Amazon has been trying to strike gold a second time in Hunters. A big, vigilante themed series about a group of rouges taking down a key part of the American infrastructure is exactly like The Boys. They Boys was marketed to hell and back, and seemed to pay off in major ratings. This second attempt brings in Jordan Peele to produce a series about hunting Nazis in 1970s America.
The show follows Jonah, an unsure 20 something in 1977 New York. He is thrusted into the hunt when his grandma (safta), a survive of the Holocaust, is shot dead by a home invader and told by a family friend, Meyer Offerman, that she was killed by a former Nazi SS officer. Meyer offers Jonah a chance to join a group called The Hunt and get justice for not just his safta, but the millions of people killed by the Nazis. Meanwhile, the Nazis have a plan of their own they plan to enact.
The series clearly comes from a place of love for both pulp Nazi serials, comic books, and the true history of what America did to get ahead in the Cold War. It presents in a strong, intersectional approach of the minority groups fighting against the majority.
The two groups of characters and actors portraying them is the best part of the series, and the reason to watch. Every member of the Hunters feels very defined. From the black activist Roxie who is doing an amazing blacksplotation character with nuance, to waning actor Lonny Flash, Vietnam vet Joe, and Holocaust survivors Murry and Mindy each have a great deal of depth, emotion and fun with their performances. They aren’t all explored great, and some are given major secrets that make them feel hollow, but they work.
Similarly the villains all play up the fact they are in a pulp action story by being total cartoons. Greg Austin’s Travis, an American neo-Nazi (I got autocorrected to emo nazi which is totally accurate) who tries to prove his worth is a real standout. His speeches are just so terrifying that you believe it. He was also in the short lived Dr Who spin off Class which he is excellent in.
Of course the standout and selling point is Al Pacino as the philanthropic leader of the Hunter, Meyer Offerman. He is as great as you could imagine. He really nails the Jewish grandpa vibe he is going for. He just totally disappears, and it is wonderful. His chemistry with lead actor Logan Lerman is strong too. Logan is fine in the role, but Jonah is the weakest character out of the group.
The shoes structure is also fantastic. It feels like so many made for streaming series lose how to plot an episode. This series remembers. Every episode gives the characters a strong goal to go after. Usually this means a Nazi to kill or plan to foil with the b-plot building the next adventure. It allows individual episodes to stand out, but feels like you can watch it in one sitting and feel satisfied.
The series really wants to present some historically accurate information in purposefully incorrect ways to get the point. This means the show does have a tonal problems that often hinder the experiences. As stated above the heroes have depth in their pulp, but the villains do not. This leads to moments of wacky villainy mixed with real emotion that throws you for a loop.
The constant gag cutaways do not help. These cutaways, like Alabama being filled with Nazi, an action movie montage for each member of the Hunters, a “How to Spot a Nazi” PSA, and “Why people had the Jews” game show are all striking jokes. Only they do not feel like part of the series narrative. This makes them jarring tone shifts that ruin the experience.
Overall I would say the show is solid. It has some inventive villain plots. The characters are enjoyable enough. The season finale is distinct as far as show like this go, and the ending is strong. The problem is that there is a twist. The twist does bring up interesting ideas. The problem is that they are not explored in a meaningful way. This ends up putting a rotten taste in your mouth. I am interested to see where the show goes, but it does have some work.
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