Somehow, a television adaptation of The Purge feels both wholly unnecessary and totally inevitable. The movie franchise (four so far) has been silly and successful, each garnering mixed reviews and box office bucks. The basic premise — a future where, once a year, all crime is legal for a 12-hour period — can easily be translated into a small-screen series in a number of ways. It could use the extra time to explore the psyche of its participants, or to depict their lives during the other 364 days of the year. Or, it could just be an unbalanced cacophony of ridiculous plots, half-baked characters, and screwball violence … which is mostly what USA’s version is.
The Purge takes place during one Purge night, in an unspecified year (because, you see, it could be right around the corner), beginning with the hours leading up to commencement. One couple, Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson), attend a fancy Purge Night gala where the rich and elite — who think of the Purge as the “great liquidator of our time” — are safely closed off from the outside murderous shenanigans. Neither are into the idea of the Purge (well, Jenna is firmly against it while Rick, it seems, might be a bit more malleable) but they have to play the role in order to secure some investment money from slimy Albert (Reed Diamond) to help their cause. Also, they have a bunch of flashbacks involving a threesome but don’t ask; it’s not that interesting. Then there’s Jane (Amanda Warren) who spends her Purge Night at work to land a big deal for her boss (William Baldwin), even though he refuses to ever promote her. (You can probably guess how this ties into the Purge.) Meanwhile, Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) is an ex-marine (as we learn many times through expository dialogue) who is on a mission to find and save his sister Penelope (Jessica Garza), who has joined a cult full of people willing to sacrifice themselves to the Purge.
If none of these characters sound particularly interesting, well, your instincts are correct. Each one is drawn so thinly that they barely exist. Even the most sympathetic character, Miguel (whose parents died during the first Purge, who must kill in order to survive and reach his sister), is hard to root for because he’s just so flat. When he ends up an unwilling participant in a violent game show called The Gauntlet, you know that he’s going to win but you secretly want him to lose if only to put the character out of his misery.