A predictably pointless and nonsensical finale sees The Mosquito Coast out — and thank goodness for that.
This recap of The Mosquito Coast season 1, episode 7, “The Glass Sandwich”, contains spoilers. It also contains an open discussion of The Mosquito Coast’s ending.
Allow me to briefly crack a window into the process behind these recaps (don’t worry, this is going somewhere.) So, step one is to watch the episode in question and make notes and observations as I go. Trying to write the recap itself live is an amateur move — it just results in a dry, beat-by-beat recounting of what happened, and nobody wants to read that. When the episode is finished, I’ll go over those notes and shuffle them around into some kind of structure. Sometimes I’ll refine 2000 words down to 800. Sometimes I’ll expand 400 out to 1000. Whatever. Either way, I eventually end up with a workable collection of my thoughts that some people might find useful or enlightening. The process begins when I press play on the screener. It ends when I publish the article. It might take an hour or several, but it’s typically one continuous process.
Except in this case. For unimportant reasons, some time elapsed between me watching “The Glass Sandwich”, the season finale of Apple TV+’s interpretation of The Mosquito Coast, and getting around to writing up the recap. Even though time is invariably not on the critic’s side, this happens, sometimes. When it does, it’s usually quite enlightening. When I’ve got time to sit with something, I get to think about it more, and I usually come up with some additional observations. Again, not in this case. In fact, when I sat down and glanced over the notes I’d made, I realized that I remembered almost nothing about this finale. The bits I did remember were so stupid I seemed to be actively trying to forget them. I felt like I was in some kind of spy thriller, where Tom Cruise or someone is forced to yank out a flash drive while a hard disk wipes itself clean. Whatever scattered information was preserved would have to do. And in that I found the most interesting thing I could possibly say about The Mosquito Coast — it’s so rubbish that it forced my brain to reflexively self-censor.
The Mosquito Coast episode 7 doesn’t feel like a finale. That’s for a few reasons. One is that it has written itself into a dead end. After unceremoniously killing off the American agents in last week’s episode, the show has left the Fox family with only one person to run from: Bill, an assassin we know nothing about other than that he’s in the employ of Lucretia, a cartel matriarch who is the ostensible Big Bad but has barely been glimpsed since the fourth episode, so her presence isn’t felt at all. Another is that the Fox family begins “The Glass Sandwich” taking things pretty easy. They’re enjoying smores on the beach, even, which Dina admittedly thinks is ridiculous. A nasty spat that ensues causes Charlie, easily the stupidest and most irritating child character in a television show in recent memory, to run away. Whatever Gabriel Bateman has been paid for his role in this, it isn’t enough to compensate for how much antipathy his face is going to engender in anyone who has sat through this show.
Charlie roams the streets alone, and Allie inexplicably leaves him to it to try and secure a boat. Because he has been left to his own devices and has had a peculiar fascination with firearms ever since he pulled one on those smug backpackers, Charlie gets the drop on one of Lucretia’s goons, who is taking a photograph of the camper van that the family has been travelling in, and tries to threaten him into not sending the photo to Bill. He does, and so Charlie shoots him in the face, for which he’s arrested by the cops and left to languish in the local jail. The goon later expires, and the camera lingers on a flutter of butterflies that have alighted on his torn-apart grill. The Mosquito Coast has been endlessly fascinated by butterflies as a kind of visual motif, but even though some butterflies are prone to tuck into rotting flesh if the mood strikes them, this visual has a tinge of comedy about it, rather than the obvious horror that’s intended.
The only upside of Charlie’s stupidity here is that allows Allie to MacGuyver a prison break, and it was here that I thought how much better the show would have been if it was just about him improvising solutions to various problems. He hasn’t really done anything clever since he fixed that radio mast, even though all the characters keep talking about how smart he is. Naturally, Bill arrives at around the same time, so at least The Mosquito Coast season 1, episode 7 actually starts to feel like a finale here. There’s a sense of danger, even if it’s tempered by the fact that the writers had to make a character functionally braindead just to facilitate it. But Charlie even manages to ruin that. Allie’s escape plan involves wading through a storm drain, and there’s a bit where they have to submerge themselves for like two seconds in order to get under a barricade, and Charlie made such a big deal about not being able to do it that I almost threw my laptop out of the window. “The Glass Sandwich” goes from skin-of-their-teeth escape to a tortuous argument between a father and his petulant little kid. Eventually, he sacks up and does it, but why include this nothing little scene at all? I’ll tell you. It’s to pad out the last few minutes of the runtime.
Because then the episode just ends! And with it, so does the season. The entire Fox family makes it to the boat that Allie finessed earlier, and they all look contemplatively back at the shore as they continue their journey to nowhere. We still don’t know what they’re running from, and aside from a loaded line earlier about this all being Margot’s fault, rather than Allie’s, we know no more about this family’s predicament now, in the finale, than we did in the premiere. As the show ends, Allie laughs and cries at the same time. I know how he feels.