A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Purge is a futuristic horror series (based on a series of films) built around a fictional night during which Americans can legally commit any crime, including murder. Violence is intense and strong: Characters are in mortal danger and can die at any time. Deaths do take place on-screen, but most violence is seen in long shots or in silhouette, with some blood but no gore. Disturbing scenes include a man being dragged behind a car, a teen being killed by people wielding hatchets, a young girl chained to a ceiling, and a group of teens offering themselves up to be murdered in a ceremony with religious overtones. Sexual content is less frequent, but includes a group sex scene with two women and a man (they are all nude in bed, kissing, but private parts are not visible). Cursing includes "goddammit," "damn," "s--t," "a--hole," "bastards," and "hell." Women and people of color have strong, central roles, and the series has more on its mind than pointless violence -- it has some things to say about religion, politics, and class.
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What's the story?
Sometime in an apocalyptic future America, a shadowy political group known as the New Founding Fathers has seized control of the federal government -- and instituted THE PURGE, a 12-hour night each year in which all crimes, including murder, are legal. Naturally, such a night is going to cause a bit of furor for everyone. But some have more at stake than others: Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), a tough former Marine on the trail of his disturbed sister, Penelope (Jessica Garza), who has taken up with a cult with some very strange ideas about redemption. Powerful financier Jane Barber (Amanda Warren), who hates someone enough to pay a Purger to arrange a hit while she attempts to close a major deal. And Rick (Colin Woodell) and Jenna (Hannah Anderson), a married couple who attend an ultra-right, ultra-rich Purge Night party in hopes of soaking up an investment for their own purposes.
Is it any good?
This spooky, compelling series proves that a night in which every crime is legal makes a dandy idea for a series -- not just a movie (or four). Some pretty deft storytelling is afoot here, and those who have a taste for darker entertainment will be sucked in by the very first world-building episode. The line between the haves and have nots is stark, particularly on the big night, when the rich hide behind high-tech security systems and the poor behind plywood panels, despite the fact, as an opening news radio voice-over tells us, that Purgers are increasingly targeting such easy-to-break-into homes. And, the series soon reveals, the Purge itself was specifically engineered to get rid of said have nots; it's "the Great Liquidator," in the parlance of one rich creep who has a lot to gain from the 99 percent offing each other.
Meanwhile, several other plotlines keep things boiling on other burners. Just who does Jane want dead enough to risk her own safety, and what's involved in this big-money deal important enough for a Purge Night all-nighter? What's Penelope's motivation for joining a blue-robed cult that sells sacrificial suicide? The twists are slowly doled out, but this show's nicely handled shots of menace and creepy visuals keep things snappy. At one point, a panicked Jane runs into a man sharpening a huge blade in the basement of her building. He smiles and calls out in a friendly way, "Don't worry. It's not for you!" But if you think that makes Jane safe, The Purge has another think coming for you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Purge's strong violence. Is the violence necessary to express the show's point of view? Could it have been less violent? More violent?
Have you seen any of the films on which this series is based? If so, how are they alike or different from this series? How does a show get many hours out of a concept that also works for a movie that's less than two hours long?