A year’s worth of planning has led to a Purge night like none other as everyone’s true endgame is revealed.
This season has built tension slowly. A more drama-filled season with cheeky looks at how the money-making machine profits off of death were combined with the slow-motion train wreck that was Ben. These are characters we are more invested in. Living a year in their lives has created an intimacy that is lacking in some horror entertainment. With the exception of a few players last year, most of those involved were less than interesting. Pete the Cop and Lunchbox Joe were as likable and relatable as any, and Joe was the antagonist. In the second season, the characters were given more time to develop outside of the violence. This time produced characters who were fascinating away from the holiday.
The time for contemplation is over. All of the products, masks, weapons, and costumes have been sold. There is no more talk of Purge Capitalism. Glimpses of the profitable niches of death have shown just how extreme things can become. America is big business. For better or worse it is the land of opportunity for a reason. If you have something to sell, odds are, there is someone out there to buy it, even if that something is covered in literal and figurative blood.
What The Purge season two has done so well is shine a light at the absurdity of our current world. Yes, we aren’t all out killing each other, but there is still a blatant narcissism that can be seen by spending just a minute on social media. When that need for constant feedback is combined with glorified criminality anything goes. Parents take their family on bonding killing sprees, teens roam the streets without fear, and children glorify the national holiday with fake weapons and costumes. It’s pretty disgusting, to say the least. In this selfie crazed society, the Purge is perfect for debauchery. Who wore it best pictures are taken right alongside, who killed it best.
Ryan and Esme are preparing for their heist and escape. She is becoming one of the group. Her position with the group has been cemented and her chemistry with the group is electric. While monitoring the PD chatter she determines their plans may have to change due to road closures. The police chief and her gang of crooked cops will handle things at the airport. Trust is a serious problem with this splintered group.
The Chief sent one of her own to “assist” Ryan in his share of the duties. He has an agenda she doesn’t know about though, and sets off the trap early. Carrying the lion share of the action again this week the Ryan and Co. storyline sees gun battles and hilarious bravado between his group and a gang of skateboarding kids who think they will step to the armed group with hand weapons. It does make me wonder who would let their kids go out on purge night like it’s Halloween with real death and monsters.
More straight forward despite the twist reveal his plot beats have been more obvious. That does not mean they have not been entertaining, just clearer. In large part that is due to Paola Nunez and Max Martini who both bring an intelligent solidness to their characters that play nicely off the depravity of the bloody holiday.
Ryan’s ex-boss and her goons demise were one of the most satisfying of the season. There is something great about watching them get their comeuppance. Realizing Ryan’s real target is the prison bus taking Tommy was an unexpected twist. I fully expected him to come back into the picture, but the sole purpose of their evening shows just how different this group is from their police counterparts. His rescue should provide a nice foil for the uber violence happening in the other two storylines.
In NFFA headquarters the big boss is telling Vivian her job is to find Esme. He continues he understands they were once friends and Esme was a valuable team member, but she is dangerous now. You get the impression he believes what he is saying. He is high up in the organization and should have access to everything Esme does. It is likely he doesn’t know what the professor was doing though and as such doesn’t share Esme’s desire to get the truth out.
Shortly before the sirens begin Vivian sneaks out to meet with Esme and agrees to help her deliver a false ping 50 minutes before the Purge begins. An intriguing dialogue between the two women hints at a secret agenda. With a $500,000 bounty on her head, Esme will have her hands full. A full-scale media hack similar to Mr. Universe in Firefly Serenity would be fun to watch. If things go that direction it will be interesting to see how the NFFA deals with that.
Marcus has proven he can be ruthless when he needs to be to protect his family. The only way to keep Darren safe is by breaking his arm and leaving him in the hospital which is off-limits to both the Purge and the NFFA. Over an oddly stilted dinner that felt misplaced Michelle and Marcus discuss their past year.
The writing has not been as sharp for these two with most of their dialogue feeling wooden. The sadness and betrayal Marcus should convey has been lost in uneven arches that were never fully reconciled. The knock against him is that he is cold and unfeeling. That is no excuse to avoid fleshing out his thoughts though. How did he forgive Michelle so quickly? Did he not have any more altercations with the neighbors? What caused his ex-wife to come to his aid? As a result of the disjointed treatment, his plot has felt incomplete at times.
He needs the help as the neighbors have elected to save their money and get their hands dirty. His ex has had a lot of experience defending her property in the years prior so she is a welcome addition, but the brief expo-dump of a conversation did nothing to explain her decision in anything but a perfunctory manner. It is one more example of the hurried method his segments have gotten.
Most of the boys in Ben’s frat house have left. Families encouraged their kids to come home to relative safety. A small handful of boys remain to board up the house. Between worrying about Ben and Tick Tock confession videos, they are not exactly doing everything they can to prepare the house. These are kids after all and inherently lazy. The honesty of the writing highlights the events that come later. Ben is no longer one of them. he isn’t a sweet kid who plays pranks and does scavenger hunts reluctantly. He is the picture of a troubled person.
He has become a caricature of the violent young male. It’s a little too on the nose with his heavy metal music and brutal room decor. This was one rare misstep in what has been a near-perfect character arch. His transformation from scared and respectful human to sadistic killer is complete. Ben has become fixated on violence.
After his frat brothers try an ill-timed and ill-advised intervention all hell breaks loose. Joel Allen has been fantastic growing into this human monster. He is bigger, stronger, and colder. His change has been believable because of Allen’s commitment to the descent. Even his facial muscles have changed. The boy from episode one does not exist anymore. Ben captures and ties up each of the remaining boys and begins torturing them showing he has embraced his savagery. A gender flip of the helpless fraternity brothers versus sorority sisters is fun as Ben begins picking off his former friends. With Black Christmas out soon this is a smart callback.
If the last seven episodes were to set the stage, tonight was the dress rehearsal. As everyone waited for the sirens to start and true sense of urgency builds. With two episodes left, there is still plenty of story left to tell. Our patience will finally be rewarded. Click here for all our ongoing coverage.
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.