TV Review: THE PURGE Episodes 4-5

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We are approaching the halfway point of THE PURGE 10 episode TV series on USA Network. In episode 1-3 we were introduced to a cast of characters. The first episode taught us who those people are in the hours leading up to Purge night. The second and third episode establishes each character’s motives, their opinions on Purge night, and plants the seeds of the conflicts each one of them will encounter. Now, the fourth and fifth episodes throw every character into new and thrilling chaos.

Just like the first three episodes, episode four and five each focus on one character’s past. In episode four, titled “Release the Beast,” that focus is on Jenna, Rick, and their affair with Lila. Through flashbacks we get to learn about how and why Rick and Jenna began a relationship with Lila, as well as why it ended. The flashbacks add to the tension between the characters as all three are reunited at the NFFA Purge night celebration. We get to see Jane react to a tragedy in her building, which forces her to look at her own choices. This leads to such strong guilt and remorse that Jane leaves the safety of her office building and out onto the perilous streets below where she meets a small band of heroines who come to her aid. Miguel’s sister, Penelope (Jessica Garza), ends up being taken to a bizarre event called “The Carnival of Flesh.” This is a place here humans are auctioned off to the highest bidder for the sake of Purge night, and where Penelope encounters her worst nightmare. Miguel discovers where Penelope is taken and teams up with a man who isn’t quite who he appears to be in order to find her. We also finally see the mysterious masked man unmasked and we learn a bit more about what he’s doing out on Purge night.

Episode five, titled “Rise Up,” focuses on Penelope’s past. We learn more about her past issues with drugs and addiction as well as what lead her to the cult. This past better explains why the winner of the auction at The Carnival of Flesh is her own personal demon. Miguel eventually makes his way into the carnival, only to have things not go exactly as he planned. Jane sees her female saviors in action. She doesn’t entirely agree with their methods, so it motivates her to leave them behind and continue on with her quest for redemption. As Jenna and Rick continue to tip-toe through the unfortunate politics of the evening, they catch wind of a major plan that could put their lives in danger.

THE PURGE had a strong start in the first three episodes, really allowing viewers to get to know the characters and easing us into Purge night. In those first three episodes the show runners had managed to generally avoid some of the more outlandish aspects of the film franchise. This allowed the show to focus more on the moral issues of Purge night as each character moved through the night as best the could. The exception in those first few episodes was the gauntlet Miguel fought his way through. Now the show has gone to those strange heights with the Carnival of Flesh. This aspect of the show takes the premise outside the realm of what could be considered believable. The trick is to focus on the mental and emotional turmoil happening in this place. Penelope is forced to face her demons in a truly horrifying way, being face-to-face with the past she thought she was escaping. This is the root of the plot that the carnival brings to light.

Another great aspect of these new episodes is the group of women Jane encounters. These women are important because they focus on an aspect of Purge night I have always wondered about, but haven’t truly seen addressed in The Purge franchise: sexual assault and violence against women.  In the past the films have focused on murder and other similar violent crimes in the 12 hours of Purge night. THE PURGE finally emphasizes how much worse violence towards women is on this night, especially sexual assaults. It is an important message and it is also great to see a group of strong women on the show who are trying to combat this aspect of Purge night.

The fantastic performances continue in these episodes. Each of the main characters really delivers, and Jessica Garza absolutely shines in episode five of THE PURGE as Penelope. There are also some new faces who stand out including Sabrina Gennarino (The Walking Dead) as the leader of the group who saves Jane, Dylan Arnold (Mudbound) as the deranged Henry, and Lee Tergesen (Monster) as the mysterious masked man. I’m definitely interested to see where these stories are going to take the characters, how they will come together, and who will survive to the end.

Molly Henery

You can watch THE PURGE on Tuesday at 10/9c on USA Network.