Arts and Entertainment

“Hunters” is the Wild Ride of a Series You Have to Take

Amazon’s “Hunters” is a magnificent series whose unique in-your-face style will leave you haunted but eager for more.

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Ingeniously crafted storytelling and epic theatrics combine to make Amazon Prime’s “Hunters” a wild ride for any viewer, offering some of the most spectacular twists and turns of any series I’ve ever watched. Though it takes an episode to really get the action going, the finale will leave you stunned and on the edge of your seat, for it is unlike anything you have ever watched or will ever watch again. Shocking reveal after another in this one-hour-and-seven-minute masterpiece left me on a high for the next several days.

Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), a Brooklynite teenager with a sharp mind and strong will, has his whole life thrown out of balance when his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor named Ruth (Jeannie Berlin), is shot and killed in her home in the summer of 1977. He then learns that the man who killed her was a Nazi officer whom his grandmother was tracking secretly. However, she wasn’t doing this alone. She enlisted the help of an old friend and fellow inmate, Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), who had become a wealthy businessman in the 32 years since the Holocaust. Together, they assembled an elite band of vigilantes to track down and kill all the other Nazis who were brought over to America in Operation Paperclip at the end of the Second World War, avenging the lives of the millions who were killed in the Holocaust. Eager for the chance to bring his grandmother’s murderer to justice, Jonah joins them in her place, hoping to track down the elusive “Wolf,” who tortured Ruth and Meyer physically and psychologically in Auschwitz.

Just days after joining, Jonah and the rest of the “hunters” are shocked to learn that Nazis have been hiding in high ranking government positions, allowing them to devise and enact a plan to wipe out minority and low-income communities all over the world. The group must try to keep their existence a secret from the Nazis, hoping to defeat them quietly before it's too late. They are, however, hindered by Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton), a strong, determined FBI agent who is put on the murder investigation of one of the Hunters’ targets, a Nazi chemist who transferred to NASA.

Despite the series’ progressive storytelling and incredible cinematography, it is not without major shortcomings. Jonah’s grandmother leaves behind written memoirs depicting her time in the concentration camps. Along with being the most gruesome, horrific, and haunting scenes that I have ever seen on television, they are pointed out by many experts to be embellished, altering historical content to fit entertainment purposes. For all of the show’s messages about diversity and respecting the victims of the Holocaust, this is downright hypocritical and wrong. The Holocaust was the greatest tragedy in human history, and to embellish or warp its events for the sake of a television series is disturbing to say the least. Perhaps the writers intentionally wanted to make viewers uncomfortable, to have them recognize the horrors so many people had to face, as the creator, David Weil, drew on his grandmother’s experiences during the Holocaust as inspiration for the series. Doing this with non-truths, however, is simply not the way to do it. Hopefully the writers will respond to this backlash and set things right should they continue for another season.

Despite this, “Hunters” offers powerful messages on blind hatred and discrimination in a way that stands out from other shows. Several episodes include short breaks in the story for brief satirical or comedic commentary related to the events of that episode. In particular, the final one of these bits was a game show titled “Why Does Everyone Hate the Jews?” In it, contestants rattle off nonsensical justifications for their anti-Semitism until one simply yells “because they’re Jews.”

From here, the host turns directly to the audience and asks them how often their neighbor, their classmate, their coworkers, their families, or even they themselves have played this game in a monologue that left me with my jaw hanging. It's a brutal and jarring confrontation to the audience, where the fourth wall isn’t just broken, but shattered. We see this show and think that it's just a show, that these ideas don’t affect us. But there are so many people all around us who are full of the same baseless hatred that allowed the Nazis to become so powerful. This is most especially prevalent in the character Travis Leich (Greg Austin), a seemingly average American man, but undoubtedly the most twisted and psychotic character on the show. He appeals as a resourceful combatant to the Nazis, the only non-German member we see in the series. His story is a subtle but potent reminder that anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination don’t belong solely to the Nazis and that there are many Americans that feel, and act, the same way as Travis.

On top of its more progressive storytelling, “Hunters” has a diverse group of characters. The heavy overtones of Jewish faith and culture is rather uncommon in most mainstream media, and though I am not Jewish myself, I found it to be refreshing and interesting to explore a series focused on a culture I am not very familiar with. Every other main protagonist is a person of color, including Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone), whose ex-husband is a leader of the Black Power movement in Manhattan.

The series also has representation for the LGBTQ+ community. One of the most beautiful moments in the show is when Agent Morris’ mother learns of her daughter’s relationship with another woman. Since the series takes place in 1977, Morris has to cautiously keep her relationship a secret and is even threatened with it. Her mother, however, accepts her for who she is, delivering the powerful message that love is the strongest force of all. This relationship was touching to see, especially since there were very few openly gay couples in the ‘70s even in New York City. It would have been nicer to see more representation, but both characters have important character arcs that aren’t grounded solely in their relationship, which is a big step forward that many shows haven’t taken yet.

Amazon’s “Hunters” is a massively entertaining series, with a band of diverse and well-rounded characters, each with a compelling story dedicated to them, coming together in a story that is impossible not to binge. It is an action-packed, thrilling drama that delivers blunt and jarring insight on how blind hatred knows no master. In this day and age, it serves as an especially powerful reminder for us all.