“Lovely Dark and Deep” was a solid episode of The Purge with some interesting things to say, but it kept most of the plotlines spinning their wheels.
“Lovely Dark and Deep” opens with a moral question: If you were Rick (Colin Woodell), would you go out of your way to save your wife’s lesbian lover, Lila (Lili Simmons)? It’s worth thinking about it, if only because that’s the kind of thinking that The Purge burns for fuel. The woman seems nothing but trouble. She steals wives, her father is an ultra-right-ring nutcase, and she turns up at the most inconvenient moments, covered in blood and pursued by people in masks. You know what the right thing to do is. But opening up your advanced security systems for Lila means that anyone – and anything – can sneak in the back door. And that’s not even a metaphor.
Of course, Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson) is hanging on every word of Lila’s story, which is understandable given that Simmons does a good traumatised turn. But Rick is having little of it, which allows for a clever bait-and-switch when the intruder whom CCTV captured sneaking into the house turns out not to be a killer led there by Lila, as he suspects, but their dopey neighbour, Ross (Joe Chrest), who has finally decided to do something about the young couple parking outside his house and failing to respect the property line.
Predictably, things don’t go well for Ross, who is stabbed in the back of the neck by Lila. But his shanking causes Jenna to want to sell the house – how can they raise a baby in a nursery where their neighbour bled to death on the carpet? This raises an interesting conversation about the long-term effects of Purge Night; an annual societal pressure valve is all well and good, but you can’t expect the spillage to have dried up by the time the sirens turn back on.
Jane (Amanda Warren), meanwhile, has quite literally been roped into David Ryker’s (William Baldwin) living art gallery. She also gets the flashbacks in “Lovely Dark and Deep”, and I’m talking all the way back to high school, where she was a prodigious math whiz. I imagine she didn’t quite know then that one day she’d be debating equality and diversity in the workplace while trussed up for the macabre pleasure of her employer, who, and I quote, “Enjoys the female form.”
Then again, she seems to have been grappling with similar conversations for most of her life. Despite her brains, she was still forced to participate in degrading beauty pageants to secure a college scholarship and argue with her well-meaning mother about whether to dress formally for a job interview or in a way that would entice her (inevitably male) new bosses. Between the Matron Saints and Ryker’s absurd collection of, ahem, exhibits, The Purge isn’t making its feminist undercurrent particularly subtle. But what do you expect, really? If law and order were suddenly suspended, it’s hardly unlikely that male entitlement would be one of the first things to flourish; perhaps the truest line in “Lovely Dark and Deep”, an undeniably erotic-sounding episode title, is when Ryker gropes Jane’s chest and admonishes her for recoiling: “Please, you’re making this weird.”
It was a mercy when Joe (Lee Tergesen) turned up. We’re still none the wiser about who exactly is feeding the vigilante information about people in need of rescuing, but that’ll presumably come next week, when he takes Jane “somewhere safe”. In the meantime it allowed for Ryker’s douchebag cronies to get their 12-gauge comeuppance, and for Jane to finally embrace her right to Purge by shooting Ryker in the noggin. Good riddance.
Call me unsympathetic, by the way, but Penelope (Jessica Garza) seems a little ungrateful. In “Lovely Dark and Deep” she complains to Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) about being rescued from the Carnival of Flesh, has the nerve to chastise him for how many people he killed in doing so, and still insists that she was ready to sacrifice herself for whatever ostensibly divine purpose her former therapist convinced her she was fulfilling. The reality is really that she was alone and mourning the loss of her parents, and felt that in death she’d be reunited with them; that it took seven weeks to uncover that rather trite reasoning only solidifies my opinion that Penelope doesn’t have much to offer The Purge beyond being a mopey plot device.
She’s also incredibly unlucky in “Lovely Dark and Deep”. While traipsing through the woods she ends up being ensnared in a trap laid by what I assume to be people-hunters, giving Miguel yet another excuse to put his Force Recon training to some use. But by the end of the episode there has been a little common ground achieved, and the conversation devolves into typical sibling bickering, which in The Purge feels like welcome comic relief. There’s a truth to it, though; these two are, ultimately, just a brother and sister trying to honour their parents and look out for each other in the only ways they know how. It’s that kind of humanity that keeps such an outlandish premise grounded in a recognisable reality, and if their story feels, for now, a little meandering, well… at least they have company.