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The Purge - What is America? - Advance Preview

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Based on the hit movie franchise from Blumhouse Productions, The Purge revolves around a 12-hour period when all crime, including murder, is legal. Set in an altered America 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 has certainly evolved into the little franchise that could. The first movie debuted on just a 3 million dollar budget and went on to earn almost 90 million at the box office. From there, an entire franchise flourished and while The Purge films have never been huge hits with critics they have quietly chugged along, surpassing box office expectations and amassing a cult following.

Personally, I’m a big fan of horror. It doesn’t take much to get me interested. Essentially, all it has to do is exist and I’ll at least check it out, so I’ve been really excited for this one to start especially as a fan of the movies. I think they’re the rare film series that have markedly improved since the beginning and I jumped at the chance to preview the series. I'm pleased to say that I've enjoyed each episode I've seen so far.

The Purge has always been a franchise that feels grounded in reality. It paints a disturbing portrait of modern America and there are days where it doesn't seem like such a far-fetched future. Like the films, the series explores the differences between the 1% and the impoverished and how these socioeconomic factors dictate differing Purge night experiences.

We'll be following several different character's storylines that will overlap and entangle over the course of the season. This episode introduces us to a desperate Marine, Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), who is trying to track down his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza) after she checks out of rehab and joins a cult (because there is always a cult). Jane (Amanda Warren), the unappreciated workaholic who uses a little cash to put a bold plan into action that may finally help her climb the employment ladder,  and a handsome, young couple, Rick and Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson and Colin Woodell), who are seeking to impress Rick's boss by attending his annual purge night soirĂ©e but may discover the party is much more than they bargained for.

What is America? lays the groundwork for every character's overarching storyline while still leaving room for plenty of twists and turns along the way. These characters are ordinary people forced into impossible situations where they must make difficult decisions to ensure their survival, which is sort of the backbone of entire franchise. The characters feel realistic and therefore resonate with audiences, like they could be your very own neighbors and that, in turn, makes the show even scarier.

The first episode doesn't contain a whole lot of action or scares up until the final moments but the slow pacing does culminate in a very tense ending. This episode is mostly about establishing The Purge universe for fans and newbies alike and introducing us to our newest Purge night attendees. The great thing about a serialized television format is that The Purge will have the luxury of ten full hours to flesh out these characters and their relationships, allowing us an opportunity to get to know them and get attached before they possibly meet their demise.

There is an eerie sense of normalcy woven into the background of every scene. This “holiday” is something that happens year after year for these people and you get a palpable sense of that while watching. One small caveat is that people who are not at all familiar with the franchise may have a hard time catching up at first, the show does not take much time to establish what the Purge is or its origins, which may be a detriment to anyone tuning in for the first time. However, the concept isn’t a difficult one to grasp and I imagine that most people watching this will already be fans of the films.

One final note to add, for anyone worried that the show may suffer due to airing on a network television channel and not having the freedom an R-rating would allow on film, fret not. Even though they may not be able to show copious amounts of bloodshed, if the final scene of this episode is any indication, the writers have
discovered ways to make the show just as chilling as the films by using more clever and twisted methods to showcase the violence of the night. In fact, I'd go as far as to say sometimes a scene can be even more frightening with implications and subtle camera shifts rather than an abundance of gore.

I think this served as a great pilot episode, it introduced us to the characters, launched the start of the annual purge and gave us just enough action at the end to propel us forward into episode two. Happy Purging!


- The show stays as topical as ever, there are several unsubtle digs at our current administration and the dissection of class issues, the way poor people experience the purge vs. the way rich people do is a very in your face topic that I’m sure will run through the next nine episodes. This exchange was particularly notable, albeit very on the nose.

      Person #1: We’re not rich, far from it.
      Person #2: Tonight you are.

- I liked how well The Purge gave me a sense of suspense and unease, it’s there from the opening sequence and the grinding pulse of its electronic/dubstep music choices. I was on edge the entire episode waiting for the other shoe to drop, unsure who to trust - not unlike how our characters feel.

- Have to say, never seen a party favor quite like that before. 

- See if you can spot the pink bunny suits!


“We are the scarred, the beaten, the souls irreparably damaged, and it is that shared pain that allows us to understand each other so deeply. Tonight that suffering ends, my darlings.”

The first episode of The Purge airs September 4th at 10:00 pm (EST) on the USA Network.

Are you a fan of The Purge films? Will you be tuning in to the television show? Hit the comments and let me know!

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