As a big fan of The Purge movies, the USA Network television adaptation seemed like a sure bet, an opportunity to better explore the themes superficially presented in the films and better develop the characters before ultimately killing off most of them. Unfortunately, the series doesn’t quite work out that way: After spending ten hours with these characters, I did not feel any more invested in them than I did the movie characters, and those themes are obvious, but little effort is made to unpack them.
The Purge television series is a 10-hour game of cat-and-mouse where, after the mouse is killed, the cat becomes someone else’s mouse until there’s only one cat left and he hates the “hope and change” that Obama represents and he’s just really excited that the new regime allows him to exercise his patriotic right to kill the Latina woman who didn’t say thank you when he opened the door for her that one time a year ago.
There’s a big twist in the opening season of The Purge, although it was revealed in the penultimate episode and played to its predictable conclusion in the finale. As various characters are dealing with their own brushes with death over the course of Purge night, a guy named Joe (Lee Tergesen) — who is basically a radicalized Trump supporter bingeing on what’s basically The Purge version of Rush Limbaugh — helps all of these people out of their near-death situations and brings them to safety; that safety is revealed to be a jail cell he has set up for them inside a church where Joe puts them all on “trial. By “trial,” I mean he gives them an opportunity to try and justify their slights and then kills them anyway. There’s the guy who made fun of Joe in high school (dead); there’s the Black woman who put up with a lifetime of systemic racism and sexism who walked out of an Internet date with Joe after he revealed himself to be a whiny, racist “victim” (she’s also dead now, so thanks for subjecting us to her kidnapping and near rape for nothing, The Purge); and there’s the guy who cut corners and screwed Joe out of money owed to him under contract. He’s also dead, but he sort of kind of deserved it, at least in the context of The Purge.
However, his virtuous pregnant wife, who was in love with a woman with a homicidal jealousy streak, survives, as does Penelope, who began the season in a Purge-cult that gave itself up to Purgers for the good of the system. Also, her brother and the bar owner who rescued them with a twenty-minute time-killing side story also survive another year. The mechanics of the finale, however, are all very predictable.
I’m not saying that season one of The Purge was bad, mind you. It had its moments. I’m just saying that it would have been better if it had been edited down to, say, an hour and 40 minutes without commercial breaks. In other words, this didn’t need to be a TV series. The movies sufficed just fine.
Header Image Source: USA