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Series / The Purge

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The Purge is a ten-episode miniseries airing on USA Network. It is based on the movie of the same name.

One night a year, all crime is legal for twelve hours. This series follows the efforts of several smaller players as they try to stay alive after getting caught outside during the Purge.

The show has been renewed for a second season, which began on October 15, 2019. The second season takes a different tack, exploring the aftermath of several characters' decisions at the end of a Purge Night.


This series contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: In a world where all crime is legal for one night a year, there are a whole lot of people out there who've become adept at being friendly and sociable for most of the year knowing that they'll be able to let out their darkest impulses during the Purge. Special mention goes to Rex, a friendly and charming rancher who makes his living kidnapping people during the Purge and selling them to the Carnival of Flesh.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: More serious crimes (called "R-level" felonies) are now punishable by death on the next Purge. This was apparently the result of a fictional Constitutional Amendment (and possibly the Purge itself too), along with restricting accuseds' rights to due process. As a result, there is greater deterrence for crimes committed outside the Purge itself (in real life, the US Supreme Court has ruled that only offenses resulting in death can be subject to capital punishment, necessitating such an amendment).
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  • Amicable Exes: Marcus is on good terms with his ex-wife Tonya, to the point that she and her new husband team up with him and Michelle on Purge Night. It helps that their marriage fell apart mainly because of differing priorities rather than serious transgressions.
  • Artistic License – Military: Miguel, a former Marine, describes himself to another person as a soldier. Army personnel are soldiers, Marines are Marines. While there are any number of nicknames he might use — "Jarhead", "Devil Dog", etc. — generically referring to himself as a soldier wouldn't happen.
  • Assassin Outclassin': David (or his bodyguards) end up killing Bracka.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • In "Rise Up", a group of anti-NFFA gunmen storm the Stanton house and slaughter everyone they can get their hands on. Considering that most of the guests are either hardcore NFFA supporters or the kind of people willing to do business with borderline-fascists, it's hard to feel sorry for any of them.
    • In "House of Mirrors", Ben murders Andy in cold blood to stop him from telling anyone that Ben killed the farmer. Considering that Andy's a misogynistic creep who fantasizes about murdering girls for rejecting his advances, he kinda had it coming.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • Jane is nearly raped by a Purger after she leaves the safety of her office, but is saved by the Matron Saints, a group of women who make it their mission to protect women on Purge night.
    • It nearly happens again two episodes later, when David has her tied up in his gallery, but Joe interrupts this time.
    • In the second-season premiere, Ben is nearly sodomized by a masked purger.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Stantons are so enamored by the Purge that they see the Manson Family as their spiritual forefathers. They're prominent financial backers of the NFFA.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: In a twist, Marcus is a licensed doctor who is forced to become a back-alley doctor temporarily in exchange for information on who put the bounty on his head.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Jane is being held at David's house, she asks Anya to call the Matron Saints. When the power is cut, it looks like Anya came through, only for Joe to show up and free everyone. As the two drive off, the Matron Saints show up, meaning Anya did call them and Joe just beat them to the punch.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Catalina helps Jenna and Rick escape from the anti-NFFA group because Jenna treated her better than the other Stanton guests ever did.
  • Benevolent Boss: Jane to Allison and her coworker, leaving her horrified when Allison purges him.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Season 2 shows that the ubiquitous cameras are being monitored by NFFA personnel who are tasked with identifying violations of the Purge conditions. Assuming the violator survives the night, the cops are sent to arrest them.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The first season ends with all but Jenna, Miguel, Penelope and Pete dead, but Jenna escapes to France with her baby while Miguel and Penelope are helping people by driving a triage van. France is debating their own version of the Purge, however.
    • The second season ends with Ryan and Esme dead, but Esme has managed to broadcast proof that the NFFA is breaking the law by killing off-Purge to disguise the fact that the Purge isn't working. This inspires a larger movement to get rid of the Purge. But Ben has gone full psycho, showing there's a long way to go.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Jane is the first of the show's main characters to be killed.
  • Blood Sport:
    • During the Purge, Miguel is forced into the Gauntlet, a makeshift death course where he either reaches the end and wins a car or gets killed. He succeeds.
    • The Carnival of Flesh offers paying Purgers the chance to kill people in ways from all across history, like firing squads or the guillotine.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • In the opening minutes of episode two, Jane watches as Bracka shoots a Purger in the head.
    • This ends up being how Bracka dies.
    • And David follows in the next episode, courtesy of Jane.
    • In a flashback, Lila does this to an old man that her parents got her for her first purge.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The reason behind the hit on Marcus is revealed to be because his neighbor Clint blames Marcus for the death of his wife, who died of complications during a routine procedure Marcus performed. When Marcus moved into the neighborhood years later, he didn't even recognize Clint.
  • The Cameo: James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) shows up in the final episode of season 2, during a flashback to the set up for the first Purge. He sold the NFFA the security system being used for the broadcast booth.
  • Cleanup Crew: After the Purge, private housekeeping services and city workers are shown cleaning up after the Purge the same way one might cleanup after a wild party. Bodies are left on the curb for dedicated disposal units to collect, with people being advised of possible health risks when handling corpses.
  • Comedic Sociopathy:
    • When Jane finds Alison standing over the dead body of her rival for the promotion, Alison calmly asks her if she's going to tell HR about the promotion, or if Alison has to do it herself. It isn't until after her promotion is in doubt that she starts freaking out.
    • After the sirens go off announcing the end of the Purge, Joe suddenly becomes all friendly with Miguel and Penelope, trying to act like he wasn't trying to kill them a minute earlier and cheerfully tells them he'll see them again next year. Miguel shoots him in the kneecaps and shoves him into a pool to drown.
  • Cool Car: For surviving the Gauntlet, Miguel wins a pristine 1971 Chevelle SS. He barters it to Pete in exchange for information on the Givers bus.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Miguel and Penelope are survivors of the first Purge.
    • David Ryker's security system was bought from the Sandins. Just like in that film, it doesn't stop someone determined to get in.
    • Dr. Updale's book is brought up by Andy. There are rumors that she killed herself after the first Purge, while Andy insists she died Purging. Fitting with the theme of the season, both are wrong.
    • When the neighbors attempt to break into Marcus's house on Purge night, they use a truck to rip off the outer door then Molotov cocktails in an attempt to smoke the occupants out. Both of these were either performed or suggested as ways to beat the security system in the first film.
  • Deadly Euphemism: The cult to which Penelope belongs talks about "Giving", making it sound as though they go around trying to help people during the Purge. In reality, what they do is offer themselves up to be killed by Purgers, in the mistaken belief that their deaths will satisfy the Purgers' need for violence and they'll go into "the Invisible".
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: To protect his son from NFFA death squads that would try to purge him, Marcus breaks his son's arm hours before the Purge so he'll have an injury serious enough to warrant being treated at the hospital, which is off-limits during the Purge.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: "Hail Mary" opens with a scene from a children's show where the host cheerfully tells kids that if their mommies and daddies decide to kill them during the Purge, well, that's their right as Americans.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In the third episode, a Purger is seen killing a taxi driver and blowing up his cab just because the guy asked for a tip.
    • In the seventh, Jenna and Rick's neighbor breaks into their home to kill them for such slights as cutting down his tree and parking in his spot. Lila stabs him in the back of the neck before he gets the chance.
    • Joe kidnaps people who wronged him in the past, starting with his high school bully. In particular, he targets Jane simply because she ditched him after a bad first impression during a date and Penelope for not thanking him for holding a door open.
    • In the second season, Ben stabs a man to death for (apparently) shortchanging him. This is really more about violent tendencies coming out due to his traumatic experience on the Purge, though.
  • Dirty Cop: Ryan's bank-robbing crew were all former cops, but quit in disgust when they learned their chief and several other officers were running protection for a cartel drug lord on Purge night.
  • Distant Finale: The final scene is set a year later just before the start of the next Purge. Jenna has moved to France to avoid the Purge, while Miguel and Penelope are now running a triage van to help its victims.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A Purge event for rich patrons in season 2 is sponsored by the Daughters of the NFFA, who take their name from the Daughters of the Confederacy, a white supremacist advocacy group.
  • Due to the Dead: Remembrance Day, which comes three months after the Purge, has the government deliver remembrance boxes to those who lost loved ones, containing among other things an urn and a yellow flower to wear on Remembrance Day. The whole thing serves to reinforce the idea that those that died gave their lives to make the country a better place. It echoes both the name of a holiday and its practices which Anglophone countries (the UK, Canada etc.) use to honor their soldiers who died in World War One, which drives it home further.
  • Enemy Mine: When an attempt to plant an EMP device ahead of their heist goes sideways, which results in the owners of the home locking Ryan's crew inside, Ryan calls his former chief so the police will escort them out under the pretense of arresting them. This also means he has to cut her into the heist for the favor.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Marcus' neighbors were all prepared to kill him for his role in the death of their beloved neighbor Maisy, but they back down in exchange for Marcus settling things personally with her husband Clint so long as Marcus releases the one he took hostage. When Clint decides to stab Michelle instead, his neighbors are disgusted and decide to purge him.
  • Everybody Did It: After much trouble, Marcus finally finds the guy who put the bounty on him and gets him to pull it. It's then revealed the guy only put up $10k of the total $75k, and Marcus realizes that everyone on his block wants him dead.
  • Eye Scream: Penelope stabs Joe in the eye during her escape. He has to remove the implement by hand afterward.
  • Forced to Watch: Henry threatens to gouge out one of Miguel's eyes as payback for Miguel blinding him in one eye in the past, then let him watch as he burns Penelope to death.
  • Foreshadowing: Joe not being as stand-up as the early episodes depict him is foreshadowed by the fact that he listens to the very pro-Purge self-help guru each time he appears.
  • Genre Shift: Season 1 sticks to the standard Purge formula. Season 2 turns it on its head by showing us what happens after the Purge, when you can't just solve all your problems with violence.
  • Get Out!: Clint tells Marcus he'll consider lifting the bounty on him if he gets it out town. Whether or not he was telling the truth though, Marcus can't leave town due to being on a restricted travel list.
  • Good Samaritan:
    • Joe drives around on Purge night rescuing people. Then subverted when it's revealed he kidnaps those he rescues and forces them to participate in a twisted trial.
    • The Matron saints who protect abused women during the purge.
    • Pete the ex-cop provides a refugee in his bar on purge night and is willing to go out anencephaly help people in need.
  • Government Conspiracy: Season 2 suggests that the government is trying to hide the fact that the Purge is causing physiological changes in the brains of people that make them more violent, as they hunt down and kill a neurologist who had made this discovery. This is best demonstrated with Ben, who snaps and kills someone after the Purge for (supposedly) short-changing him, and was clearly looking for any excuse to do it. It's later shown that the government is covering up cases of off-Purge killings, ruling them as suicides or accidental deaths, as this would run counter to the narrative that the Purge helps curb violent impulses the rest of the year. Emma is also targeted by the NFFA when her investigation into the subject crosses their radar, getting her labeled a public enemy.
  • He Knows Too Much: The fate awaiting poor Kellen and not so poor Andy When they find out Ben is killing before Purge Night.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • After being rescued by Jenna and Rick, Lila tells them that her father gave his life to distract the anti-NFFA resistance members so she could escape.
    • Ryan and Esme give their lives during the Purge to broadcast proof of the NFFA's duplicity.
  • Intrepid Reporter:
    • In season one Miguel briefly gets a ride from a pair of European reporters documenting the purge in an effort to ensure its never adopted in Europe.
    • Sydney Riviera, One-time season 2 character is a reporter airing (correct) arguments that the Purge just inspires more violence, getting her threatened by an opposing pundit.
  • Jail Break: It turns out they're perfectly legal on Purge Night, which is exploited to break Tommy out of jail (or rather out of the hunt for prisoners by high paying Purge clients) at the end of season 2.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: When Ben murders a man for supposedly shortchanging him, it was in the heat of the moment and he is worried he'll be caught. When the man's body is found and his death is covered up as heat stroke, Ben realizes he can get away with murder whenever he wants and quickly becomes more brazen in his attempts, murdering an anti-Purge activist and then Andy after Andy reacts badly to him admitting to an off-Purge murder. By the end of the season, he is killing doctors at a trauma center because he doesn't like the fact that they're saving Purge victims.
  • Just Giving Orders: Jane initially tries to rationalize that hiring someone to kill her boss isn't the same as personally killing him herself, but soon changes her mind after watching one of her subordinates murder a co-worker.
  • Just in Time: In the second season's pilot, a bank robbery goes awry when robbers are ambushed by the Jackals, a gang of crooks who target other crooks. A standoff ensues when the robbers hide in the bulletproof teller's booth, managing to just barely escape by hiding a flashbang in one of the loot bags. One robber goes back for the loot as the siren begins. One of his feet is still (just) inside the building as the final siren ends, meaning that he's committed a major crime. His fellow robbers abandon him because they aren't willing to take him at his word that he made it in time. He's soon caught by the police and sentenced to death for a major felony.
  • Kangaroo Court: The mock court Joe runs. He claims if people confess to their "crimes" against him they'll be spared. In the only example we see of that happening though, he kills the prisoner anyway, on the basis that he wasn't sincere.
  • Karma Houdini: In Season 2, Ben escapes any punishment for his killings, both before and during the Purge. His off-Purge killings are either covered up by the NFFA or go unsolved, and those he admits it to either can't prove it or are killed by him. Even when Marcus dumps him outside on Purge night to let the Purgers handle him, he survives and the season ends with him fully embracing his blood lust, making it clear he will continue to kill both during and after the Purge. While there is a chance he'll be exposed by Marcus for his actions inside an off limits hospital, or by his escaped victim Turner who can Point fingers at him as the campus killer, the governments lack of interest in pursuing those cases still might spare Ben hisndeserved comuppance.
  • Kill the Poor: Good Leader Tavis is a sham who lures in those the NFFA considers undesirable so she can manipulate them to willingly let themselves be killed during the Purge.
  • Klingon Promotion: Allison kills her rival for the VP position so Jane will have to promote her. Ironically Jane was already going to promote Allison and the rival seemed ok with that.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: The Purge has made Pete cynical, but he readily jumps into action to help Miguel rescue Penelope.
  • Loophole Abuse: Though people can't commit crimes the other 364 days of the year without being punished, it's perfectly legal to plan such crimes as long as no laws are broken doing so. Ryan sets up his score for next Purge night by casing the banks and how they move their money so he'll know exactly where to strike next year, and though it's plenty suspicious and gets him tagged by NFFA surveillance, it's all perfectly legal and they can't bust him for any of it.
  • Mark of Shame: The Matron Saints brand "PIG" on the foreheads of any domestic abusers they catch, so women know never to associate with that person.
  • Mexican Standoff: The season 2 premiere has some bank robbers and a gang trying to rob them stalemated in a bank. The robbers are barricaded in a bulletproof teller box with a gang member as a hostage, while the gang has greater numbers. Both sides have less than an hour before the Purge ends, at which point anyone still in the bank will be guilty of trespassing at the very least. The gang leader breaks the stalemate by threatening to kill the robbers' getaway driver, betting that they care more about their man than he does about his. The robbers, in turn, hide a flashbang in one of the money bags and escape in the confusion when it goes off.
  • Missed Him by That Much: As he's trying to catch the Givers bus, Miguel stops the creepy nuns and asks for directions, unaware that they have Penelope. Once he finds the bus, Miguel is told what happened by Tavis.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Marcus has to interact with his ex wife and her new husband Andre (an old friend) while trying to find out who wants him dead. In the end, both show up to help him.
  • Motive Rant:
    • As she makes her arrangements with Bracka, Jane launches into a whole speech about why her boss has to die. Bracka puts up with it for a minute or two, then finally cuts Jane off, telling her that she really doesn't need to know why.
    • Once Joe reveals who he really is, he launches into a steady steam of motive rants, complaining about everything from his non-existent love life to clients who screw him out of money to people who don't thank him for holding the door for them.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Jane confronts Allison about killing to get the promotion, Allison points out that she knows about Jane putting a hit on David. Realizing she's little better than Allison, Jane tries to call it off and heads out to stop it herself when she can reach neither Bracka or David. After learning what David's really like, she changes her mind and kills him herself.
  • Naturalized Name: Esme's full name is Esmeralda Carmona. It's likely she shortened her first name to fit in better in New Orleans.
  • Neck Snap: Henry meets his end when Miguel snaps his neck.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Penelope threatens to kill one of her fellow captives in Joe's cage, knowing he's so psychotically obsessed with revenge that he'll do anything to stop it. When he gets too close, the other victim reveals she was playing along and rushes him, allowing Penelope to stab him in the eye.
  • Nun Too Holy: After being removed from the bus, Penelope is set upon by a bunch of creeps in nun habits accented by strips of white lights. They deliver her to the Carnival of Flesh.
  • The Only One Allowed To Kill You: Joe saves several people from purgers because he has personal grudges against each of them and wants to kill them himself.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: An anti-Purge group storms a manor where NFFA members and donors are gathered on Purge night and slaughters the lot of them.
  • Police Brutality: When someone is arrested after Purge night, the police mercilessly beat him while reading him his rights.
  • Police State: We usually see the universe of the Purge through the lens of its brutal, lawless titular event. Season 2 shows that everyone is constantly monitored and committing crime of any kind will have the police sent after you in minutes the other 364 days of the year (or for violating the rules of the Purge — this also explains how they even enforce those, as otherwise it would be logistically impossible). Depending on the violation, suspects can also potentially be stripped of their rights as citizens, showing that the government prevents crime on off-Purge days through draconian punishments (it's later revealed capital punishment is used liberally for all major felonies).
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • David Ryker, Jane's boss, is extremely sexist. On Purge night, he hosts a party where the guests can molest women through their clothing, specifically because he isn't allowed to do it the rest of the year. If the women go along with it, they get to live.
    • Joe is later shown to be one. He insinuates Jane, who is black, only get her job because of the business she worked for wanting to fill diversity quotas, and implies that Penelope isn't a real American because she's Latina, asking what country her family is from.
  • Private Investigator: Isabel Shaw, who Marcus hires to figure out who put a bounty on him(although she spends a while in a false lead).
  • Professional Killer:
    • In the first episode, Jane hires Bracka to purge her asshole boss in revenge for him passing her over for promotion.
    • Marcus is attacked by one at the beginning of season 2.
  • Property Line: A variant occurs in season 2 when Tommy is arrested for a bank robbery because his heel was still inside the bank when the clock ran down.
  • Reality Ensues: We get to see the immediate aftermath of the Purge, and it's as bad as you'd imagine. The city has to mobilize scores of cleanup crews to deal with all the death, while the emergency services like hospitals are overwhelmed by those who were wounded but survived the night.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: When one of the cult members gets cold feet and tries to get out of sacrificing herself, Tavis has her forced out because she's been selected by God to be killed. In fact, she's paid by the NFFA to kill them, so it's her job to make sure they die.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: Catalina more or less invokes this when asked why she's part of an anti-Purge group (with the implication she was the one who let them in to slaughter a large number of NFFA members and donors at the manor she was working).
    Catalina: Sometimes, revolution is the only way to make the world a better place.
  • Sanity Slippage: Clint in season 2 tries to invoke Villain Has a Point when it comes to light that he was the one who put the hit on Marcus. Clint rationalizes that it was because Marcus botched a surgery on his wife and didn't face him to apologize. After his first attempt at a hit failed, as Marcus manages to kill his would-be killer in self-defense, Clint clearly begins to lose his marbles in the following years' purge, trying to strong arm his neighbors and threatening to kill anyone in the crossfire to get to Marcus.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: After the sirens go off announcing the end of the Purge, Joe suddenly becomes all friendly with Miguel and Penelope, trying to act like he wasn't trying to kill them a minute earlier and cheerfully tells them he'll see them again next year. Miguel shoots him in the kneecaps and shoves him into a pool to drown, with Pete just saying that it sounded like Miguel did it during the Purge. As season 2 shows, were it not for the fact that they were in an abandoned school at the time, he'd probably have been arrested.
  • Sidekick: Pete arguably fills this role, being Miguel's main ally as he tries to find his sister. He's arguably a Hypercompetent Sidekick given his own combat skills and useful connections throughout the community.
  • The Social Darwinist: Albert Stanton is a firm believer in the idea that the Purge will weed out the unfit.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Rick and Jenna's baby turned out to be this for her.
  • Taking the Bullet: Vivian does this for Esme when their boos tries to kill Esme. Lucky for her, he only shoots once before Esme kills him and doesn't hit anything vital, so she survives the night.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Good Leader Tavis likes to shower her followers with "my darlings" and kisses as she sends them out to be slaughtered by Purgers.
  • Time Skip: Season 2 jumps ahead bit by bit as we follow the characters' lives between Purges, eventually leading up to the next one.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: "Before the Sirens" opens with a scene with a bunch of teenage girls dressing up in provocative outfits and choosing weapons to go purging. When one of the girls' dads butts in, she growls at him threateningly.
  • Truce Zone: During the Purge, Pete's Cantina serves as a neutral territory for those who know the right password. All weapons have to be checked at the door.
  • True Companions: Ryan and his crew, with the others promising to look after his family if anything happens to him and the group working to save Tommy from jail.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Season 2 shows a Purge-themed VR arcade game. It has pretty realistic graphics and interactions, the goal evidently being to Purge as many people as possible until the siren signals the end of the Purge. A father thinks nothing of having his kid play it, demonstrating how blasé people can be about the Purge, since it can be so easily commercialized in this fashion.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: When Miguel knocks out Rex and releases the mother/son duo that Rex was delivering to the Carnival of Flesh, telling them to find shelter, the son grabs Rex's gun and demands the truck instead. Miguel easily disarms him and admonishes him for turning on someone that just helped him on Purge Night. The son's desperation is justified, however, as Miguel is essentially dumping them in the middle of nowhere with very little means to survive other than advice to hunker down. Miguel gives slightly better advice after the disarming, advising the pair to find a triage van, who will shelter them until the night ends.
  • Vigilante Man: Joe rescues people from others, killing Purgers in the process. It turns out he then puts them on trial for various petty "offenses" against him though.
  • Vigilante Militia: There's a group of women called the Matron Saints who work to protect women from rape and other violence from Purgers.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: A sympathetic example with Esmeralda (and eventually her coworker Vivian), security monitors who becomes disillusioned with their employers.
  • Yandere: When Jenna tries to cut things off with Lila, she snaps and tries to murder Rick to preserve their relationship. Jenna kills Lila before she can follow through.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: This is Jane's reaction to Joe putting her on trial for their bad date. The absurdity of it on top of everything else she's dealt with causes her to stop caring completely and call him out on it, even though he's the one with the gun.


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