Beaumont (a dull and misused Ariyon Bakare) took their environmental activism to another level, leading to an event that Apple would rather not be spoiled here. So, the fact that the Fox family is on the run arguably forever now is laid heavily at the feet of Margot, a decision that doesn’t balance the blame like the writers might have thought it would but really diminishes her character in a way that feels reductive. Yes, she was involved in a tragic mistake more than something for which she is directly culpable. Still, it’s a writing choice that makes Margot into more of a villain and Allie into the one who saved the day when this show is a lot stronger when it allows its patriarch to be something of a villain.
READ MORE: ‘Mosquito Coast’: A Gripping Family-On-The-Run Story Is A Prologue Akin To ‘Ozark’ & ‘Breaking Bad’ [Review]
Allie takes his family into the jungle and to a community of fellow refugees with a cause, people who are working directly to stop corporations from destroying the planet. Led by the confident Isela (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), this is the kind of co-op where everyone has to carry their weight, which means people like Charlie and Dina (Logan Polish) are going to have to be a part of a new structure that they resent being dragged to in the first place. Charlie is battling guilt while Dina just wants to get out—a desire she might share with Margot, at least early in the season. So can Allie keep his family together in this new world?
Before that idea can really take root, the writers plunge the sociopathic William Lee (Ian Hart) back into this world in a way that feels deeply manufactured. Without spoiling much, Lee gets a new employer in a powerful local crime lord Guillermo Bautista (an engaging Daniel Raymont), who it turns out is the “landlord” of the community run by Isela. It’s a complicated power dynamic in that Bautista has a similar cause as Isela and Allie but may be willing to go to further lengths to get it done. There’s a strong episode that sees Allie and Lee having to collaborate on a mission, but it’s because Hart and Theroux are interesting actors more than anything else. It doesn’t really fit into the show as a whole. It’s not a stretch to say it’s entertaining because it’s a narrative tangent from how dull most of this season is.
The problem when writers don’t really know where to take a season is that it leads to shallow, self-serious dialogue. There are so many serious conversations this season that go absolutely nowhere. It just lacks the urgency of the first season, and the slower pace means there’s time to realize how thin these characters are. It feels at times like the writers have no idea what to do with them, allowing conversations and actions to have nowhere near the impact they would in the real world as everyone treads water to the next episode.
Worst of all, the writers consistently fall back on the tropes and crutches that it felt like this show was avoiding last year—for example, an episode features not one, but two overheard conversations wherein secrets are inadvertently revealed because eavesdropping is the only way to lazily push the plot forward. It starts to eat away at the character dynamics when one can see the strings being so boringly pulled by the writers. And that’s a problem that’s enhanced even further by the increase in family role clichés like the unfaithful background and unsupportive tropes that are put like a yoke around poor Melissa George’s performance. The rebellious teen boy and the strident teen girl—these characters were more interesting when they were on the run in a way that made them feel different, and they just crash to earth this season. It’s like they got to their location, and the writers discovered they hadn’t done the groundwork to make them interesting or three-dimensional. They get as lost as a privileged family heading into the jungle would likely do in the real world. [C-]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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