And so it goes. Oscillating from plot to plot, the show’s structure does a reasonably good job of conjuring tension, without establishing enough interest in the characters to be consistently engaging, beyond the natural empathy that someone would feel for ordinary folks thrust into such perilous, unnerving situations.
Then again, the concept behind “The Purge” as the movies have developed has been to have your cake and eat it too — to exploit the horror-tinged aspects of the story while pivoting to address social issues and societal violence in a way intended to feel deeper and more relevant.
Because the franchise has become a major success, it’s hard to second-guess the formula, and USA is treating the show like a big deal, simulcasting the premiere on its sister network Syfy.
Clearly, there’s a market for thoughtful, provocative science fiction, and with the more expansive canvas that TV allows, DeMonaco seeks to tap into that vein, fashioning a template that basically works. Where the series falls short, ultimately, is in the execution — or more accurately in “Purge” world, executions.
“The Purge” premieres Sept. 4 at 10 p.m. on USA and Syfy.