Teenage years are a difficult time, with annoying siblings testing patience, confusing hormones eliciting every possible emotion, plus mounting school pressures. It really can feel like a lot. Especially when your parents suddenly tell you to pack a bag and get in the car because the family is going on the run from the authorities. And the worst thing is, they won’t even let you have your phone for the journey – how are you supposed to get through a family road trip without TikTok?
Obviously, this isn’t any old family we’re talking about, it’s the Fox family. Based on the 1981 novel by Paul Theroux, this Apple TV+ series is stepping – or rather, leaping – away from the current trend of slow-burning thrillers and throwing us into a fast-paced thrill ride about a family on the run. Starring the novelist’s nephew Justin as the protagonist Allie, the series follows them as they escape to The Mosquito Coast, the dense jungle of the eastern coast of Honduras. But this isn’t some story of early retirement, sipping tequilas in the shade – the family never stop looking over their shoulder, and are constantly on edge and fearing the arrival of police. For a good while, we don’t know why, though. But we suspect it’s something to do with Allie’s hatred of technology and distrust in government – sounds like Apple TV+ is just the place for them then.
The show is full of dramatic shootouts, car chases and near misses, creating a bit of a Breaking Bad vibe. And like that smash hit series, no expense has been spared on giving this show a distinctly splashy and artistic appearance. But it looks like it may be another one of Apple’s shows that just isn’t quite good enough to have people hooked.
The narrative often becomes senseless, and the show’s characters don’t have the deep complexities that we’ve become used to with bigger, better thrillers like Netflix’s Ozark. And whilst at first we’re intrigued to find out why the Foxes are fleeing, after a while the not knowing just becomes tedious and frustrating. But, with what they’ve been given, the cast do a pretty stellar job – Melissa George is brilliant as the trying-to-keep-it-together mother, and the confused kids played by Logan Polish and Gabriel Bateman do a great job. We just wish that they’d been given slightly more sound material to work with.
Reviews of this show, like with most Apple TV+ ventures, have been rather mixed. You’ve got Ed Power in The Telegraph giving it just two stars, and saying “Breaking Bland,” would be a “more honest title,” backed up by another two star review from The Guardian’s Radheyan Simonpillai, calling it a “disappointing journey.” And The New York Times’s Mike Hale says, “The larger problem with this first season is that, despite its drumbeat of violent action and its continual tugging at the themes of family devotion versus parental secrecy, nothing really happens. But it’s not all bad, he also says “Justin Theroux and Melissa George, as Allie and his wife, Margot, work well together,” and in The Financial Times, Dan Einav gives it four stars and says “Theroux accordingly delivers a textured performance that sees him convincingly oscillate between a harmless eccentric and a menacing charlatan… It may not be the most urgent, incendiary show of the year, but it’s still anything but a slow burner.”
First shown April 2021. You can watch the trailer here: