This The Purge review contains spoilers.
The Purge Season 2 Episode 7
It wouldn’t be The Purge without actual Purge content, and while the second season opened with America’s night to murder, it appears as though it will close with that, too. An effective, violent book-end for the series seems to be a good idea. That’s what people watch for, right? Even though the second season has been solidly entertaining and suspenseful, even without the threat of violence, what the world is here for is Purge Night, either figuratively in the terms of TV viewers or literally in terms of Purge tourists rolling into New Orleans with a booked hotel room, bodyguards, and guns.
In a way, focusing on the back story to a Purge night was a bold choice. The first season leaned heavily on violence, and filled in motivation as the series trucked along. The second season is focusing on the motivation and circumstances leading up to a Purge Night, with the back quarter of the series focusing on how those stories wrap up.
It works well, and it allows more investment in these characters without the threat of them randomly dying (except for Esme, and possibly everyone around Ben) just as they start to get interesting. The build-up to violence throughout the second season of The Purge is as tense as any scene of people skulking in dark alleys, hoping to avoid murderers in crazy masks. If anything, that the murderers are operating openly as agents of the government makes them more scary, because they’re just as dangerous the other 364 days of the year and don’t have to hide behind masks.
For Ben, not hiding behind a mask with Kelen (Danika Yarosh) is both freeing and troublesome for him. It’s freeing because, for part of their drive, he’s able to convince himself that Kelen still loves him and isn’t simply terrified of him after finding out that he’s the Campus Killer. For Kelen, the ride back from Ben’s house—she repeatedly tries and fails to get out of a situation where she’s alone in the car with Ben—is an exercise in survival horror.
Full credit goes to both Joel Allen and Danika Yarosh; he’s eager to push away the fear and maintain his closeness with Kelen, and he looks relieved once she knows his secret. As for Yarosh, she’s great at showing bottled-up terror on her features from the very moment Ben emerges from the bedroom with sleep in his eyes.
Nick Zigler’s script gives Kelen just enough chances to get away that when she stabs him and bolts from the car after an unreasonable trust exercise by Ben, it feels like he just might be screwed and she just might get away. Of course, it’s not easy to flag down a car for hitch-hiking purposes while waving a bloody knife, but Kelen doesn’t get a chance to have her Texas Chainsaw Massacre moment. Instead, she has a The Devil’s Rejects one, stumbling out into traffic only to find herself hit by a passing car.
It’s two well-done horror pulls from Darren Grant, which isn’t to downplay Ryan or Marcus’s sections of the show, just to emphasize how good Ben and Kelen’s car ride was. There aren’t many ways to make a car ride suspenseful, but it’s accomplished pretty well in both Ben’s case and Marcus’s case. Marcus’s confrontation with his neighbors is also pretty well done, with a skulk by Marcus and Michelle ending in an uncomfortable backyard barbecue.
Surprisingly, the problem the neighbors have with Marcus isn’t based on his race—the group hanging out without him are a pretty racially mixed group, all things considered—but because of his job. The Purge is a world in which medical malpractice isn’t settled through courts, but through Purge hit men and not inviting them to the neighborhood cook-out.
It’s not good news for Marcus, Michelle, or Darren, but when you know your enemy and can do something about that person (or that neighborhood) before they come after you, it gives you a chance to prepare even against superior numbers. Ryan would appreciate that level of planning and preparation, as it’s how he’s made his living since retiring from the New Orleans Police Department.
The jump from 116 days prior to the Purge to 2 days is a huge one, but it’s a necessary passage of time. Ryan’s clearly been working on plans with Esme (and the two have sparked a relationship), Marcus and Michelle have been planning to fight off their whole neighborhood, and Ben has become something of a pop-culture icon, or at least his mask has, which will definitely help him blend in with the crowds in a couple of days.
There’s no question that Ben’s mask becoming a hot property will come back prior to the end of this series. The Purge‘s second season has been solid and entertaining, and the build to the climax has been done with skill and competence. There hasn’t been a lot that’s been excellent, but there has been a lot of very good to great content sprinkled throughout seven episodes, and The Purge has quietly become one of the more interesting properties in horror television. All that remains is to stick the landing; say what you want about the Purge properties, they have traditionally had good endings. Doubtlessly, The Purge season 2 will continue that streak.