This The Purge review contains spoilers.
The Purge Episode 10
Perhaps I am in the minority, but I love title cards. When I get some sort of ticking clock announcement, or help in figuring out where we are in a particular time line, I always appreciate it. Perhaps it’s lazy storytelling. Perhaps I’m just losing my attention span as I age. Either way, when I get some kind of countdown on screen, it always helps me figure out timing, and as time ticks down on the annual Purge, the tension increases. A ticking clock always seems to work, if there’s even remote investment in what’s going on.
Needless to say, as Miguel and Pete the Cop are rushing to the abandoned school to try and save Penelope from Joe, the countdown of time to the end of the Purge creates a real urgency, both for the characters and the viewer. Cleverly, it’s only one of a few ticking clocks that fill the final episode of The Purge: Joe’s got to get his Purging done before the buzzer goes off or he’s just another murderer. Rick and Jenna have to try to buy as much time as they can for themselves. Penelope has to get free from her bondage and get her plan enacted to try and save herself. Pete and Miguel have to get to Penelope before Joe does, and they have to avoid Rex and the security from the Carnival of Flesh in the process.
It’s a big, bubbling pot, and the lid is starting to jump and pop. Ernest Dickerson does everything he can to make this tension grow even more. Tight close-ups on sweating faces, close-ups on hands fumbling with rope bonds, jump scares with armed people popping out from around corners, booby traps everywhere… it’s a lot of work, and it all tends to pay off, particularly the harrowing attempt by Penelope to use a bolt to undo her bonds and turn the tables on Joe by threatening to Purge one of his Purge captives. That Rick and Jenna have secrets from one another isn’t a surprise, but Dickerson does a good job with the actors making it feel natural; Jenna is angry with Rick, but even though she’s disappointed, she understands that he did what he did not for himself, or for greed, but to make sure he kept her dream alive, even if that meant screwing over Joe in the process. Likewise, when given a chance to try and save his wife’s life, Rick throws himself on the grenade and tries to take all the blame.
Joe isn’t swayed, but Joe is beyond logical thought at this point. One of the more clever lines in Nick Snider and Jeremy Robbins’s script is the pronouncement by Rick that Joe won’t listen to reason, because he is going to kill Penelope for not saying thank you for having a door held open for her. Joe is decidedly unhinged, playing psychological games with Rick and Jenna when he’s not parroting Bobby Sheridan or bellowing angrily at Penelope. However, Joe’s dedication to the Purge, and to following the rules as he sees them, are used in very clever fashion at the end of the episode. It’s one of the most surprising things in the entire season; Joe seems so unhinged that a little thing like an alarm siren going off shouldn’t stay his hand when he has his quarry on the ropes, and yet it does, because Joe feels as though he’s always followed the rules his whole life, and the rules as he sees them are what separate us from the animals.
As Bobby Sheridan says later in the episode, what you don’t get done this Purge, you’ll just do next Purge. Or the next Purge. Out of Joe’s mouth, that’s not idle talk; Joe clearly has everything invested in the idea of the Purge, and since he’s got nothing left in his life—his father won’t make the next Purge, he does not have a job, his business has failed, and his reputation is shattered—it’s a promise that next year, Penelope and Miguel will be facing the same enemy, and he’ll come back time and time again until he’s stopped with some finality. It would be against Joe’s make-up to just kill Miguel and Penelope after the alarm goes off; Miguel has no such compulsion, and he’s come too far and risked too much to just do this whole thing again in a year.
Fortunately, The Purge will be back again for a second season, likely featuring new characters. That limited series option is becoming increasingly popular in US television circles, and it’s ideal for something like The Purge. There’s no real need to bring Miguel or Penelope back once they get their happy ending and turn The Purge into something productive and positive for themselves. Ditto Jenna, whose story is done. You could drop Pete the Cop in a future Purge series playing a similar role, if it works out for a future story.
As a setting, The Purge is still a lot of fun, and a great bed for political and social commentary given that the season stretches from Independence Day to election day. It’s so distinctive, and the violence (as weird as this sounds) is television-friendly, being told mostly through noise in the background and implications off-screen than the gorier stuff that populates other basic cable horror shows. James DeMonaco’s premise has legs, and if the season orders are short and the stories are compelling, The Purge could continue on as a Fourth of July tradition on the small screen, since it seems to be done as a big screen property.