Lunchbox Joe took center stage as his completed his transformation from hardworking factory supervisor to disenfranchised ‘Merican on The Purge Episode 9.
photo by Alfonso Bresciani/USA Network
More than any other episode this week’s The Purge was terrifying and mesmerizing in its portrayal of a man gone to the Darkside. Finally, after eight episodes of dead ends, misdirection and far too much simpering Jenna and condescending Rick the details have been fleshed out. Joe is a man on a mission to get revenge. He has dressed it all up as his right to heal himself of the poison that others have inflicted on him, but in reality, he is no better than those who have wronged him. This is what makes this episode so good. We are looking at a snapshot of what our country could easily become.
Joe is a killer, but it is also very easy to see how he got where he is and there are thousands of people out there just like him. People who have been bullied and marginalized to such an extreme they become susceptible to the rhetoric of Pro-Purger Bobby Sheridan. Just ask the countless followers of the multitude of extremist propagandites that are working Social Media like a tool. Joe is so miserable he can’t see his own actions contribute to his problems. Case in point, the passively racist and sexist comments to Jane about getting into Warton School of Business are so repugnant because of Jane’s ability to maintain her dignity and our predilection to see Joe as a sympathetic character. Prior to the end of episode eight, Joe was a savior. He was a man on a mission to rescue others. Team Good Guy. Even after all the world had thrown at him he was still a man of decency, or so we thought. Yes, he was wronged and yes it is very easy to connect the dots. He is a product of his circumstances, but just as he believes Penny should be accountable for her actions so should he. There are plenty of people who lose jobs, have rough dating lives, grow up with bigoted Dads, and are cut off in traffic that don’t go on to be psychopaths.
Unfortunately, in this world, almost all end up being killers though. Jane killed David(it’s hard to feel bad about that one though) Rick and Jenna had a hand in their neighbor’s deaths and directly Lila’s demise, and Miguel has a string of bodies in his wake although the majority were in self-defense. Only Penny and Pete seemingly have their hands relatively clean. When put on trial in Joe’s Kangaroo Court all are found lacking. Jane went on a bad date with Joe and left after paying the bill, his childhood bully who is now homeless was relentless in school, Jenna and Rick may owe him money, some random woman who we know nothing about yet, and Penny who as a millennial is just irritating in her self-absorption are all guilty. Some of these indiscretions feel more egregious than others but let’s face facts, Joe is not playing with a full deck at this point. If he had been thinking clearly he would have thought twice about defiling the sanctity of Pete’s Cantina and snagging Penny for failing to say “thanks”. Either he is that wackadoo and thinks his genius knows no bounds or he hasn’t heard the Ballad of Pete the Cop. Either way, not his smartest move.
Jane was the latest victim of The Purge this week and I have to say this one stung. How righteous we all felt when she sassed back at Joe. She is over it and with one kill under her belt what’s one more. All of our hopes and dreams were dashed in one twenty-second scene though. Jane took her repressed female rage and channeled it into an attack on Joe. After all her spite and intelligent words, she was killed by a man and it was painful. She was one tough cookie and to see Joe literally choke the life out of her was sad. The fact that all of the irony was lost on Joe is just one more example of how giving violent voice to the marginalized is dangerous. Anger must be tempered by wisdom or nothing but brutality is the result. It is okay to be upset, feel wronged, and wish for better things. It is not okay to kill people, be racist or sexist yourself or act unfairly in the name of justice. Regardless of what The Purge tells us life does not deliver a fair deal but rather a fairly fu@ked up one.
If anyone can save the day it is the tandem team of Miguel and Pete. A match made in Heaven from the same cloth as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. These two ex-marines are heavily armed with both experience and ammunition. Pete also comes with a boundless supply of swagger. The mythos that surrounds this guy is legendary. His refusal to stand with his fellow dirty cops in the first Purge cemented his place in history it seems at least until he is forgotten by the next generation. It is this sly, almost irrelevant piece of commentary from Pete himself that delivers the biggest blow this week. Things like the Holocaust, the tiananmen Square Massacre and Japanese Internment Camps are doomed to repeat themselves because it only takes a second in this assaultive digital world we live in to forget yesterday in favor of tomorrow. The Purge Franchise is great because it’s bloody and cruel and savage, but also because we can stand on our pedestal and say “that can’t happen here”. It’s just a story after all until one two many generations pass and we forget which stories are true.
With the numbers of main characters dwindling and Joe set to square off against Pete and Miguel one thing is for sure. It is every man or woman for themselves and sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to survive the Purge. Hopefully, those that survive the season finale can live with their actions.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.