Television

The Purge 1×01 – ‘What is America?’

The Purge has made the translation to the small screen and on a weekly basis, I’ll be reviewing the show in capsule form for Set The Tape. Here’s a preview of my review of the first episode, What is America?

The Purge making the transition from the big to small screen was almost inevitable. James DeMonaco’s pulp, social horror franchise has grown significantly from the original 2012 home invasion picture, which simply enjoyed carving up white privileged elites, into a full-blown vicious commentary on America’s slump into proto-fascism. The First Purge, which hit cinemas earlier this year, connected the near-future origins of the Purge—an American holiday founded on the principle release of legal violence—directly to our current political climate. You sense this TV translation will follow suit.

What Is America? is an appropriate title for the series premiere of The Purge on TV as it’s a question being asked everywhere right now – from journalists to filmmakers to shock jocks and even Sacha Baron Cohen (he just wants to know *who* America is, instead of *what*). The Purge’s evolution into a potent reflection of the dark side of America’s democratic freedoms almost seems too easy, *too* on the nose a sideswipe at the ugly side of a trend right now in Western countries back to isolationist principles and nationalism, but DeMonaco’s films have struck a chord for what they are, and consequently his TV adaptation—set in the same universe as the movies—lays track for stylistically much of the same.

There are numerous recurring tropes in the Purge films which DeMonaco replicates here. We always have a strong, fairly righteous hero capable of looking after himself – sometimes its a cop, or an anti-hero gangster, and in this case it’s Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), an ex-Marine looking for his wayward sister Penny (Jessica Garza) who it turns out has been recruited into a Heaven’s Gate-style Purge-based death cult, preparing to offer themselves up as willing ‘vessels’ to be slaughtered so they can enter an idealised afterlife. Penny is another trope – the family member who needs protecting/saving, but here at least she is embroiled inside an intriguing idea DeMonaco has never explored in the films: Purge radicalisation.

Read the rest of this review here.

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