USA’s The Purge
Episode 1: “What is America?”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by James DeMonaco
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, “Take What’s Yours” – click here
We open on what looks like a cult-like commune. A girl named Penelope (Jessica Garza) remains there in the name of her parents, “on the anniversary of their giving.” Her brother Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) is elsewhere in the city at Kantrow rehab facility. He’s trying to find his sister, but she recently checked out. Miguel’s a Marine, who’s come home for Purge Night. A woman at the facility lets him look at her discharge info. He sees the name Henry Bodreaux signed on the release. We’re also able to see the year is 2028.
There’s also Jane (Amanda Warren), heading off to work on Purge Night. Her mother Lorraine (Deneen Tyler) wants her to stay in hospital with her, the safest place. Her daughter refuses. “Commencement” is looming and the city’s ready to shut down for the evening, so Jane gets going to the office.
Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson) are a bourgeois married couple. On Purge Night, for them, it’s a night out with the other bourgeois elites who are able to live without worry for the evening. Because everywhere else people are boarding their windows, buying up ammunition and survival supplies, and they’re preparing either to protect themselves/their homes, or go out hunting.
In a seedy neighbourhood, Miguel chases down a man looking for information about Bodreaux. The worried brother can’t “wait another hour,” he’s getting shit done before the Purge even begins. Not like he’s doing any killing. Well, not yet. Who knows how far he’ll go after his sister’s cryptic message.
On the 38th floor of a building, Jane and her co-worker Mark (Adam Stephenson) are locked down for the entire duration of the Purge. It’s a cushy office, plus they’re there to work, right? Shouldn’t be an issue. What we’re seeing is the rampant capitalist urge of these people, who can’t even take the night off when the rest of America’s burning, they’ve got to get in every last dollar!
“We are the scarred, the beaten, the souls irreparably damaged,” Tavis (Fiona Dourif) tells her cult followers. They all put on their hoods and head out into the garden behind her. Then they all board a blue bus together. Wonder where they’re headed.
Jenna and Rock are seeking to build housing for the “less fortunate,” which is why they’re snobbing around at a big party with elites. The couple claims they’re not rich, yet they’ve got crazy security on their home while the rest of the neighbourhood has to resort to hammers, nails, and plywood. Either way, they’re hoping this Purge Night will help them help themselves business wise.
At the office, Jane and the team get a call from their boss, Don Ryker (Billy Baldwin). He’s called to tell them about big bonuses if they close a big deal during the evening. This gets everybody excited, as well as the fact Jane’s brought good booze for them to share. Typical bunch of financial vultures.
Rick and Jenna arrive at the Stanton party. We begin getting a sense they’re really willing to sell their souls for what they want— glimpses of a recent night out suggest their morals might not be altogether pure. Either way, their one focus in being at that party is to climb that social ladder. Later, we’re given glimpses of Lila Stanton (Lili Simmons) having a threesome with the married couple. She’s the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, and this adds a compelling layer to the mystery.
In an abandoned building, Miguel’s taken to look for Bodreaux. They meet a couple hopeful Purgers keeping a young woman on drugs chained up for their “Purge dessert” later on. Except mentioning Henry only makes the dudes suspicious. This puts him in a fight, though his Marine instincts get him out quick, and he’s able to help the lady get free of her chains. She actually knows Penelope and where she’s gone.
On the blue bus, everyone’s preparing to “escape the pain” and head into “the invisible.” A great sign, not at all unsettling. The news reporters are preparing to get whatever coverage they can manage without getting slaughtered in the streets. Up in the office, Jane’s got a secret. She’s secretly messaging somebody, going downstairs despite the other floors being unsecured. Past the maintenance area at a door she meets a woman, someone who’s going to be Purging. And they’ve got a transaction to make. Jane’s hiring herself an assassin.
Miguel continues his search finding the cultists who confirm Penelope – “Sister Penny” – is one of them. Miguel and his sister’s parents were killed on Purge Night years before. He finds out Penelope’s being “Purged upon.” She’s being sent out to sacrifice herself— suicide cult by Purge. Creepy shit.
At the party, Jenna talks to one of the maids, Catalina (Paulina Gálvez) briefly. They discuss the Purge, how Jenna doesn’t like it but is there to do business with Albert Stanton (Reed Diamond). The wife, Ellie Stanton (Andrea Frankle), seems like an awful woman. She’s all about the NFFA – the New Founding Fathers of America – and so is her husband. All those people there are Purge supporters, “the great liquidator of our time.” An interesting line as Ellie says “we made this country great.” Very timely. Everyone at the party’s got to stay all night, too. Given it’s Purge Night. It could get wild inside. They all get masks of various serial killers, whom the people worship as those who “Purged before it was legal.” Terrifying. Perfect, though— the capitalists are just going a step further and killing people off to ensure good profits for America and a healthy, prosperous society, or some such other bullshit.
And then the countdown begins, as the Purge officially commences.
On the street, Miguel uses his night vision to give him a better view of the mayhem. Shots are going off. People are dragged from the backs of cars, others are beaten with baseball bats, a man’s tied to a lamppost and whipped brutally. Cars are tipped and burned.
“Good Leader” Tavis and her cultists are on their little blue bus, intending to help “the sinners release their hatred.” One of her followers is about to head out and get Purged willingly as the next step to the Other Side. She sends him out to the street. A bunch of people in masks stand waiting, weapons at their sides, and the young man allows himself to be butchered.
“They risked their freedom because they knew the incredible life changing, healing power of violence, of killing.”
I was sceptical about this TV series when it was announced. Father Gore loves the movies, but wasn’t sure it’d make a good series, of any length. Nevertheless, the first episode has me hooked, and I’m going to enjoy watching this play out. Lots of room for sociopolitical commentary, some of which has already begun. That’s what I’ve always dug about The Purge and its sequels, there’s so much relevant material to our times.
“Take What’s Yours” is next time.