“Grief Box” helps to flesh out some details of a post-Purge world while also patiently furthering its core stories.
This recap of The Purge Season 2, Episode 4, “Grief Box”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The fun wrinkle of Purge mythology added by “Grief Box” is the idea of a Remembrance Day, during which survivors of the annual Purge are sent ashy mementos of their loved ones and celebrate their passing for the betterment of America; it’s the kind of cynical worldbuilding flourish that none of the films had time for but that the series is better positioned to explore, and it’s exactly the kind of thing I want.
The Purge Season 2, Episode 4 picks up three months after the previous installment, with Esme (Paola Nuñez) receiving a visit from Darren (Denzel Whitaker), who has found something archived in the university’s library — a secret study that contradicts the NFFA’s official party line that the Purge substantially decreases violent crime. What’s that, the dictatorial surveillance state isn’t to be trusted? You kid!
Of course, there’s a very strong likelihood that the Purge just produces nutcases like Ben (Joel Allen), who arrives in “Grief Box” clattering a training dummy with punches — a lot of them look more like stabbing motions than strikes, in fairness, and his technique is otherwise appalling — while having filtered flashbacks to shanking and stoving in that poor farmer last week. But the flagrantly corrupt NFFA strikes again when the news reports that the farmer apparently died of heatstroke. Is the government covering up the fact that their annual free-for-all is having the opposite effect than is being advertised, or is Ben getting special treatment for some reason?
It’s easy to imagine that a lingering after-effect of Purging would be paranoia, especially for someone like Marcus (Derek Luke), who discovered himself to be enough of an enemy to someone that they’re willing to pony up major money to see him dealt with during the next Purge. In The Purge Season 2, Episode 4 he discovers that the culprit might be much closer to home than he thought, which only makes him more unstable. “Grief Box” spares a ton of time for Marcus, both in the present-day and during flashbacks to 14 years prior, when he and his first wife, Tonya (Devyn A. Tyler), were beset by young Purgers. At a good old neighborhood cookout, Marcus lashes out at Andre (Damien D. Smith), also present in the flashbacks, because he drives a similar truck to the one that almost ran him over last week. He’s losing it, clearly, but Tonya feeds his paranoia by telling him that in the summer of the previous year someone had come around looking for him. Desperate for answers, he turns to Ivory Road, the dark web forum, begging anyone who knows anything to come forward.
Ben is predictably up to no good in “Grief Box”. Pretending to “run an errand”, he visits a Purge-themed weapons store — another fun detail — and meets Andy (Lawrence Kao), a fellow insufferable psychopath buddy who puts everyone who annoys him on a list of people to murder next Purge Night. He’s delightful. They quickly make firm friends and Ben invites him to a party since birds of a feather creepily drink and make murder plans together.
At the party, Ben runs into his frat boy buddy Turner, the one who left him to die on Purge Night, and he makes the list. But Ben doesn’t want to wait another nine months, so he follows Turner upstairs with a hunting knife but is put off when he finds him sobbing over his brother’s Remembrance Day remains. His apology is sincere enough that Ben doesn’t kill him there and then, but his urges aren’t quelled. The Purge Season 2, Episode 4 ends with him stalking another potential victim in full Purge Night regalia.
Ryan (Max Martini) and crew hit a snag in their heist preparations that only Tommy (Jonathan Medina) can iron out, so Ryan pulls some strings to hook up a sneaky meeting with him, away from the prying eyes of the NFFA. He recommends an eccentric bank employee who you can tell a mile away is going to grossly jeopardize their plan, but needs must, I suppose. Esme, meanwhile, attempts to track down one of the women from the experiments, Olivia, and finds her dead in her apartment with her wrists cut.
It’s obvious there’s something up with Olivia. Trying to investigate her further only leads to dead ends. Cases are being closed faster than they were opened. And to make matters worse, Esme herself is being watched. The plot thickens! “Grief Box” was well balanced and paced, and revealed more fun worldbuilding details while also furthering each of its core storylines. It might have been very much a middle episode, but there’s nothing wrong with that — your right to Purge hasn’t been rescinded just yet.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.