REVIEW: USA's Purge TV Series Stretches the Franchise Too Far


It would have been hard to guess at the time that 2013’s mediocre home-invasion thriller The Purge would end up spawning one of the most successful sci-fi/horror franchises of the last decade, but clearly series creator James DeMonaco had a lot more ideas in mind than that first film indicated. The new Purge TV series on USA (premiering September 4) threatens to stretch those ideas further than they can handle, though, with the story of what happens on the one night a year when all crime is legal expanded into 10 episodes, rather than a single feature film.

The basic set-up remains the same: In the United States of the future, a political party called the New Founding Fathers of America has risen to power. As part of the group's rule, it declares that the country must cleanse itself once a year with a 12-hour period in which lawlessness is embraced and encouraged. Created once again by DeMonaco (who wrote all four Purge movies, and directed the first three), the show features four main plot threads that will inevitably intersect over time.

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The one that most closely resembles the working-class stories of the recent Purge movies stars Gabriel Chavarria as Miguel, who lost his parents back in the first Purge (a more contained experiment that took place on Staten Island before the launch of the nationwide mandate, as depicted in the movie The First Purge from earlier this year) and has just been discharged from a stint in the Marines. He’s determined to track down his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza), who’s left a rehab facility without telling anyone where she’s going.

It turns out that Penelope has joined a sort of Purge-worshiping cult, led by a creepy guru known only as Good Leader (Fiona Dourif), who encourages her followers to offer themselves up as sacrifices for people participating in the Purge. The cult is one of a handful of clever variations that the show offers up in its first three episodes, and continuing to expand the franchise’s universe is really the only way that a series like this can work in the long term (although at this point it’s billed as a limited “event series”).

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