The Purge has earned its place among horror fans as something of a modern-day slasher franchise, and it’s seemingly mastered the sweet spot between scary-as-hell and moments of relatable comedy. We see this balance perfected with the arrival of The First Purge as it focuses on a small-scale social experiment on Staten Island that led to the Purge becoming an annual nationwide event.

It’s this closer look that reveals the film’s nefarious beginnings at the hands of a nationalist political party known as The New Founding Fathers. It’s long been established that the institution of the Purge targets underprivileged communities above all others, and white, wealthy Purgers are a central fixture of every iteration of the franchise. That theme was brought sharply into focus with the franchise’s prequel. But how exactly does this film build a bedrock for the subsequent Purge chapters?

Spoilers for The First Purge follow below.

the first purge
Let's purge, baby.

The First Purge’s Ending, Explained

The First Purge introduces the insidious nature of the annual event’s inception, with the original purge paying participants on Staten Island a lump sum of a $5,000 (more if they actively engage) for their attendance. But when Purgers prove fewer than the experiment anticipated, The New Founding Fathers initiate an organized militia for the party’s intended murder and mayhem.

Neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan members, and Russian mercenaries descend on the island to carry out horrific violence on citizens who appear unengaged in purging, even against the protestations of the experiment’s architect. By orchestrating some of the evening’s most gruesome assaults, the government acknowledges its own contrived success rate that it later uses as a marketing tool. In a mid-credits teaser, we’re assured the New Founding Fathers has its sights on a nationwide purge within a year’s time.

The Purge
When your kindly neighbors are serial killers.

How The First Purge Sets Up the Other Purge Films

The film’s ending and mid- and post-credits teasers pretty clearly lay the foundation of what’s next for the experiment, while at the same time underscoring the government manipulation that made its case for nationwide application. The messaging around the Purge within its cinematic America has been clear since the release of the first film: low unemployment and crime rates, and an opportunity to become “reborn” with the promise of no legal repercussions. But these tactics feel especially hollow with the curtain pulled back on the government’s own intentionally misleading messaging to the American public from day one.

With an aptly titled The Purge TV series arriving later this summer and a follow-up to this year’s film likely already in the works, there are plenty of ways the franchise can and will continue expanding its universe. A lot of glaring questions about this dystopian nightmare were addressed explicitly in The First Purge, if only leaving one unanswered: Who the hell signed off on this?

The First Purge is in theaters now. The Purge series premieres on September 4 at 10 p.m. Eastern on USA Network.