Call Of The Void
Episode 1 of Coyote begins with a group of Mexicans en-route to the US border. They’re stopped, however, by a gruff, bald man called Ben Clemens approaching and drinking all their water. As he walks away, the trio of Mexicans watch him leave in confusion.
We then cut back 5 days earlier. This hard-nosed wanderer happens to be a US border patrol guard. He bursts into a shop and demands to use their toilet, despite not being a customer. After doing his business, he stakes out the place and waits for the owner to leave. When he does, Ben sneaks back in without a warrant and finds a hidden tunnel in the bathroom leading 30 feet underground.
After calling for back-up, he uses a shard of glass to view round the corners and witness human trafficking first-hand. Ben saves the day, taking out the thugs and saving the refugees. Clemens wants to do more but the police are happy to leave it as it is, sending him back to the station.
It turns out Ben is retiring and not happy about his party. After 32 years of service he’d rather just go out peacefully. Anyway, he eventually heads home and starts getting used to life away from being a border guard.
While out at home depot, a polite Mexican asks him if he needs help and Ben immediately recognizes him as a man called Alvaro. He grabs the guy and calls his former work colleagues, telling them to break protocol and send this boy back. When he receives an abrupt no, he leaves the man cable-tied to the fence.
Grumpy Ben Clemens then heads down to Mexico and immediately throws his American muscle around, tuning out the Mexican music on the radio and refusing to engage with the locals. At least to begin with anyway. It turns out his partner was Mexican, a guy called Javi who’s no longer with us. In fact, Ben intends to head down and help fix up his caravan.
With fragmented knowledge of the language, he heads to the cafe and mentions Javi’s name to the barmaid, Silvia. She immediately recognizes it and walks away. A we soon find out, she used to be Javi’s partner. Anyway, Ben’s food arrives just as his ex-wife rings, promising her he’ll be there for their daughter’s birthday party.
Tensions are immediately hostile though when a group of men, led by a shadowy thug called Dante, show up at the bar. As they take off, we hard cut to the border as Ben begrudgingly buys a necklace from a nearby vendor.
He eventually makes it back to America and heads up to Katie’s party. After drinking a Budweiser, he eventually greets his daughter Katie, who’s very different now. She has a tattoo and is smoking. Ben hands over the necklace he bought for 7 dollars as a present and eventually agrees to get involved in this family photo. t’s obvious though that Ben is very much an outsider now (ironic given his previous job.)
After the festivities Ben makes it back to Mexico, and more specifically the café from before. There, he sees poverty first-hand but instead mentions borders being put up “for a reason.”
On his way back, Ben finds a woman stowed away in the back-seat of his car. She pleads with him for help in heading back to the United States. He refuses to do so and instead takes her to the local police station. Unfortunately this is the wrong move as that same gang from before follow him up the road. They shoot his tyres and confront Ben about Maria being in his car.
The next day though, Maria shows up at Javi’s caravan asking for help. As she passes out on the floor, Ben quickly calls Garrett and asks him to sort out asylum for the girl “by the book.” Only, things take a turn for the worst when two Mexicans show up and knock Ben to the ground, clearly looking for Maria. This girl eventually shows her face and kills one of the men. Outside, she shoots the other one dead.
Realizing they’re not safe, and seeing as Maria is now technically a murderer, Ben decides to leave the caravan with Maria. With police hot on their heels, they take a detour and head off along the hillside instead.
The Episode Review
Coyote feels like a show plucked from the wrong decade. It’s also one that makes it incredibly difficult to empathize with the main character. From selfishly drinking all the water of passing refugees to showing disdain and contempt for a different culture, Ben Clemens is a pretty terrible protagonist.
I’m not sure whether the intention here was to try and mirror the gruffness of Hank from Breaking Bad but whatever happened in that writing room, Ben Clemens is not a guy I’d want to root for.
In fact, the contrived nature of the runaway ending completely defies belief, especially given Ben’s character. Given he broke the law just to free refugees and send them back, would this incident really be enough for him to help a Mexican into the US? After 32 years of service?
And worse, it’s difficult to rally behind Ben when he begins with such a narrow view of other cultures. In fact, this actually makes the fact he was a border guard for 32 years that much more damning in hindsight if he didn’t have that much empathy.
On a more stylistic note, what is with these harsh fade to black cuts? Are these where commercial breaks used to be? Hopefully this isn’t a trend as both A Teacher and now Coyote are using these and it’s pretty jarring.
With 6 episodes and all of them dropped on CBS immediately at the start of the year, it remains to be seen whether this one improves over time. For now though, Coyote doesn’t exactly start very promisingly.