“The Damage Done” explains one of the first season’s key mysteries, and The Mosquito Coast is surprisingly better for the context.
This recap of The Mosquito Coast season 2, episode 1 for the episode titled “The Damage Done” contains spoilers.
I hated the first season of The Mosquito Coast. It was dramatically inert, aggravatingly smug, and featured the most irritating characters in recent memory. But one thing I often neglected to mention that I perhaps should have is that it was always quite handsomely produced and impressive to look at, which the season 2 premiere, “The Damage Done”, quickly reminded me of. So, despite all of those other criticisms, you have to give credit where it’s due.
The Mosquito Coast season 2, episode 1 recap
While we’re on the subject of the first season, one of the key dramatic questions was what happened to the Fox family — or at least to its patriarch, Allie — that caused them to live off the grid for years and then flee from a pursuing U.S. government? After a very brief and picturesque opening of the Fox family contemplatively boating down a river in the middle of nowhere, it seems like “The Damage Done” is going to answer that question by cycling back to a 13-years-earlier flashback.
In the past, Allie and his business partner Pavani are trying to drum up investment for a bespoke statistical matrix that can predict with alarming accuracy the effect of various climate-based phenomena from bird migration patterns to the spread of diseases. They clash on how to sell the idea; Pavani thinks they should angle more towards pandas and dolphins, while Allie, true to form, wants to focus on the very real and very important matters like death and famine on a global scale. But his head isn’t in it anyway, since he and Margot are separated and he has taken to tracking her phone location so he can creepily observe her dates from a distance.
Allie is still very keen on maintaining control of both his marriage and his intellectual property, but neither seems feasible in the long term. Margot has shacked up with an enigmatic colleague, an Englishman named Richard whose climate catastrophe lectures Allie spends his evenings watching, presumably out of spite, and the company Allie is working for wants to use his data-collection and prediction model for its national security implications, including a trial run for the NSA, of all clients. Amidst all this paranoia and insistence on moral compromise, Allie hacks into an NSA database using a backdoor in the software they’ve “borrowed” from him to uncover information about Richard, which suggests in a rather roundabout way that he might be an eco-terrorist (and this jives with a brief scene we saw earlier of what seemed to be Richard and Margot constructing a homemade bomb.)
When we briefly cut back to the present day, though, Allie pretends to Dina and Charlie, who he’s recounting this story to, that he has reached the end of what there is to tell. He claims in hacking the database he uncovered unauthorized data collection by the U.S. government, thus violating the Espionage Act and landing the Fox family in their current predicament. But there’s clearly more to the story, so back to the past we go.
Allie is detained and questioned by the NSA. He claims to have just been seeing what the organization was doing with his property, but his and Margot’s — though mostly Margot’s — history of domestic terrorism is brought up. We’re beginning to see a clearer picture. Margot and Richard are planning to bomb a biotech company while posing as cleaners, and now Allie knows about it. Once he’s released, he “salts the earth” of his project, shakes his NSA tail, and tries to intervene before the bomb goes off.
For once, The Mosquito Coast is able to build a fair amount of tension here. Margot would prefer a victimless crime, so when she spots a company worker going back into the building after the bomb has been planted, she implores Richard to turn back. He won’t, so they fight, and he leaves her behind. Margot tries to warn the employee but fails. As we keep cutting back and forth to the bomb timer, we see she isn’t going to make it. She dies in the explosion. By the time Allie gets there, Margot is sitting on the floor outside in tears, knowing her life will never be the same again. But Allie won’t let her go, so he convinces her to run with him and the kids.
Well, that makes more sense, doesn’t it? The family is on the run from something Margot did, not Allie, yet he’s continuing to lie to the kids so that they blame him instead of her. At this point, he says it doesn’t matter, since they’ve made it, and things from here on are going to be easy. Ha! “The Damage Done” ends with Margot repeating a line that Richard had said to her about Allie, about how people don’t change, they simply reveal themselves over time. At this point, it’s hard to know whether she’s talking about her husband or herself.
We might be pretty far removed from the 1986 Peter Weir film on which this show is based, but is Apple TV+’s interpretation of the story finally starting to get better?
- The Mosquito Coast season 2, episode 2 preview.
- The Mosquito Coast season 2, episode 2 recap. (Will go live once the episode airs.)