For an episode all about ‘The Urge to Purge’, there doesn’t feel all that much of it going on in the third outing of The Purge TV adaptation. James DeMonaco’s translation continues to suffer from a powerful sense of the TV equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder, lurching like a pinball from one idea to another without any sense of grounding. It’s hard to understand why it’s bizarrely so engaging as a result as opposed to irritating, even if it’s becoming increasingly clear there is almost no substance beneath the ghoulish style. The Purge on TV is even more a conduit for broad sociopolitical ideas at the expense of memorable characterisation than the films.
This comes from someone, by the way, who has always been a champion of this franchise, and The Purge TV series continues to tap into the baser tropes that will appeal to anyone in search of a schlock-ridden B-movie, but ‘The Urge to Purge’ moves closer and closer to just outright cliche. Of course the fat co-worker who has cheerily been smiling and cracking jokes at her uptight boss is a full on psycho nut job. Obviously the earnest ex-Marine is going to miss the sister he’s been tracking down by a hairs breadth. And isn’t it clear that the rich, quasi-Nazi businessman is a cold-hearted killer? Not to the powerfully naive Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna (Hannah Anderson), it seems.
This is the biggest problem with The Purge – almost everyone involved that we are following across this dark night is an absolute idiot, in varying different ways. Jenna and Rick (more Jenna) continue to be caught in this *frankly a bit weird* love triangle with hot, rich totty Lila (Lili Simmons) but this latest episode attempts to remind audiences that they’re at this fascist display of exorbitance in order to extract money for a welfare programme from the super rich Albert Stanton (Reed Diamond), who even if you didn’t know played a Nazi in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. once literally kicked off his party by standing on a platform and unveiling a flag and a doctrine which might as well have had him goose stepping to the champagne. When he shoots a man dead, Jenna is shook, like she just found out Santa Claus likes to slaughter elves. Really?
Idiot watch continues with office boss Jane (Amanda Warren), who seems incapable of removing the stick from her backside long enough to realise that Alison (the aforementioned co-worker) is making evil eyes at the schmoozing colleague sucking up to her – mind you, she is preoccupied with second thoughts about having a Baldwin brother topped, so you can’t blame her. Meanwhile, Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) continues to somehow not realise he’s inside a waking Purge video game as he lurches from gangsters, to terrifying glowing nuns, to journalists risking their lives to document the Purge as part of a campaign to prove the whole thing is a bonkers horror show. Yet again, half a dozen interesting ideas are thrown down the pan as Miguel become the cipher for rattling through every Purge idea the writers seemed to come up with.
It continues to be a shame as the journalists are a fascinating idea the series has never explored, particularly in that one is a British guy looking to capture the reality of the Purge in order to ensure it never happens in Europe, and when Miguel accuses him of being holier than thou, he points out how European colonial history bears out his fears. “Europeans *invented* the Purge”. That made me chuckle, particularly with our darkest Brexit hour on final approach. Equally, through these journalists and the flashbacks of choice this week—to Miguel & sister Penny’s childhood—the show manages to neatly connect the show to The First Purge movie by introducing the idea that Miguel is a survivor of the original Staten Island experiment that created the Purge, which for those who saw the movie know has darker, ethnic cleansing connotations.
The Purge even tries with this episode to suggest a running theme throughout the script, that of a nihilistic sense of hopelessness when it comes to preventing or curbing the Purge itself. The final scene, though it may ruminate and sermonise on this very fact, does introduce what could be the character and the concept to truly bring this show alive – a Purge ‘avenger’, a ‘Punisher’ killing people who are Purging. It’s a very exciting idea future episodes look like they will bear out and while they may not prevent the show’s continued, excited lurching from idea to idea to idea, it might allow us to invest for the first time in an actual character, as opposed to simply a cipher for everything DeMonaco’s series is trying to bludgeon us over the head with.
Plus, if it actually turns out to be John Bernthal under that mask, I’m going to lose my sh—
The Purge: Season 1 airs every Wednesday on Amazon Prime in the UK.