Written by: Dewey Singleton
USA Network’s limited series adaptation of The Purge is rife with tension while weaving elements of plausibility and highlighting elements from the franchise which makes the series quite engrossing. While some might be a little put off with the limited series not being violent or bloody enough, remember that James DeMonaco’s first film was more of a comment of society than a violent one.
The Purge centers around a group of individuals as they traverse the deadliest day of the year in America. Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) is a U.S. Marine trying to track down his missing sister who disappeared from a halfway house months ago. We find out that Penelope (Jessica Garza) has joined a cult which sacrifices itself as an act of redemption. We also meet Jessica (Amanda Warren), a businesswoman at odds with her boss (played by Billy Baldwin), but we quickly learn not to be fooled by her soft demeanor. Then, we got Rick (Colin Woodell), and Jenna (Hanna Emily Anderson) who are invited to a party put on by rich donors of the FFNA (the political action group which helps make “The Purge” a reality) but their past quickly catches up with them during the course of the party which was more than they bargained for.
Where the series soars is how The Purge is viewed through the lens of these distinct individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds. The United States views “the Purge” as a way to liquidate society. Citizens are seen as a commodity rather than human beings. If people are fighting off urges to commit crimes, all they have to do is wait till the national day of mayhem and act on them. The most appealing element of this series is it less about these horrific acts of violence and more about how humanity got to this point.
Miguel and Penelope’s story is one of the more intriguing ones of the series. We find out the government sought out parents, asking them to either participate or stay-in (little do they know what that means) on the night of “The Purge” by enticing them with a financial reward. Being that their family is struggling at the time, their lack of wealth ends up being a death sentence for their parents. The writers of the show aren’t shy about stating how “The Purge” and racism are remarkably identical. We see this as well in Jessica’s storyline. By all accounts, it seems Warren’s character is one of the few characters in this TV series who has their life in order. Then we see her pay someone to take out her boss on Purge night due to the awful things he’s said and done to her.
“The Purge” television series seems to go to great lengths to highlight how lunatics and repressed killers aren’t just committing these violent acts. During the party sequence with donors of the FFNA, Rick and Jenna are mortified to see titans of society donning masks representing the greatest murderers in history. Some of the party guests even attempt to act their “heroes” deeds during the evening. We also witness sequences at Amanda’s office where two innocent looking people happen to be going for the same job when they decide to get creative with a pair of scissors. Rather than place the implications of “The Purge” at the feet of the lower class, it seems we get a broader look at how this holiday impacts everyone in the United States.
While some might wish the series was a bit more violent, we have to remember cable has limitations. Rather than try and push those limits, The Purge walks a fine line between gruesome and greatness. My only concern is about the pacing in each episode. While at times the episodes did feel long, it wasn’t enough to make me loathe the series. The cast delivers solid performances across the board. Even though the show isn’t perfect, there is enough entertainment value to warrant checking out The Purge on September 4th at 10 pm on USA Network.