The show finds clever ways to interweave its many stories and characters. There’s military bro Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria) whose sister Penelope (Jessica Garza) is on a cult bus that offers up self-sacrifices. Executive-hopeful Jane (Amanda Warren) has to work late, but she’s put a hit out on her sexist boss (William Baldwin). Meanwhile, a mysterious vigilante (Oz’s Lee Tergesen) rescues would-be victims.
The trio of Jenna (Hannah Emily Anderson), Lila (Lili Simmons), and Rick (Colin Woodell) make for an interesting storyline. Rick and Jenna hope to make a deal with an elite group of rich people. This leads to a run-in with Lila, who once acted as a “third” for the couple. This sexual experimentation ended badly, and now they’re all trying to find their feet. I’d hoped to see the show explore poly relationships, since that’s such a rare topic for US television, at least in a positive light. But this is the Purge, so yeah.
Stand-out performances come from Warren as Jane, and Garza as Penelope. Tergesen is always reliable. Fiona Dourif, who plays cult leader Tavis, doesn’t get much screen time, but she kills it (no wonder, though–her imdb page reveals roles on Deadwood, True Blood, and the film, Curse of Chucky).
Quick question: How could you trust any independent contractors for security systems? Isn’t that just asking to be murdered?
SPOILERS from here out.
When it turns out that the vigilante was collecting people who wronged him in minor ways (made up of characters from each story thread), we see who he really is. On a date with Jane, Joe made constant racist comments, inferring that she’s successful due to Affirmative Action, and expressed his relief that she wasn’t “sassy and loud.” Penelope didn’t thank him for holding the door open, so Joe’s gonna purge her, too. Hey folks, Joe’s an asshole! True to form, once the “cease purging” alarm sounds he expects everyone to be cool with what he’s done because it’s “legal.”
The season has its flaws. Penelope’s hot potato from villain to villain reaches absurd levels, and the trio story has a slow start. It’s definitely upsetting when Joe murders Jane after all she’s been through and left me wondering what the point of her story was. A woman in a man’s world is screwed, no matter how hard they fight?
For a ‘Purge’ story to work, we have to empathize with the characters, otherwise they’re no different from the goofy roadside deaths we see for seconds at a time. This first season does land a few of those emotional blows, but for some viewers, the show might take too long to get there. Here’s hoping Season 2 will find its feet quicker.