- Created by James DeMonaco
- Blumhouse Television / Universal Cable Productions / Platinum Dunes / Man in a Tree Productions / Racket Squad Productions
- Season One: September 4, 2018 to November 6, 2018
- Miguel Guerrero-Gabriel Chavarria
- Penelope Guerrero-Jessica Garza
- Rick Betancourt-Colin Woodell
- Jenna Betancourt-Hannah Emily Anderson
- Lila Stanton-Lili Simmons
- Jane Barbour-Amanda Warren
- Joe Owens-Lee Tergesen
- David Ryker-William Baldwin
- Albert Stanton-Reed Diamond
- Ellie Stanton-Andrea Frankle
- Good Leader Tavis-Fiona Dourif
- Catalina-Paulina Gálvez
- Pete the Cop-Dominic Fumusa
- Rex-Christopher Berry
Several people learn just how far they will and can go on Purge Night.
I am late to the game on this show. I did not catch it when it first came on the USA Network because, well, life happens. I have heard some complain that the concept of The Purge films lost something by being turned into a television series. I personally think it improved the concept a little bit. Not by leaps and bounds. Just a tad.
While the films are entertaining, 90 minutes to 2 hours is just not enough time to tell a good Purge story if you have the characters out in the streets but a multi episode series can tell a more interesting Purge story if you have characters in the open and that is what all the Purge films since the second do. When you open a strange and dangerous world to explore and do not explore it that feels like a very wasted opportunity.
The first film took place in mostly in a house but after that everybody has been forced out into the streets for one reason or another. Regardless of whatever their initial plans are, things take a detour, and the characters need to either flee for their lives or go save someone.
Much like the films, this series touches on serious subjects. Also like the films, it never quite gets there or delivers them in a heavy-handed way. There are themes of racism and sexism in this film. For example there is the story of Jane Barbour (Amanda Warren), who works in finance but feels there is no hope of getting ahead at her firm and hires a Purge assassin to change things and kill her boss David Ryker (William Baldwin). She is forced to work in a protected facility on Purge Night to close a deal so she has an alibi but changes her mind and decides to go warn him when she cannot get ahold of the hired killer.
It is explicitly put out by the end of Jane’s story that she was not going to get any further because of sexism. Worse, no matter what extreme steps she took, she would not get her boss’s job because she was black unless she played “the game.” On Purge Night David hosts a party where attractive women from his office are tied up and put on display to be ogled at (but NEVER touched) by men from the office. A coworker named Anya (Alyshia Ochse) made it through one such night and now has a nice corner office.
During her travels Jane encounters a group of females who ride around on Purge Night to protect women. People like this have been popping up since the second film but something about this group bothers me: how does this group figure out where to go? There is no 911 service on Purge Night and street cameras can only tell you what is going on in the streets. This group hands out cards to people they encounter but how do people get these cards and is that their only source of where to go? They break up a guy beating his wife. How did they know?
There is classism demonstrated here. Miguel Guerrero (Gabriel Chavarria), a Marine on leave, is searching for a sister Penelope (Jessica Garza) who has fallen in with a group called the Mercy Cult lead by a woman called Good Leader Tavis (Fiona Dourif). As the plot unfolds, we learn the cult is secretly funded by the NFFA and recruits those they deem undesirable as victims for Purge participants to kill. Penelope was a drug addict in rehab and Tavis, apparently posing as a counselor, recruited her and other members.
Miguel spends the night trying to find his sister who had sent him a cryptic note. She initially wanted to die but changed her mind when one those to be sacrificed panicked. Eventually she finds herself at a Purge Carnival purchased by the ex-boyfriend that got her hooked on drugs. Miguel is taken there by Rex (Christopher Berry), a man that collects people on Purge Night to be killed by others. Rex eventually becomes Miguel’s chief nemesis during the series.
And then we also get the story of Jenna (Emily Anderson) and Rick Betancourt (Colin Woodell). Jenna is an anti-Purge proponent dedicated to charitable causes while her husband Rick has been working to climb the social ladder by sucking up to the pro-Purge elite. Finally on the verge of closing a big deal and joining the NFFA, they go to a Purge Night party at the home of the wealthy Stanton family where they encounter Lila Stanton (Lili Simmons) who is Jenna’s former lover. Professionally during the night things are going well for Rick but Lila’s presence aggravates marital tensions still lingering from the infidelity. Chaos ensues when the Stanton estate is attacked and the Betancourts are forced to flee.
There is a character called Pete the Cop (Dominic Fumusa). He runs a bar that is open on Purge Night. No purging allowed though. It is a safe place for those who wish to avoid what is going on in the streets. He has a reputation among the locals that makes him immune from events-to a point. There is a lot said about unwritten Purge rules in this season. They go heavy on that in the first few episodes in order to establish why Pete gets left alone. I think they could have cut back on the mentions a little bit. He is the dark type figure that helps out the weaker characters in these stories and I found him rather interesting. He had no axe to grind or dark motives. Essentially he was tired and broken.
I cannot leave out the character of Joe Owens (Lee Tergesen) who is driving around and at the beginning appears to be saving people caught up in the Purge against their will despite listening to motivational tapes are slowly shown to be Purge oriented. I found this interesting until it turns out he was just another Purger tracking down people that he believed wrong him. And he is also the MacGuffin in the story that brings all the characters together for the finale. If it was not for him most of the other characters would have not actually met.
I am not sure why the characters all needed to connect in the finale. This is a TV series and not a movie so narratively speaking it is unnecessary to directly connect everyone. A passing connection would be more than enough and perhaps more interesting.
It turns out Penelope did not thank Joe for holding the door. Joe, who had started a Purge security company, was screwed out of some money by Rick when he found a loophole in their contract. Jane had snuck out on him on a date. It seemed a bit too coincidental that they all connected through Joe.
I like that we got a more detailed look at a Purge Night. We got to see how disturbing things are. They also brought back the use of the color blue in connection to the Purge. I cannot recall seeing much of it beyond the second film if at all. For example, the bus that Penelope rides around in with the cult is colored blue. You can see blue items at the estate during the Purge party.
I do not think the characters were any better or worse in how they were written than in the films. There is certainly no subtlety here in the messages that were conveyed. They hit you kind of heavy with it. I do not think the concept lost anything by becoming a series, but it did not gain too much of anything. As I said it is better by a tad. I guess you could consider that a win-win.
I did not catch the show when it was originally on and as of this writing, I have not watched Season Two. I can understand why they did not go beyond Season Two because this is just a multi hour version of what you get in a film and a low budget film that takes in several times its budget is probably more profitable than the long form storytelling of a television series. To be honest from a financial standpoint I am not sure why they decided to convert this to television series.
The season ends on the eve of the next Purge. Miguel and Penelope are at Pete’s bar and preparing to go out to save people. Jenna, who was pregnant during the series, is living in Europe with her newborn daughter and watching the news. Ominously it is implied that there are elements in Europe pushing for their own Purge. Interesting thought there how bad ideas can spread once people get use to them.
If you are a fan of the Purge films, I think he will enjoy The Purge: Season One. It has all the elements that made the films enjoyable as well as some of the flaws.