This The Purge review contains spoilers.
The Purge Episode 7
I appreciate The Purge‘s commitment to old-fashioned stunt work more than perhaps anything else about the show. After all, there aren’t many movies that would light a guy on fire, then send him down a zip line, let alone a television show. The only thing I appreciate more than a “guy on fire” scene is an unbroken long take tracking shot, like the stairway fight in The Protector or the incredible raid sequence in True Detective. The fire-flight isn’t as long as when Alec Holland gets set on fire in Swamp Thing, but there’s got to be points for degree of difficulty, plus there’s no way to put the guy out when he’s in the middle of the zip line, so he has to ride all the way down (or until some sort of middle ground stopping point) before he can get the sweet kiss of a fire extinguisher.
That’s a credit to The Purge‘s ability to feel like an event. It feels larger than a limited television series. It feels like a long movie played out in 42-minute segments, with a scope that pales in comparison to premium television, but that exceeds the average basic cable series. Granted, some segments have more production value than others, but when The Purge wants to look impressive, it’s more than capable of doing so. Witness any of the Carnival of Flesh scenes, the party invasion at the Stanton residence, or even Joe’s brief appearance at the Ryker party. He storms in, starts shooting and yelling, and instantly, the party of rich white people all hit the ground in fear. Even Penelope and Miguel running from pursuers feels like bits from The Purge: Anarchy.
As the series runs towards a conclusion, the storylines seem to be shifting in terms of excitement, if not importance. For one, Rick and Jenna have become more interesting. The debates between Rick and Jenna are still a little bit clunky, but Lila is still an agent of chaos. It’s easy to see how each one of the couples feels about Lila thanks to the solid facial performances from Hannah Anderson and Colin Woodell; she believes Lila’s story completely despite the holes, and he’s suspicious of someone who has been dishonest in the past. Lili Simmons is a fine actress, and she’s being deliberately hard to read while playing on the sympathies of the two of them. Jenna wants to believe her, and Rick can’t say no to his wife given the already tenuous nature of their relationship.
The Rick and Jenna story has been the slowest to develop, and it’s still occasionally clumsy when Jenna and Rick debate the morality of Purge or their relationship or lack thereof with Lila. However, in praise of the script from Mick Betancourt and Krystal Houghton Zib, the exchange with Ross (Joe Chrest) felt authentic. I’ve had some bad neighbors, and I’ve witnessed disputes between neighbors, so that frustration felt appropriately real, and I’ve no doubt that there are some suburbs where neighbors wish they could take their frustration out on one another physically. The little breather moment when Miguel and Penelope are able to trade sibling jokes with one another is nice, too. There’s frustration there, but ultimately, they reach a pretty natural understanding. They’re both trying to honor their parents, just in wildly different ways.
One good thing about the show is that, if the viewer isn’t as invested in a particular storyline, there isn’t a huge wait before the show moves to the next thing. The pace this week was propulsive, opening with the tense race into the relative safety of Rick and Jenna’s house by Lila and only growing more intense with Jane’s prolonged, torturous captivity at the hands of Ryker. Tara Nicole Weyr keeps things moving, and while the scenes of Jane tied up linger, it’s just long enough to get the sense of dread across while not belaboring the point.
As Jane puts it so succinctly, she’ll never recover from this. She’s shattered by the act of being imprisoned in a frame, and by being held helpless and valued only for her beauty, not her brains or her business acumen. That’s a long-running problem for Jane, as established in flashbacks. She’s beautiful, but she doesn’t want to use that to her advantage, despite her mother’s good advice to do so. It’s a point of pride for her, and a point of friction between her and her mother. Being valued for looks has been an ongoing problem for her, and this moment just confirms her worst fears. Even when Joe saves her, it’s clear Jane is shattered (thanks in no small part to Amanda Warren’s brilliant facial acting and William Baldwin’s effectively chummy sleaze).
Escaping the peril doesn’t solve the problem. Living through Purge night is one thing, but the psychological damage that comes from something like that is incredibly difficult to channel into something productive. Certainly, folks like the Matron Saints and the triage van drivers do it, but there are plenty of other people who do terrible things on Purge night because terrible things were done to them on past Purge nights. It remains to be seen how Jane and the others terrified and traumatized by Purge Night will respond, or if our main characters will even live through the last few hours of government-sanctioned terror.
Joe might think he’s taking people to a safe place, but is any place really safe during the Purge? Rich attack poor, poor attack rich, and anyone on the streets can be a victim of senseless violence at the hands of costumed thrill-seekers. If Joe is Batman, somewhere out there is a Joker waiting to make his presence known.
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