“Release the Beast” was the best episode of The Purge thus far, as the characters found themselves in new territory and further atrocities were revealed.
After three relatively steady weeks of The Purge gradually introducing characters and justifying their decisions on how to spend Purge Night, “Release the Beast” felt cathartic, in a way. It revealed just how stupid and short-sighted everyone’s choices were.
It’s to be expected. How do you prepare for a night of lawlessness, where morality is thrown to the wayside and people are allowed – nay, encouraged – to indulge in their basest impulses? Is it possible to remain above it all? Jane (Amanda Warren) thought she was, especially after seeing Alison (Jessica Miesel) stab her colleague Mark (Adam Stephenson) to death with a pair of scissors – and all over a promotion she was getting anyway. But when Alison reveals that she saw Jane’s computer and is aware that she hired an assassin (AzMarie Livingston) to knock off her boss (William Baldwin), she has to surrender the moral high ground.
On the streets, trying to stop the murder she herself paid for, Jane is accosted by a drooling would-be rapist and rescued by a contingent of well-armed women who call themselves the Matron Saints. On Purge Night, three women are killed for every one man – a statistic I can believe. The Purge as a franchise has largely been about politically justifying the wiping out of the disenfranchised, but it rarely stopped to pay much attention to gender until “Release the Beast”. And it should have, before now. There are so many unashamed creeps milling around when the laws are being enforced that you can scarcely imagine how many would answer the clarion call of Purge Night.
Penelope (Jessica Garza) isn’t having a great night either, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for her after she willingly offered herself as a martyr. Deposited by the glowing nuns at the Carnival of Flesh, she’s exposed to enough unpleasantness that the cult’s dopey insistence on the nobility of self-sacrifice seems rather hollow. I’m glad she finally figured that out. But beyond the ritual re-enactments of historical executions and an auction that sees her sold to a guy I’m sure isn’t friendly, it might be too little too late, as far as realisations go.
That won’t stop Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) from doggedly pursuing her all the same, even if he has to betray some of his own principles to do so. Working on a tip from Pete the Cop (Dominic Fumusa) he hooks up with Rex the Cowboy (Christopher Berry), presumably to provide an answer to the question of what happens when a marine, a cop and a cowboy all walk into a bar. The subsequent road trip is filled with levity and wisdom, and admittedly a brief stop off to pass a security checkpoint set up by a heavily-armed anti-NFFA militia, but when it’s revealed that Rex rounds up Purge victims for the Carnival of Flesh, Miguel is forced to confront how he feels about his new bestie profiting from the misery. Then again, isn’t everyone, in some way?
These are the questions of “Release the Beast”, and indeed of the whole show, and nowhere are they better expressed than in Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna’s (Hannah Emily Anderson) compromising plan to schmooze Albert Stanton (Reed Diamond) for investment money despite his psychotic NFFA support. They were given the flashback treatment this week, in which it was revealed that their experimental marriage-enlivening threesome backfired pretty badly on Rick, who couldn’t stop his wife from returning to bed with Lila (Lili Simmons) in his absence. And now she’s disappearing with her at the serial killer party! Not a great night for him, then, which is why he’ll likely be an easy mark for Albert’s recruitment drive: “If you can’t satisfy your woman, why not kill her on Purge Night!” It’s a decent pitch.
This is all complicated, of course, by Jenna’s unborn child, and a late warning caps off “Release the Beast”: According to Catalina (Paulina Gálvez), Jenna needs to get out of there. And fast. What does Albert have planned? Will we be attending any more parties? What’s up with that guy in the mask? These are the questions that crop up as The Purge enters a higher gear, and I’m pleased to see the show taking the time to deliver on its killer premise as we get deeper into the season. Go forth and purge, folks. It’s your right.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.