The Mosquito Coast, the bold Apple TV+ potboiler about a family on the run from the law, wraps up its impressive first season this week with the end of the road — a few roads actually — in sight.

It’s a gripping finale that will leave you breathlessly waiting for the show’s just-announced second season.

The Mosquito Coast review: ‘The Glass Sandwich’

The fatigue, terror and mistrust that have been creeping up on the Fox family seems to have overtaken everyone in the season one finale, titled “The Glass Sandwich.” Allie Fox (played by Justin Theroux) manufactures a quick beach retreat for wife Margot (Melissa George) and kids Dina (Logan Polish) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman). But nobody has any fun.

Margot looks at her husband with bone-deep contempt after last week’s episode, in which he seemed content to let her die.

Dina still thinks Allie and Margot kidnapped her and her brother. And she hates that they keep getting dragged further and further into the bush to escape their troubles. She misses civilization and sees that she’s being taken away from her chance to be a regular person. She also resents that her many attempts to grind this escape attempt to a halt went completely ignored.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s growing despondency manifests in weirder ways, like when he rips the legs off a crab. As he grows stranger and more violent, neither his mom nor his dad seem to notice.

Cutting boards and hanging hooks

Charlie sets off this week’s major action when he notices a familiar face in the little coastal town where the Foxes are hiding out and traces him to their van. He’s working for Ian Hart’s hitman, and he’s about to send the Fox family’s whereabouts to Aunt Lucretia when Charlie gets the drop on him with that borrowed gun and shoots him. That gun’s been burning a hole in Charlie’s pocket since the fourth episode, and the writers weren’t messing around with this device.

Charlie looks and acts absolutely lost when he finally pulls the trigger. This, it’s implied, is what happens when you leave out some pretty crucial lessons from your parenting handbook. Margot is wracked with guilt, which puts her and Allie once more on level ground. But the question remains: How are they gonna get their son out of a Mexican jail?

Bloody knives, cooking books

The Mosquito Coast season finale review: Charlie, played by Gabriel Bateman, goes through some big changes in the season finale.
Charlie Fox (played by Gabriel Bateman) goes through some big changes in the season finale.
Photo: Apple TV+

This episode picks up after its depressive first half. (Don’t get me wrong: This is necessary character work. However, The Mosquito Coast set such a precedent for action that it’s a tad jarring when it slows down. That’s something I think the viewer needs to deal with, not anything I would want to dissuade the showrunners from pursuing.)

Things really get moving when the Foxes spring into action to save Charlie. Ian Hart’s assassin shows up to throw a monkey wrench into their scheme, which just adds to the excitement of the multi-tiered escape plan they cook up.

The show finds its surest footing during chases and the like, and its creative team doesn’t miss a trick during the season one finale. The show implicitly asks every step of the way if this lifestyle is remotely sustainable — and the answer is obviously “No.”

But because the Foxes keep getting into scrapes, they don’t have much time to reflect. That’s their MO, and this week’s episode opens with the dreaded introspection they’ve all been putting off. When given a second to think about any of what Allie’s put the family through, and what their lives are going to be like from now on, they all lose it. Can the adrenaline of finding themselves in the crosshairs of this or that enemy keep them together?

I was wary of this show when Apple TV+ announced it for two reasons.

  1. The first adaptation of The Mosquito Coast couldn’t be improved upon if the same approach was adopted.
  2. So much about the modern world has changed since Paul Theroux, who wrote the novel upon which this series is based, first indicted what it means to take part in society.

Time will tell if this rethinking will constitute a sustainable approach. But for this first season of The Mosquito Coast on Apple TV+, everyone’s been firing on all cylinders. There hasn’t been a dull moment. Bring on season 2.

The Mosquito Coast season one on Apple TV+

You can watch all seven episodes of The Mosquito Coast’s strong first season on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

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 director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.