“This Is Not A Test” introduces a clever new idea for a Purge property, exploring what happens during the rest of the year.
This recap of The Purge Season 2, Episode 1, “This Is Not A Test”, contains spoilers.
The idea behind The Purge has always been genius: For 12 hours a year, all crime — including, as we’re reminded in a chilling, darkly funny opening sequence, murder — is legalized and emergency services are stood down. It’s a societal pressure valve that, in four films and the first season of USA’s series, has been revealed to be a form of population control by the enigmatic New Founding Fathers of America. We saw the first Purge and the last, and several in-between, and we met characters whose right to Purge was tested and explored from multiple angles. But The Purge Season 2, Episode 1 suggests one more angle worth exploring: What exactly happens for the rest of the year?
A lot of “This Is Not A Test” occurs within an NFFA surveillance center during the waning hours of the annual purge. Our point-of-view character here is Esme (Paola Nunez), but all the intrigue comes from getting to see the nuts and bolts of how this bizarre tradition is controlled and shut down. The rules seem somewhat arbitrary but are enforced mercilessly, with violators being scanned and logged by the Big Brother-style network, sentenced to execution.
This stuff gets the bulk of the episode’s focus, as well as how it affects those actually on the ground during Purge night, including Ryan (Max Martini) and his semi-professional outfit, Marcus (Derek Luke) and Michelle (Rochelle Aytes), the former of whom might be an important enough target to someone that the Purge ending may not save him, and Ben (Joel Allen). These three threads — four if you include what’s going on behind the scenes — are entertainingly introduced in The Purge Season 2, Episode 1 through fun scenes of carnage, many of them viewed within the ambit of the NFFA security monitors. The action is well-staged and involving and the characters, portrayed by enthusiastic and talented lesser-known actors, seem to have legs. This is a premiere that suggests a lot of promise going forward.