This The Purge review contains spoilers.
The Purge Episode 6
From the opening of “The Forgotten,” it’s established pretty strongly that one of the forgotten figures in the episode is Joe. When he’s not hiding behind a faceless metal mask, he’s living a faceless existence. His father is dying (he’s a character with a bad cough who refuses to see a doctor, that might as well be a death sentence). He works in a factory, a dying industry in America’s dying manufacturing sector. He’s divorced, eating bologna sandwiches out of a lunch box. He’s well-liked among his coworkers, but his most recent date stood him up. In short, Joe is anonymous, as blank and plain as the steel mask he manufactured himself.
Except on Purge Night. During the Purge, Joe is a hero, saving those who can’t save themselves. He travels around in an anonymous van, wearing his anonymous mask, but playing the role of the masked savior, swooping in to defend the innocent against thugs and dangers of all sorts. It’s not a traditional use of the Purge as a mental health tool, but it allows Joe to release the frustrations trapped within him without negative repercussions.
For one night a year, Joe is somebody who matters. For the rest of the time, like Jane, he’s ignored, taken for granted, or actively manipulated by those around him. The only real difference between the two is how he looks to the Purge and what he hopes to get out of it.
Joe, thus far, has been saved for the very end of every episode. Joe shows up, does something, and then the preview for next week. This is the first real examination of the character thus far, giving his complete back story and how he comes to find out about the motivational speaker who seems to be driving his actions. Joe’s channel-flipping and general malaise also further inform the background of the world of The Purge, which sees great economic distress in the time prior to the arrival of the traditional big night. Joe’s a bit of an odd duck, but Lee Tergesen is a solid actor and he imbues the character with a bit of aw shucks. He’s nothing special, and he seems to know it, but he also seems to feel as though he can still do good in the world. He has a good relationship with his coworkers, and even management at the plant until it’s closed, and he serves as a foreman/spokesman for the workers, even after they’re all fired. Aside from his actions in the Purge, he’d fall into the category of nice yet unremarkable.
In that sense, he parallels well with Jane, who is also a fairly nice person with a sick parent that also seems to go unappreciated by her supervisors and the world at large. Her coworkers might notice it, but management doesn’t seem to care, and if David Ryker is to be believed, even her boldest action won’t get her the promotion she craves. Ryker is the other character who gets fleshed out this week, and he’s as repugnant as one might assume a character played by a Baldwin would be (they don’t tend to play nice people all that often as a family rule).
Like the NFFA-aligned Stantons from the Jenna and Rick storyline, Ryker’s Purge night activities lean heavily on power and control. Rather than assembling a group of people and having underlings grovel for donations, Ryker simply creates living artwork that can be touched (within reason: over the clothes stuff only, no penetration or nudity) and enjoyed for an evening before being let go, unharmed, at the end of Purge night. Supposedly; the dead Purge assassin in the tub suggests otherwise, but it remains to be seen what will happen to Jane.
Joe and Jane’s parallels will draw them together. It’s a nice bit of foreshadowing in Jeremy Robbins script, and as we see Joe succeed—and fail—in his mission throughout the night, it makes sense that he’d be so driven. Certainly, it’s laid on a little bit thick with the father’s rattling cough and the Ryker sex party where women are treated like literal objects, but there’s a nice bit of menace to the scenes where he’s showing off his art, and Joe is appealing enough as a character for others to rally around. Ryker ticks just enough boxes to get to Joe (a big-business magnate) and the Matron Saints (Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women, man) both on his case, giving Jane options on who she might want to reach out to. I believe Joe, at the moment, is in the lead, but I know that the Saints will return at some point.
Part of what makes the script work is the performances. Nina Lopez-Corrado does a good job with her actors; she keeps Lee Tergesen projecting that good guy persona, and she does a good job at keeping Ryker’s creepiness under wraps until it’s too late for Jane to make a run for it, without hiding it so well that it comes out of nowhere. The audience knows Ryker is a creep from his previous appearances, but his Purge gallery is just… the next step, and to see the way the shots of the women being fondled and pawed at only makes it worse. It’s gross, without feeling exploitative.
The exchanges between Jenna and Rick aren’t quite as solidly handled, but perhaps that can be blamed on the characters unclear motivation, rather than any real flaws in how their scenes are shot or performed. Jenna’s motivations seem all over the place, possibly a projection of the character’s confusion about the whole enterprise. Rick’s revealed back story makes sense for the character’s urgency to climb the social ladder, but he seems to be portrayed as the bad guy, and that isn’t working for me. He doesn’t seem to be the bad guy; if anything, Jenna is the one who crosses boundaries in their marriage with her dalliances with Lila and approaching the NFFA for financial help seems to be as much in service to her dream as it is to his ambition (or at least he says so).
The relationship drama doesn’t seem to work as well, because in this universe, most relationship problems can be solved by the two parties murdering one another, or in this case the third party in the relationship who shows up at the end of the episode, covered in blood. Rick’s going to want to keep the door closed, and Jenna is going to want to let Lila in, and they’ll argue about it for awhile before they let her in and she does something crazy or dangerous. It feels like an obvious set-up to me, so the execution will have to be excellent to make it pop.
I could be completely wrong, and I’m generally loathe to make predictions. I would much rather be surprised than to know where anything is going, provided the direction makes sense (or at least is entertaining). Certainly, having someone drop in covered in blood will lead to complications. Hopefully, it will be more interesting than my guess at how it plays out.
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