For anyone who doesn’t already know, The Purge started as a series of films, and was later turned into a television series by the USA network. It takes place in an alternate universe where once every year, for twelve hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. The theory behind the annual Purge is that if people can all get out their aggression and frustration, crime will become non-existent the other 364 days and twelve hours… supposedly.
The first film was a fusion of social commentary and horror/thriller that was actually pretty great. The second and third films were more action oriented and followed a tough-as-nails protagonist over two separate Purge nights. I will admit that I have not seen The First Purge, a prequel that details the first experimental Purge that was performed on Staten Island.
The first season of the television series focused on interconnected stories over the course of a single Purge night, and was a pretty good freshman outing. It covered a plethora of different scenarios, gave the characters room to grow, and even managed to bring all the stories together for a finale that, I thought, worked well.
The second season was recently released on Hulu, and I can say I was pleasantly surprised with what it had to offer.
Once the Sirens Stop
The second season of The Purge starts off roughly two hours before the end of the annual Purge. Much like the first season, we are greeted with several stories at once, each following a different set of protagonists. One is of a couple who are attacked in their home, another is a group of bank robbers who only pull heists on Purge night, one is a woman who works with the NFFA to monitor the local CCTV footage for anything that constitutes a crime during the Purge or anyone caught still committing a crime immediately afterword, and the final story is that of two college students who are attacked while out on a dare.
What makes the second season so compelling is that after the first episode, we get to see what life is like for these people for the rest of the year. We get to see how the traumas they experienced for twelve hours bleed into the rest of their lives, and how they immediately begin planning for the next year.
It’s chilling to watch people joke about (or be serious about) purging someone who merely inconvenienced them. People try to gauge how serious others are, but there is no way to tell for sure. It’s like everyone has the Sword of Damocles hanging over them for an entire year.
It’s an interesting departure for the series, but I think that it made for much more compelling television. Dont get me wrong, watching ten episodes of “Murder night” was great, but the psychological aspects of the second season were impactful in ways that the first season could only hint at.
The New Founding Fathers of America…
…or the NFFA as it is called in-universe, is a new regime that has taken over America from the inside out. They have imposed strict laws that are categorized into simple groups, and each category of crime comes with a minimum sentence. They are also the people who developed the idea of the Purge from the ground up.
The official reasoning for the Purge is the whole “if you Purge now, you won’t do bad things later.” However, if you’ve watched the the movies (and the first season of the show), you know that their goal is much more sinister. Their actual motives are to cut the chaff from the wheat. They want to get rid of the lower class by having them destroy themselves, while all the rich socialites sit in their ivory towers and laugh.
A large portion of the second season is about the negative effects of the Purge and the lengths the NFFA will go to to cover them up. While The Purge: Election Year got into this a little bit, with the main story revolving around the NFFA attempting to assassinate a senator who wanted to ban the Purge, the second season of the show gives us a more measured view of their efforts over the course of an entire year.
Commencing at the Siren
The icing on the cake of the second season is getting to see all the storylines come to fruition during the next Purge. All of the tension and drama ramps up as fears are realized, plans are executed, and everyone loses their goddamn minds.
It’s almost like the show shifts genres completely, which is something you don’t often get in serialized television. One week, you’re watching a tense drama about people playing a game of mental chess with one another, and then suddenly you have an almost post-apocalyptic action/drama with everyone’s lives on the line.
I spent the entire episode leading up to the commencement of the Purge with my fists clenched, just waiting for it to start. I think I even yelled at the screen a few times trying to urge everyone to move faster. I mean, the Purge was about to start, so they really needed to pick up the pace.
I may also have spent the majority of that time criticizing most of the characters for wasting an entire year of planning. I mean, if you know that people are going to try and kill you, maybe dig a moat around your house or something.
The Urge to Purge
Overall, I saw the second season of The Purge as a marked improvement over the first. They used the fact that it’s a longform television series to their advantage, and managed to give us a glimpse into the world of The Purge that didn’t involve people in neon masks staring menacingly for ten straight episodes.
I think it also managed to demonstrate the potential of the series as a whole. They now have a whole world available to them, and the fact that they don’t have any particular main character or setting allows them to jump around as they see fit. They can choose any city at any time and it would work. They could go anthology and make every episode in a season about a different character. The world is their oyster as long as they are open to the possibilities.
I’m giving the second season of The Purge a tensely threatening 8/10. The score is in hopes that USA sees the potential and continues to explore this fascinating–albeit repugnant–version of reality.