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The Purge (TV Review)

The Purge, TV Review, The Purge TV Review, Horror, Thriller, USA, SyFy, Reed Diamond

SYNOPSIS: Revolving around a 12-hour period when all crime, including vandalism, murder, arson and theft, is legal, set in an altered United States ruled by a totalitarian political party, the series follows several seemingly unrelated characters living in a small city. As the clock winds down, each character is forced to reckon with their past as they discover how far they will go to survive the night.

The Purge, TV Review, The Purge TV Review, Horror, Thriller, USA, SyFy, Reed Diamond

REVIEW: THE PURGE as a film franchise has always been about ultra-violent mayhem surrounding a core pair (or group) of characters trying to survive the one night a year where all crime is legal. The Blumhouse series of films has been spearheaded by writer-director James DeMonaco who has helmed three of the four movies and serves as creator of the new television series which will air on USA and SYFY this September. Like the films, the small screen version of THE PURGE is set in a near future where an annual holiday allows people to rape, steal, and murder their friends and neighbors in an effort to release the pent up aggression that plagues modern society. While not everyone is a fan of this process, it is nonetheless a tradition that turns the average person into a potentially bloodthirsty killer. While the quality of the feature films has been up and down, going from a home invasion thriller to a vigilante action flick, this series puts the titular conceit to great use while spending a lot more of the time delving into character development.

There are four main storylines presented in the three episodes of the first season of THE PURGE made available for review. One follows married couple Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Rick (Colin Woodell) who are invited to a New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) meeting on Purge Night. The couple are there to solicit funding from NFFA leader Albert Stanton (Reed Diamond) and get more than they bargained for amongst the upper class patrons of the party. Another storyline follows Jane (Amanda Warren) who works for an investment firm run by Don Ryker (William Baldwin) and plans to knock of her competition for an executive job at the company by hiring a Purge assassin. Both of these storylines give very different angles to Purge Night and how different classes in this fictional society deal with the events of The Purge.

The other two storylines are distinct at the start of the season but will converge by the end of the ten episode series due to the relationship of the lead characters in each. In one, Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) is a U.S. Marine who has returned from overseas to try and find his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza) who sent him a cryptic message. Miguel begins to track down former acquaintances who could lead him to where Penelope may be before he discovers she has joined a cult led by the charismatic Good Leader Tavis (Fiona Dourif). The cult believe that their calling is to allow themselves to be Purged in order to reach a promised afterlife. But, once the Purge begins, Penelope has second thoughts. These two stories are the closest to something we would have seen in a big screen entry in THE PURGE franchise and could have easily worked as the sole focus of the series, but James DeMonaco gets to do something here that the movies did not allow for and that is give us three dimensional characters we can grow to care about.

The extended format of a television series means that instead of cramming a narrative into two hours, we can find out a lot more about these characters thanks to flashbacks and other storytelling devices that expound on why they are or are not participating in The Purge. There is obviously a political parallel between what the NFFA and The Purge itself represent that is eerie in today's political climate and, like the marketing campaign for this summer's THE FIRST PURGE, they do not shy away from blatant connections to the current President of the United States. There are multiple references to what the definition of America is and some very on the nose dialogue that clearly echoes the current administration. The NFFA themselves also seem like thinly veiled variations of politicians we see on the news day in and day out. The limitation the series does face is that it no longer has the freedom of an R-rated film and that means the violence feels somewhat sanitized. Sure, you still get some blood and gore, but it doesn't quite pack the same punch as something like The Walking Dead.

The Purge, TV Review, The Purge TV Review, Horror, Thriller, USA, SyFy, Reed Diamond

The most intriguing element of THE PURGE as a television series is that each season could introduce all new characters who cross paths with those seen in this debut season. DeMonaco could elect for more of an anthology style with standalone seasons and distinct narratives, or it could work as a slice into one night each year of these same characters, at least those who survive to the season finale. There is more than enough time to introduce new characters through the season who may or may not stay alive long. In fact, there is a character introduced in the second episode played by Lee Tergesen who may be my favorite of the whole series. Tergesen plays a masked Purger named Joe who kills while listening to a motivational speaker. It is an interesting perspective to see the events unfolding from the point of view of an active Purge participant that could change how you feel as a viewer about the central idea of this story.

The television version of THE PURGE works as both an introduction to the franchise for anyone who hasn't seen (or cannot stomach) the movies but also as an expansion of the series. It also delves into a much different look at what The Purge is and opens up a lot of possibilities for further seasons. The trade off for this show is character depth and story over the grit and guttural violence of the films. The cinematic style and scope of a feature film is lost in the translation to the world of cable televison, but it is a small price to pay if you like more to your entertainment that bashed in skulls and mutilated corpses. I am not completely sold that THE PURGE works as a television series, but there is enough here to show that it absolutely could.

The Purge premieres September 4th on USA and SYFY.

Source: JoBlo.com

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