The world of “The Purge” was pretty thoroughly imagined before it hit our TV screens on the USA Network Tuesday night. Through four films, the franchise put together a vision of America in the near future that has instituted a unique and horrific way of keeping crime and poverty down: one night a year when all crime, including murder, is completely legal.
We’ve learned a lot about how the Purge came to be through the film franchise, and now the 10-part series is primed to explore it even more. It jumps right into the world created in the “Purge” movies, picking one night and telling the stories of multiple people of differing backgrounds and intentions as they try to survive the Purge.
If you’re unfamiliar with the films, though, “The Purge” can be a bit confusing because so much of it has already been developed. For starters, the show mentions the “NFFA” without offering too much explanation of who they are, or why they matter. The NFFA is actually essential to the version of America seen in “The Purge,” and will undoubtedly play a big role during the season, as well.
“NFFA” stands for “New Founding Fathers of America.” In “The Purge” lore, it’s a political party that took power in 2014, and controls the government throughout the time shown in the film series — the original film in the franchise, 2013’s “The Purge,” puts the date for that story at 2022.
In “The First Purge,” which came out earlier this year, we get a sense of how the NFFA and the Purge night came to be. In the story, the NFFA, a highly conservative and religious political party, was voted into power in 2014, following years of economic turmoil that started to become social strife. Unemployment and poverty were high, and that was leading to a rise in crime, especially in depressed areas. Americans voted for a change, and that meant the NFFA.
Once it had power, though, the NFFA had to actually solve the problems its constituents expected it to handle. The answer was a social experiment dreamed up by a scientist named Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), who believed that a night in which people could express their violent urges really would be good for the country. Backed by the NFFA, the experiment was carried out in 2015 on Staten Island in “The First Purge.”
Updale realized she was wrong and that people really didn’t want to give into their worst urges and tendencies on Purge night, but the NFFA used white supremacists and mercenaries to skew the results of the experiment and make it look like, when the opportunity to purge arose, many people took part. The NFFA also murdered Updale to hide the fact that it sent killers to Staten Island to attack people. What the audience knows, but not all Americans who live under the NFFA do, is that the Purge’s real purpose is to thin out the population — specifically, the poor and disadvantaged, who can’t afford to protect themselves. The NFFA solved America’s economic problems by sanctioning the killing of vulnerable people.
In the other “Purge” movies, the NFFA are basically rich, white Christian arch-conservatives who enjoy extremely comfortable lives, and have made the Purge a part of their religion. They’ve bought their own line about how important it is to take advantage of the night, but all the movies make comments about class and race by showing NFFA members (and other rich folks) creating elaborate and decadent parties and other situations in which they can enjoy murdering poor people and minorities.
The first episode of “The Purge” includes some of those same ideas, with two characters heading to a Purge party at the home of a rich member of the NFFA party, in hopes of making a business deal. Though the premiere episode only counts down to “commencement” of the Purge night, it’s a fair bet that we’ll be seeing more of the NFFA in the show, and that they won’t be very nice people.
“The Purge” airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on USA Network with the premiere and finale episodes simulcast on SYFY.