There is likely not a single horror fan out there that isn’t familiar with The Purge film franchise. In case there are any stragglers that somehow missed the films, they center on a government program where for twelve hours one night a year all crime, including murder, is legal. The franchise has hit some bumps along the way when trying to decide if it wants to make a political statement or simply show exciting carnage, but it’s hard to deny these films have done well. With four lucrative films as notches on the Blumhouse Productions belt, now Blumhouse has come together with the USA network to release a 10-episode television event. The series brings back writer James DeMonaco, who also penned the film scripts, with Jason Blum as executive producer.
THE PURGE TV series focuses on that 12-hour event and follows the lives of several individuals. Each of them comes from a variety of backgrounds, social classes, and they have differing views on Purge night. In the first episode, we are introduced to a middle-class couple going to a Purge night party to make a business deal, an ex-marine trying to find his sister who has joined a bizarre cult, and a successful business woman forced to work on Purge night. A majority of the first episode focuses on the hours leading up to Purge night, allowing viewers to get to know the characters and become invested in them before they are thrown into the chaos we all know is coming.
As the show moves into the second and third episode, Purge night has begun. The show follows each of the main characters as they navigate through this hellish night while weaving in flashback scenes. These flashbacks offer some background on the characters and context to help explain their actions. Episode 2 primarily focuses these flashbacks on Jane, the businesswoman, while episode 3 focuses a bit more on ex-marine Miguel and his sister, Penelope. It is clear the first few episodes concentrate more on developing the characters and revealing new and shocking things about them. Episode 2 even introduces a strange new masked character we know little about. By the end of episode 3, we don’t know much more about the masked man, but we learn just enough to have our interest piqued.
THE PURGE focuses a lot on the psychology behind each character while also throwing them into typical Purge-like insanity. The show also has a lot of the same visual qualities of the films. Fans still get the crazy masks and costumes worn by those who participate on Purge night. There is also a lot of colorful neon lighting used to give an eerie brightness to the night. The show is really stunning to look at between the creepy masks, almost 80’s-style neon lighting, and some great cinematography.
By the end of the first three episodes, I felt invested in the characters. The leads all give compelling performances including Gabriel Chavarria (War for the Planet of the Apes), Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw), Amanda Warren (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), and Colin Woodell (Unfriended: Dark Web). Each of them is convincing in their roles and they make viewers want to learn more as the layers are peeled back. Fans will also likely recognize a few familiar faces such as Fiona Dourif (Cult of Chucky) as the cult leader who seems to have ulterior motives, William Baldwin (Flatliners) as Jane’s creepy boss, and Reed Diamond (Wayward Pines) as the rich NFFA member hosting the Purge party.
In some ways just in the first three episodes, THE PURGE improves upon some of the issues with the films. There is more character development, the characters are more complex, and there seems to be a better balance between plot, politics, and violence. The showrunners clearly expect viewers to have seen the film franchise by referencing acronyms such as NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) and OMF (Original Martyr Family), but it is simple to navigate even if you haven’t seen the films. The first three episodes of THE PURGE give a strong start to the television event. These episodes will hook viewers and make them stick around to see how events will play out, and who will survive Purge night.
THE PURGE begins Tuesday, September 4th at 10/9c on USA Networks.