Television

The Purge

The Purge Season 2 Episode 1: This Is Not A Test-Recap And Review

Season two opens strong with a tension filled episode of bad behavior, desperate actions, and slimy miscreants all shown with an unflinching eye.

Courtesy of Alfonso Bresciani/USA Network

The Purge is nothing if it isn’t blatantly political. Season two opens with a sly and subversive look behind the iconic announcement prior to the commencement of the Purge. Irony is not spared as the typical soccer Mom questions whether she is sanctioning murder and then blindly accepts a thinly veiled bureaucratic excuse. Yep, this is for a movie Marge. We believe what we want to believe. Our government wouldn’t do anything to hurt us right? The fact that government officials are off limits and are not to be harmed is one more injustice that it isn’t hard to imagine being written into the rules. After all, the rule makers would above all else cover their own asses. It’s an interesting reminder that the Purge is a business like anything else. Of course, there would need to be someone to do the PSA. 

In a gritty looking federal building NFFA agents akin to our current FBI or CIA are watching every terrible moment of the free crime twelve hour holiday. Even a holiday that allows murder has rules. No class five weapon or above, however, setting people on fire is totally cool. That there is someone monitoring our every move raises as many questions as it answers. The world just adjacent to our current one that would allow a Purge to be enacted also would completely relinquish rights of privacy for that of supposed safety.

In a post-911 world we have already started down that slippery slope. As we watch the agents have to dissect each and every horrendous thing that happens it is reminiscent of the rumored social media workers who have to check all posts for inappropriate content. Those who have to guard against those things being posted for the world to see are said to be deeply affected by their jobs and the things they witness. Likewise some of the agents have a harder time than others processing the disturbing images.

Speaking of, USA is doubling down on the brutality. It is all there shown in vicious detail. No one gets a free pass on Purge night even those most vulnerable. It is a testament to USA that they are showing everything. It is not watered down, but highlighted. Almost daring the viewer to question whether this is really Prime Time television. Sure, it is cable, but it’s not HBO and there was plenty of blood and violence.

The most thought-provoking questions and likely the mystery of the season comes from Esme and company on the job. A new agent asks why on a night like the Purge would anyone break the few rules in place? With so much leeway why push it even further? That has always been the false logic of the government sanctioned night. Humans don’t need to let the monster out once a year to behave. It should be enough to know not to do monstrous things to others because it is morally wrong. How will crossing the line year after year affect everyone? Will a placid pleasantness take over so as not to offend anyone and risk getting purged the next year?Those with homicidal tendencies are just greenlit. Those on the fringe don’t care about the rules. Their sole purpose is chaos and destruction. No amount of purging will fix that. 

Finally, we know who or what enforces the all stop at the siren. If everything is being surveilled than all crime must stop or risk being prosecuted/liquidated(I think we all know what that means). That has long been a question. Why stop right at the siren? If you were right in the middle of killing a guy or robbing a bank as in our crew what is an extra thirty seconds? Now we have our answer.

Gallows humor is used by the agents to diffuse some of the tension created by their jobs. Just as cops and doctors often use comedy as a weapon against grief the agents do as well. It is a shield they use to protect themselves from the emotional toll the job takes. Our senior agent Esme(Paola Nunez) uses emotional distance to insulate herself from the violence. She is cold and calculating until her friend Professor Adams is seen out on Purge night being hunted. Armed with a flash drive containing footage of her friend’s death Esme is seeking answers. What file did the armed men want and why? How did she end up outside during a holiday she hated and would have avoided?

The largest action sequence came from the bank heist. A bank is robbed as we begin the final two hours in the Purge cycle. I have often wondered with crime legal why not rob a bank? Killing people doesn’t really serve any purpose except revenge I guess or satisfying some sick urge if you are a nutter. Stealing large sums of money on the other hand is the gift that keeps on giving.

Max Martini’s Ryan the leader of the bank robbing crew is quiet authority and a pleasure to watch. His crew trusts him and he proves himself resourceful and smart. It is unfortunate Tommy(Jonathan Medina) did not heed his advice as he is running for his life now even if he doesn’t know it. Just as Pete the Cop fascinated fans last season, Ryan will be this season’s swaggering moral compass. There should be honor among thieves and just because the Jackals don’t abide by that doesn’t mean he won’t. He will be an interesting character to watch develop.

Marcus(Derek Luke) and Michelle(Rochelle Aytes) are first seen discussing having kids while laying safely in a heavily protected home. Marcus explains that having a kid complicates things and talks about having to defend his home in a much different zip code long ago. That is the plight of systemic poverty and crime. It can be a vicious cycle that is all but impossible to break out of. Marcus has done well for himself that much is obvious. It bears noticing however that at the very end once he has survived the night after almost being killed there are very few other people of color on the suburban block aside from a dead guy on the street.
Subtlety is not The Purge’s thing and the nuance of watching a gaggle of white folk crawl out of a minivan after a night of fun criminal activity is not lost. If your neighbors can run wild purging people how safe are we really? Intentionally, the feeling of claustrophobia and paranoia are ramped up even before finding the killer’s phone with Marcus’ pictures on it. Who is targeting him and why are questions moving forward.

The final pair to be followed this season is a couple of frat boys who have a skewed power dynamic and terrible priorities. Ben(Joel Allen) the less dominant friend and his bro’ed up scavenger hunt partner have braved the college campus to get a picture of a suicide bridge. Before they take a trip down macabre lane however they hide from a group of armed female warriors who give new meaning to the hashtag Timesup. The “boys will be boys” mentality won’t cut it with these chics.

Taking a page right from Logan Paul’s controversy there is no common decency for the deceased. Death means nothing in a world where murder is legal. Couple that with the narcissism of Selfie Nation and it is nothing to use their pain for a game. After Ben comes to the aid of a crying girl he is captured and left to fend for himself. What happens next is what the true issue has always been. Kill or be killed. Will you be a victim or a perpetrator. You must decide.

Now the focus shifts to picking up the pieces. What happens the remaining 364 days of the year has never been discussed. The aftermath for some is daunting. With all our main players left reeling from the night the next year will be eventful. Who tried to kill the rich guy and why? How will Ben deal with the fact he went all agro and super stabbed the rapist killer? What secrets are on the tape and will Esme get caught with the footage, and what will become of Tommy who is being liquidated? More than any other alternative history concept The Purge has built a world with endless possibilities and countless layers. That is why the franchise continues to have legs. Like Netflix’s In The Tall Grass endless forking decisions, the world of The Purge has so much unexplored territory. We are only scratching the surface.

Stray Observations:

  • The haunting song that plays near the end is Crown by Myrkur…..your welcome.
  • It is good to know some things never change and the IT department is a bunch of tools in the NFFA too.
  • Who’s watching those who do the watching? I’m all in for a super secret government agency that spies on those who are spying on us. 
  • Who doesn’t have security on their phone? No fingerprint, no password, nada? I’m not stalking anyone and I have my phone locked down. You can be damn sure if I had photos of someone I wanted to purge on my phone I wound’t leave it wide open to the public. Amateur hour.
  • Please give us a Pete the Cop plot beat, or at least cameo. I could watch an entire season of his fascinating story.

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