Hunters
Genre
Created byDavid Weil
Starring
Theme music composerTrevor Gureckis
Composers
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes18 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
Cinematography
  • William Rexer
  • Tim Norman
  • Frederick Elmes
  • John Lindley
  • Tari Segal
Editors
  • Matt Barber
  • Amy E. Duddleston
  • John Petaja
  • Andrew Groves
Running time
  • 46–68 minutes
  • 90 minutes ("In the Belly of the Whale")
Production companies
Original release
NetworkAmazon Prime Video
ReleaseFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21) –
January 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)

Hunters is an American conspiracy drama television series created by David Weil. It premiered on February 21, 2020, on Amazon Prime Video.[1][2] In August 2020, the series was renewed for a second and final season which premiered on January 13, 2023.[3][4]

Premise

The series' characters draw from a number of real Nazi hunters through the decades, but are not meant to be a specific representation of any of them.[5] It follows a diverse band of Nazi hunters living in 1977 New York City who discover that numerous escaped Nazi officers are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the United States.[6] A parallel plot element is the discovery of Operation Paperclip, the U.S. government operation relocating German scientists (many of them Nazis) to the U.S.

Cast and characters

Main

Recurring

Guests

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
110[b]February 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
28January 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)

Season 1 (2020)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
1[b]1"In the Belly of the Whale"Alfonso Gomez-RejonDavid WeilFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
In 1977, United States Under Secretary of State Biff Simpson is recognized as a Nazi by a Jewish guest at his barbecue, prompting him to kill everyone present, including his own family. He has neo-Nazi Travis Leich intimidate a congressman into passing a bill that repeals sanctions on South America. Jewish Brooklyn-based codebreaker Jonah Heidelbaum witnesses the murder of his grandmother Ruth, being accosted at her funeral by a man named Meyer Offerman, who claims they were in Auschwitz together. He goes to Offerman's house, where he uses his skills to find a secret office, discovering a picture of the car driven by Ruth's murderer. He tracks it to a toy store and identifies the owner as sadistic Auschwitz guard Heinz Richter. Richter incapacitates him, demanding to know why Ruth was looking for him, and Jonah is narrowly saved by Offerman when he arrives and kills Richter. He explains that Ruth came to him a year prior after identifying a Nazi in her neighborhood, and they started the Hunters, a group dedicated to killing Nazis not brought to justice. NASA chemist Gretel Fischer is killed by Hunter Joe Mizushima. FBI agent Millie Morris investigates Fischer's death, discovering a picture of her with Adolf Hitler hidden in her Bible. Leich meets with a woman who goes by "The Colonel", who praises his work and informs him that "the Solution" will be coming from South America soon. She asks him to investigate Fischer and Richter, and declares the beginning of the Fourth Reich.
22"The Mourner's Kaddish"Wayne YipDavid WeilFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
Jonah is introduced to the Hunters and decodes a message regarding "Karl Holstedder" from a letter found in Richter's store, who Offerman explains is a former Nazi radio engineer. The Hunters break into his mansion and find that he is broadcasting a coded message to other Nazis. They torture Holstedder until he explains that he was given tapes to broadcast by another Nazi, before tricking Jonah into freeing him and taking him hostage. Joe kills him, accidentally stopping the broadcast in the process. Morris learns that the files on Fischer and her brother, also killed by the Hunters, have been cleaned out. She visits the man's widow, finding pictures of his atrocities as a Nazi doctor. The Colonel has Leich have sex with a senator, blackmailing him into supporting the repeal of South American sanctions. Leich then kills the detective who helped Morris investigate Fischer after he gives up her name. Two Nazis are shown taking instructions from the broadcast, planning to plant two bombs in New York City.
33"While Visions of Safta Danced in His Head"Wayne YipNikki ToscanoFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
While staking out Holstedder's house, the Hunters discover that a neo-Nazi has slipped inside and cleaned the place, who Hunter Roxy Jones is attacked by and forced to kill. Leich stalks Morris, who asks a colleague of hers to pull all the files on senior citizen refugees killed recently. She first looks into Richter, where Leich infiltrates the crime scene and finds Jonah's name embroidered on his jacket. Morris then looks into Ruth, getting Jonah's name from her rabbi. Jonah reads Ruth's old journal entries and learns that she was in love with Offerman. Hunter technician Murray Markowitz's hearing aid picks up morse code being played under Holstedder's broadcast, realizing from the code that Nazis were responsible for several major American events, including Watergate and the assassination of Robert Kennedy, as well as learning of the upcoming bombing. Leich goes to Jonah's place of work and kills his best friend when he refuses to give Jonah up.
44"The Pious Thieves"Nelson McCormickMark BianculliFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
In 1942, two Auschwitz Jews fall in love and plan to escape, but the man is killed before he can give the woman a ring to propose with. Dissatisfied with his lack of recognition amongst the Nazis, Simpson gets Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps to push the bill that will keep the sanctions on South America, and Jimmy Carter signs it. Morris gets Offerman's name after searching Jonah's records and goes to his house, where Jonah refuses to cooperate with her. The Hunters trace two keys found on Richter and Holstedder to a Swiss-run bank, but cannot find the box the keys correspond to. They infiltrate it at night and Jonah discovers a secret underground vault full of valuables taken from Jews in concentration camps, amongst them the ring, which they take. Offerman goes to the bank's owner and presents him with the ring, torturing him until he gives up the name of the deposit box's owner: Oskar Hauptman, a feared Nazi Offerman believed to be dead. After he leaves, the owner commits suicide.
55"At Night, All Birds are Black"Dennie GordonDavid J. RosenFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
Simpson bargains with the Colonel for a better position and forces Kreps to undo her vote. Morris tracks down a journalist that wrote an article on Fischer's brother at Offerman's request, who did not receive help from Offerman when he was falsely framed as a pedophile. Morris is attacked by a group of men who warn her to stop investigating. Offerman tells Jonah how his number one target, Wilhelm Zuchs, developed an attraction to Ruth while they were in Auschwitz, and tortured Offerman for hours because she loved him. Offerman had the opportunity to kill him but did not take it, and he begs Jonah not to make that mistake. Jonah goes with a group of Hunters to Alabama and capture a former Nazi scientist at his Fourth of July party, where he reveals that under Operation Paperclip, the government brought him and several scientists to the United States to do work for them and that some of his comrades are at the party. After he reveals that Hauptman is working at the Edgewood Arsenal facility, Joe kills him while Hunter Sister Harriet rescues Nazi Moritz Ehrlich, and drives off with him. Offerman's group goes to Westchester County to interrogate a former propaganda filmmaker, but Offerman abruptly kills her when she accuses of him of hiding something. Leich attacks them when they leave, but they manage to get away.
66"(Ruth 1:16)"Millicent SheltonZakiyyah AlexanderFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
In the 1940s, Murray and his Hunter wife Mindy's only child at the time is killed by Ehrlich. Hunter Lonny Flash has a book that he took from the filmmaker's house translated, which he learns is instructions for the rise of the Fourth Reich. Joe visits a veteran friend of his that had suffered severe brain damage due to the Edgewood Arsenal experiments, but manages to get Hauptman's American alias out of him. Jonah is asked to recite the Birkat Kohanim in place of Ruth at the wedding of the Markowitzes' daughter, but not knowing how, instead recites a different prayer that he finds meaningful. He later tells the Markowitzes that he finally understands his place in the Jewish community. Offerman unintentionally reveals that he may be Jonah's grandfather, but the arrival of Joe and Lonny with their findings stops Jonah from asking more. Harriet is revealed to have rescued Ehrlich because she knew what he did to the Markowitzes, and she ties him up and leaves him in their basement. Leich breaks into Offerman's house and burns his files on Nazis.
77"Shalom Motherf***er"Nelson McCormickEduardo Javier Canto & Ryan MaldonadoFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
Leich sends the files on the Nazis the Hunters killed to Morris. Simpson convinces Carter to lift the sanctions, but Kreps asks a reporter to look into him. He threatens her into not looking further, but this catches the attention of Schidler Corporation head and Nazi Katarina Löw, who sends a Nazi to Simpson's house to kill him. He kills Simpson's mother-in-law, but Simpson kills him. Jonah gets Offerman to admit that he is his grandfather. The Hunters break into Hauptman's house, finding him severely ill and bedridden. Jonah realizes the music box on his nightstand is the source of the music in Holstedder's broadcast, cracking the code and confirming the locations the Nazis are planning to attack. Before they can move out, Offerman is detained by the FBI. He confirms to Morris that there are Nazis in America, but she refuses to believe his warning about the attack. The Markowitzes are called to help before they can decide whether or not to kill Ehrlich. The Hunters split up, and one group follows the coordinates to a power plant, where they are attacked by and kill Hauptman's wife. Jonah and Murray discover a bomb on a train, and Murray dies trying to defuse it. The twin explosions cause a blackout across New York.
88"The Jewish Question"Michael UppendahlDavid Weil & Charley CaslerFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
In the chaos of the blackout, the Nazis move a chemical substance imported from South America to the Schidler factory in New Jersey. Simpson has the police called on him and narrowly escapes, being framed for his mother-in-law's murder. Tired of being demeaned by his superior, Leich strangles him. Offerman convinces Morris to let him go for one day, and he takes her to the Hunters. After Murray's funeral, Jonah blames himself for his death, and Offerman admits to him that he left Ruth because Zuchs forced him to kill other innocent men for her life, something he is deeply ashamed of. After accepting Murray's death, Mindy kills Ehrlich. The Hunters look into Schidler, finding it connected to former Nazi scientist turned American celebrity Wernher von Braun, who faked his death. Offerman goes to Simon Wiesenthal, who deeply disapproves of the Hunters, and Jonah convinces him to give them his file on von Braun. They track him down and Jonah tortures him until he admits that he made "the Solution" and tested it on Hauptman, and that it is a chemical hidden in corn syrup that kills those that consume it. Jonah continues to torture him, disturbing Offerman and Joe, who make him to go outside as Joe kills von Braun.
99"The Great Ole Nazi Cookout of '77"Nelson McCormickNikki ToscanoFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
Morris realizes her boss, an associate of Simpson's that he is trying to get help from, is part of Paperclip. She finds Simpson at his house and forces him to come with her. Harriet and Lonny abduct the Schidler factory's manager and get its layout. Lonny disguises himself as the manager as Jonah crawls through the vents and places bombs on several vats of Solution. Lonny manages to infiltrate the control center and set the vats to overflow, only for a newly promoted Leich, visiting with Löw and the Colonel, to recognize him. Joe rescues Lonny and they bomb the factory, killing Löw in the process. Jonah pursues Leich and is followed by an arriving Millie, while Simpson escapes in the chaos. Jonah and Leich fight and Jonah gets the upper hand, but Millie convinces him to spare him. The Colonel escapes, unaware that Offerman is driving her car until he reveals himself, and she shoots at him, causing the car to swerve into a river.
1010"Eilu v' Eilu"Michael UppendahlDavid WeilFebruary 21, 2020 (2020-02-21)
Simpson flees the country to Europe. Leich kills his Jewish lawyer in prison to rally antisemitic prisoners to his cause. Morris reports the factory incident to her superiors, who warn her to keep quiet about it. She is approached by a Jewish congresswoman who asks her to lead a task force of Nazi hunters. Offerman is rescued from the water by Harriet, and expresses disappointment in Jonah for not killing Leich. Jonah discovers Ruth's file on Zuchs and realizes she had found him working as a surgeon before she died, and he kidnaps the man and brings him to Offerman. Offerman kills him, but Jonah realizes he did not recite the Kaddish as Ruth's notes said he would when he killed Zuchs, and concludes that he actually is Zuchs. Zuchs explains that he killed the real Offerman to escape persecution after the liberation of Auschwitz and took his identity, undergoing plastic surgery from the surgeon he killed, committing fully to the Jewish faith, and doing penance for his evils by forming the Hunters with Ruth. Jonah kills him with a knife belonging to Ruth. Harriet suggests the Hunters move to Europe to hunt the Nazis who escaped under Die Spinne. Joe is kidnapped and taken to Argentina, where the surviving Colonel, revealed to be Eva Braun, lives with Hitler.

Season 2 (2023)

No.
overall
No. in
season
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date
111"Van Glooten's Day 1972 Butter Sculptor of the Year"Phil AbrahamDavid WeilJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
In 1971, a Holocaust survivor interrogates a resident of a town that Hitler crossed through, and the man gives her his town in Argentina. Four years later, Zuchs kills a former Auschwitz guard who recognized him. In 1979, the Hunters have disbanded and Jonah lives in Paris under a false name with his fiancée Clara. He tracks down Simpson and forces him to give up Hitler's location, killing him when he tries to fight back. In Pasadena, Morris catches a bishop who is a former Nazi, but he escapes justice when she tries to convict him through the legal system. She kills him in his home, which she immediately regrets. Jonah, who she called earlier, arrives to see her. Hitler and Braun have dinner with Joe, now their servant.
122"Buenos Aires"Phil AbrahamDavid Weil and David J. RosenJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
Harriet, having worked undercover as a governess for months, is forced to kill a Nazi working for Hitler in front of his children while interrogating him. Leich escapes from prison and is smuggled into Argentina by Braun, who takes him as a lover, and reveals her plans to usurp Hitler. Jonah convinces Morris that Hitler is alive, and they bring the reluctant Hunters back together to find the man who financed Hitler and Braun's escape. They travel to Buenos Aires and track the man down to the opera, where Jonah catches a man taking something out of a locker, but masked assailants working with Harriet kill the man to be killed and incapacitate the other Hunters.
133"Duck. Quail. Goose. Crow."Sam Taylor-JohnsonDavid J. RosenJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
In 1975, Zuchs kills the Nazi who gave him his Offerman identity and burns the last evidence of his Zuchs identity. Wiesenthal, who suspects his role in the murder, urges Offerman to stay clean and provide a successful example for Holocaust survivors. In 1979, the woman from 1971 reveals herself to be Ruth's supposedly dead sister Chava, who is leading the group that captured the Hunters and a Nazi financier. She tortures him until he explains that only "The Crow" gets to see Hitler. They follow a clue to a hotel, where Jonah agrees to merge the Hunters with Chava's group to catch the Crow. While the others take out the Crow's guards, Chava explains to Jonah that she never contacted Ruth because he was there for her. Upset, he goes to the bathroom, in reality to confront and kill the Crow. He gives Chava a train ticket found in the Crow's purse. He is later surprised by Clara in his hotel room. Learning of the Crow's death, Hitler orders Joe to kill the Hunters.
144"The Fare"Phil AbrahamDavid J. Rosen & Daria Polatin & David WeilJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
In 1976, Zuchs – as Offerman – begins to assemble the Hunters after Ruth's report of spotting a Nazi goes nowhere. In 1979, Harriet is given the location of the Nazi who killed her father by Chava, but she does not kill him after witnessing his display of remorse. Roxy and Lonny argue about their ended relationship before going to the town of the train ticket, investigating a Nazi couple who admit they harbored Josef Mengele for years, but not Hitler. Jonah tells a suspicious Clara that he went to Argentina to track down Chava, and Clara demands to meet her. When Clara discovers Chava's files on Nazis, Chava reveals Jonah's true identity and occupation. As Jonah follows Clara back to the hotel, Leich attacks him and kidnaps Clara, tauntingly throwing a flower at Jonah as he drives away. Joe corners Roxy, Lonny, and Georges in an elevator, kills Georges, and hesitates before shooting Roxy in the chest.
155"Blutsbande"Tiffany JohnsonTatiana Suarez-PicoJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
In 1975, Zuchs – as Offerman – travels to Germany to recruit a man for the Hunters. He visits his sister and niece (who are unaware of who he really is) and stops at his mother's grave. The man he was there to recruit confronts him at the cemetery and calls him out as Zuchs, who immediately kills him. In 1979, Lonny and Mindy rush Roxy to a hospital for emergency surgery. Millie confesses her guilt over killing the bishop to Harriet and, realizing their mutual attraction, they kiss. Hitler plans to implement nuclear attacks. Jonah and the remaining Hunters identify a town from the newspapers covering the windows of Leich's van, which next leads to a farm that supplied a flower thrown from the van. They arrive at the farm and are ambushed by Joe, Leich, and a squadron of neo-Nazis. The squadron is routed, so Leich threatens Clara's life, but Joe, overwhelmed by memories of Hitler's brainwashing and torture, shoots Leich. As the Hunters surround Joe, he claims he can take them to Hitler.
166"Only the Dead"Phil AbrahamHaley Z. Boston & Tori SampsonJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
In 1977 (just before the events of the first episode), Zuchs and Harriet track down a Nazi killer in Argentina, revealed to be Chava. Zuchs asks her why she does not inform Ruth that she is alive, and she states her belief that Ruth was not meant for the work of hunting, while she is. In 1979, Braun tells Hitler that since he did not have children, she would be a fit leader for their regime due to her intelligence and carrying the Hitler name. Clara confronts Jonah on the incident that split the Hunters up, where he accidentally killed a child, and leaves in disgust. Joe directs the Hunters to Hitler's compound, where on the way, Chava tells the story of how she met and fell in love with Zev, the man who fostered her passion for Nazi hunting. The next day, the Hunters sneak in through Hitler's escape tunnel and massacre his guards as he is lead to an impenetrable bunker. Chava covers Jonah, allowing him to follow Hitler, although she is killed. Jonah stops Hitler from committing suicide and decides to bring him to justice instead of killing him. Jonah ushers Hitler through the underground tunnel at gunpoint, surrounded by the ghosts of Hitler's victims.
177"The Home"David WeilDavid WeilJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
As Jonah walks Hitler at gunpoint, he relates a true story. In Germany, 1942, three Nazi officers visit the home of famed architect Heinrich Hansöm and his wife Helga on suspicion of harbouring Jews. Two of them discover concealed Jews, but are killed by traps constructed by Heinrich. Helga kills the third after he shoots at the young Zev hiding behind a false wall. The couple dispose of the bodies. Three more Nazis come looking for their colleagues. They find nothing. One of them, Rigard, covets the house and kills the couple, persuading his colleagues to frame the Hansöms. After the Rigards move in, Zev is spotted by Rigard's son Friedrich and the Jews have to kill the parents. To allay further suspicion, Rivka and Zev impersonate Friedrich and his mother. She lies to visiting Nazis that Rigard was unfaithful and has abandoned her, but Friedrich escapes from the hidden Jews and stabs Rivka. Zev kills several Nazis with the traps he has reset (having been taught by Heinrich), and escapes as more Nazis storm and burn the house. In the present, Jonah hands Hitler over to the adult Zev. As they depart, Zev sees a vision of the Hansöms.
188"The Trial of Adolf Hitler"Phil AbrahamDavid Weil & Charley CaslerJanuary 13, 2023 (2023-01-13)
Hitler has been extradited to Germany and put on trial. Both defence and prosecuting lawyers are Jewish. Leich, revealed to still be alive, watches the proceedings on television. Several Holocaust survivors testify, including Mindy, who gives an excoriating statement against him. Hitler arrogantly insists on testifying and the prosecutor provokes him into admitting he ordered the Holocaust. He is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Leaving the courtroom, he swallows a concealed capsule that causes an apparent stroke. En route to hospital, a pre-planned explosion cuts off pursuit. The ambulance driver kills Hitler’s guards and revives him. Eva Braun, disgusted with Hitler’s court performance, orders Leich to kill him, but Leich instead kills her and shows Hitler that he has recruited an army while in prison, hoping to become Hitler's heir. Jonah attacks them and Leich shoots him, but he is saved by Joe. The police capture Hitler while Leich escapes. Later, Jonah retires and marries Clara, Millie and Harriet are in a relationship, Roxy and Lonny have remained friends, and Joe has gone off alone to find peace. Harriet gives Jonah evidence that Zuchs instigated Ruth’s murder by giving Richter her address. Millie is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for helping to capture Hitler. Honeymooning in Miami, Jonah hears an old man near his table order in German and locks eyes with him.

Context

Digital Spy writer David Opie considered a show about Jewish heroes like Hunters important, due to the marginalization of the Jewish religion in the fictional superhero landscape. While there are many Jewish comic book heroes, including Scarlet Witch, Kitty Pryde, the Thing, and Harley Quinn, the Jewish aspect of their lives is almost always marginalized.[13]

David Weil, who is Jewish, noted "casual" forms of anti-semitism taking place throughout his life, such as jokes about "Jews in ovens" and swastikas sprayed on his high school.[14] Hunters is also far from the first piece of media to involve protagonists hunting down Nazis, as those have included films like The Odessa File (1974), Apt Pupil (1998), The Boys from Brazil (1978), and Marathon Man (1976), as well as content regarding Nazi zombies.[15][16]

Production

Development

I think as a young Jewish kid growing up on Long Island in New York, there are feelings of wanting to be powerful. You rarely see Jews depicted as superheroes; as having might and strength. They're often nebbishes or Woody Allen or very intellectual. But to have the power to reclaim your place and get justice for your ancestors is definitely a wish fulfillment. And that's what Hunters became.

— Hunters creator David Weil in an interview with Digital Spy[13]

Creator David Weil's inspiration for Hunters was bedtime stories of World War II experiences told by his grandmother Sarah, who was a survivor of the Auschwitz camp Birkenau;[17] the stories had a long-lasting impact on David because they were about "great good vs. terrifying evil" and had themes of "hope, courage and survival," elements he also noticed in comic book superhero stories he would read.[18] Weil said he created Hunters because his grandparents were both Holocaust survivors, and described writing Meyer as "me meeting my grandfather for the first time, and that was a really beautiful and kind of powerful thing."[19] Additional reasons for creating the show were a "lack of Jewish superheroes" in film and television, citing examples of films about Nazi Germany like Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Schindler's List (1993) having non-Jewish protagonists,[13] and a desire to expose "hidden truths" and to help those "who've always felt persecuted, who linger with trauma and injustice"[20] in response to "rising anti-Semistism, racism, xenophobia."[21]

Despite the attachment of Get Out director Jordan Peele and Weil having an "80-page bible" of the show written, most buyers were wary of the project and refused to purchase it; the creator suggested that it was due to the series' premise of "a diverse band of 'others' kind of rising up and trying to reclaim power in some way" not being typical in mainstream entertainment. Amazon Studios head Jen Salke bought the series. Nikki Toscano joined as producer for its ambitious concept: "I think that the juxtaposition of the 1970s New York City with the Holocaust, with some of the levity and the humour, was certainly a challenge for us to balance throughout. But it was a challenge that I thought was an obstacle worth trying to get over."[22]

On May 17, 2018, it was announced that Amazon Video had given the production a straight-to-series order for a first season consisting of ten episodes. Weil was set to executive produce alongside Jordan Peele, Tom Lesinski, Jenna Santoianni, and Win Rosenfeld. Weil was also expected to write for the series as well. Production companies involved with the series were slated to consist of Monkeypaw Productions and Sonar Entertainment.[6][23][24][25] On August 7, 2018, it was announced that Nikki Toscano had joined the production as an executive producer and would also serve as co-showrunner alongside Weil.[26] On August 3, 2020, Amazon renewed the series for a second and final season which was released on January 13, 2023.[3][4]

Casting

On December 13, 2018, it was reported that Logan Lerman was in talks for a lead role in the series, Jonah Heidelbaum.[27] On January 10, 2019, it was reported that Al Pacino was finalizing a deal for a starring role in the series.[28] On February 7, 2019, it was reported that Jerrika Hinton, Dylan Baker, Lena Olin, Greg Austin, Catherine Tate, Tiffany Boone, Saul Rubinek, and Carol Kane were in various stages of negotiations to join the cast of the series.[29] Four days later, it was announced that Boone had officially joined the cast.[30] Josh Radnor was cast in March.[31] In April 2019, Kate Mulvany, James LeGros, Ebony Obsidian, Caleb Emery, Henry Hunter Hall and Jeannie Berlin joined the cast of the series, with Mulvany joining as a series regular.[32] On April 5, 2021, Jennifer Jason Leigh was cast as a lead for the second season.[33]

It's been noted that while not all the Jewish characters on the show are played by Jewish actors and not all the hunters are Jews, all Jewish actors out of the main cast play Jewish characters.[34] Outside the main cast, some Jewish actors have played Jewish characters (for example, actor Zack Schor, who mentioned his survivor grandparents as the reason why he was drawn to the role of the younger Meyer Offerman, a Polish Jew in a Nazi camp[35]), while others have played non-Jews (such as Jewish actor Kenneth Tigar who plays a Nazi[36]).

Filming

The bowling scene was Austin's audition scene as well as the first sequence he filmed for the series, and a continuous shot where his character talks to the congressman before bowling a strike was done within one take.[37]

Themes and visuals

You should read the Torah more. It's the original comic book.

— Meyer Offerman[13]

According to Weil, "the purpose of this show is an allegorical tale in many ways, to draw the parallels between the ’30s and ’40s in Europe and the ’70s in the States and especially today with the racism and anti-Semitism and xenophobia, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades."[21]

As David Weil put it, "Hunters is about a group of people who are so rarely portrayed as superheroes" and incorporates iconography to show the Jewish characters as superheroes that reclaim their power; an example is the use of yellow coloring on the costumes and weapons of the hunters as a way to reclaim the color of the yellow badge as the Jews'.[38] Weil also went for a similar heroism in the prisoners in the Auschwitz camp flashbacks.[13]

Genre-wise, Hunters is a mix of several styles: "a harrowing remembrance of the suffering of the Holocaust, a satisfying revenge fantasy, a sensational period piece, and a dark comedy," labeled The Verge's Joshua Rivera.[39] Ben Travers of IndieWire categorized it as a black comedy thriller that's "extremely violent and extremely silly; it respects the drama inherent to any Holocaust story while still allowing fans to enjoy the fictionalized quest for vengeance. For every conversation about justice and vengeance, morality and responsibility, right and wrong, there's a fake ad about spotting Nazis or a dance sequence set to 'Staying Alive.'"[40] Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe compared its comedy and look to the works of the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino.[41] Prahlad Srihari, a Firstpost critic, also used one of Tarantino's works to describe it as a combination of the director's film Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005).[42] Several 1970s exploitation genres are imitated in the show, such as kung fu, grindhouse, Blaxploitation, Jewsploitation, and torture porn.[43]

Fighting individuals who committed serious crimes with actions like violence is a common moral dilemma the titular hunters deal with; Rubinek explained that this was important, as the message of the Jewish folklore of the golem is that "monster which grows violent and protects the Jews, also turns violent inappropriately and has to be put down."[13] Weil stated that the main question of the story is, "If you hunt monsters, do you risk becoming a monster yourself?"[21] "Some of Hunters' biggest thematic questions revolve around whether ends justify means or if the pursuit of vengeance risks corrupting those who seek it," Rivera put it more specifically.[39] For Jonah he's "pushed and pulled between asserting himself as a hunter and, if not empathizing with the hunted, believing there's a more humane way of holding them accountable. Is Jonah naive and soft for being appalled by the team's tactics? Or is he exercising better moral judgment because he's lived outside the dehumanizing conditions they faced?" wrote Travers.[40]

Toscano explained that she and the writers, while not sympathizing with the Nazis, were trying to portray them as humans rather than caricatures, realizing there was a "spectrum of evil that we’re dealing with. There is one extreme [and then] there are other Nazis that have various explanations: ‘I was following orders; I was as (sic) kid'".[21]

References to pop culture are used that relates to this moral conflict; for instance, in a conversation between Jonah and his two friends after seeing Star Wars (1977), Jonah jokingly hypothesizes Darth Vader is after the Jedi rebels because he was raised to believe they would "bomb his parents, behead his friends, kidnap all the hot Galactic chicks for lightsaber orgies. Vader doesn't get up every day looking to destroy the galaxy. He gets up every morning believing he needs to save it."[42] Jonah's friends counter-respond that Vader is still a killer despite good intentions, and Jonah responds back by saying heroes like Batman and Superman are the same way.[44]

A chess board is also repeatedly used in the show's imagery (including in its intro) to present good vs. evil battles as a complicated game.[42]

To differentiate from most other shows with a historical context that, to Toscano and Weil, felt "like a history lesson," the two went for a "comic book" style, with a mix of shots with "poppy" colors and shots with de-saturated, "grounded" colors; Weil explained that this was meant to present a message that what "seems like comic book" ends up "scintillating[ly] real."[45] Generally, sequences set in the 1970s have a flashier color palette, while scenes in the Auschwitz camps have more muted colors.[46] Gomez-Rejon came up with the idea of using windows as panels for the show.[47] According to Lerman, the main character works at a comic book shop and one of the stories' major themes are the moral differences between comic books and real-life; for instance, "you have to be bad" instead of a superhero to defeat villains, which is Pacino's view when he trains Jonah into becoming a hunter.[48]

As Film Inquiry describe Hunters' variety of tones, "for every naturalistic colloquy, there's a bit of sparkle and levity by compiling specious footage (usually in the form of a television ad) involving the interracial and intergenerational crew of Nazi-fighters. (At one point in episode 3, Logan Lerman breaks out in a musical number.)"[49]

Reception

Upon the release of its first season, Hunters received polarized reviews, with praise for its premise, messages, action sequences, and performances, but criticism for its story-telling, inconsistent tone, pacing, historical inaccuracies, and conclusion. A favorable review summarized the show as "audacious, tonally complex, not always in control of its message, visually arresting, and, particularly in its grim flashbacks to the brutalities and the courage in the death camps, moving,"[41] while one of its harshest detractors labeled it "uneven, awkward...often dull," and "sort of yucky."[43]

The first season has a 65% approval rating with 112 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.1/10 and the following critical consensus: "Propelled by a strong cast and even stronger sense of justice, Hunters' stylish first season doesn't always hit the mark, but when it does, it strikes pulpy paydirt."[50] Metacritic gave the first season a score of 54 out of 100 based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[51] Most of the initial reviews were for the first five episodes.[41][39][43]

The second season has a 75% approval rating with 20 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.6/10 and the following critical consensus: "While it never realizes its full potential as a revenge fantasy for real historical atrocity, Hunters tracks down a satisfying enough conclusion in this second and final season."[52] Metacritic gave the second season a score of 68 out of 100 based on 6 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[53]

The lack of development of the Hunters was a frequent criticism.[39][42] Wrote Tom Long of The Detroit News, "we’re introduced to our heroes — who inexplicably include an Asian man and black women — at which point we wait around to see their super-skills. Never happens. Five episodes in none of these people seem all that good at anything."[43] Srihari criticized Biff Simpson not being the main antagonist instead of the Colonel, "who is more Cruella de Vil than exceptionally evil, despite the season-ending pay-off,"[42] while Rivera criticized the character of Jonah, feeling that all his conflicts, such as those in his personal life, are only to serve the story: "This makes all of his big moments feel like they occur in a vacuum — especially when he’s paired up with the other Hunters."[39]

A common praise was the cast, including for actors like Pacino, Kane and Rubinek and Olin.[54] Travers praised the performers of the hunters, highlighting Rubinek and Kane, as well as Hinton, Baker, Olin, and the "affecting and fun" Pacino, but called Lerman and his character Jonah nothing more than an "audience stand-in" that "occasionally forgets to get off the couch and move around."[40] Gilbert found Berlin's presence memorable and highlighted the restraint of Pacino: "He brings a lovely gentleness to the role, too, most evident in the fatherly attentions he gives to the confused, grieving, and newly mobilized Jonah. He sees generational wrath in the young man’s fury, and he fosters it." He also called Lerman "good enough if somewhat one-dimensional as Jonah."[41]

The tone dissonance and mashing of styles turned off some reviewers.[39] Wrote Gilbert, "the leaps from the kitschy shag-carpeted world of bell-bottoms to the spare cruelties of the camps, and from action comedy to human tragedy, are a lot."[41] Verne Gay of Newsday opined that while Hunters was successful as a genre show, it was an "impossible balancing act" to make it both that and a "personal tribute" to those who died in the Nazi camps with its flashback sequences.[15] Tom Long of The Detroit News wrote that, "Tonally it careens madly from sincere to silly, gory to glib," and when it came to its use of pastiche styles, "It’s as if someone took notes while watching a marathon of Quentin Tarantino movies, getting all the bits and pieces without understanding why they worked."[43] ArtsATL was disgusted by the use of comic book references and cliches in a show with "the genocide of 6 million people in World War II" as one of its major themes.[54]

Reviews debated Hunters' revenge fantasy premise and Nazi subject matter, specifically, in 3AW 's words, "the oft-raised issue about exploiting one of the most horrific man-made events in history for our entertainment. Can the show be seen as an indirect tribute to the work of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal? Or is it just bad taste? Can it be both?"[16] Gilbert was appreciative of the "bold" inclusion of "Nazis into a broad genre-tinged entertainment," as it's also "part of the origin story of Golden Age superhero comic books themselves," and suggested it would start conversation between viewers.[41] Other critics, even those who were engaged with the content, unfavorably opined its premise and revenge message made it a B-grade series;[40][16] Srihari, in particular, categorized it as "an exploitation film that has invaded an overlong comic book movie" and that "the violence brings together the victimiser and victimised in a punishing embrace."[42] Film Inquiry's "Does that make it right? Of course not. Is it fun to watch? In all honesty, not really. It is, however, extremely aware and extremely responsive in how it tinkers with history by adding a fair amount of pathos."[49]

A positive review by Travers, who stated that the show's violence and "twisted moments" "allow[] for a fanciful level of wish fulfillment, as well as a compelling action narrative," claimed they led the serious themes to feel non-relevant.[40] Long dismissed Hunters as "a wildly uneven, superficial, comic book-type treatment" of the "particularly sick and unfortunately still-relevant dynamic" of American Nazism, attributing the problem to the writing being "black-and-white" and filled with stereotypes.[43]

Srihari suggested that the series should've used "subtle and subversive" methods of dehumanizing Nazis, such as in the flashback scene where the Jewish prisoners play the Jewish folk song "Hava Nagila" instead of music by composer Richard Wagner as a Nazi officer commands them to.[42] He also argued the comical torturing devices of the officers, such as the human chess board and the singing competition, "stops being disturbing after a while as the mayhem turns into monotony."[42] Stover similarly opined that "the series wallows in its own jarring material to the point of lassitude."[49]

Rivera named the show's straight-forward moments its best, such as the flashbacks in the fourth episode of a couple trying to escape the camp.[39] Long was harsh on the flashbacks, however, suggesting that they're "supposed to provide motivation but often just looks like Jews being tortured in concentration camps."[43] The Mary Sue's Sara Clements, although agreeing with the criticisms of the flashbacks, also stated that they are essential, as "they emphasize a simple fact: We must know and must not forget what happened during the Holocaust. Even when there are no survivors left to tell their stories, we must continue in their place."[44]

The series has received some criticism from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum due to inaccurate use of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The scene depicting prisoners being forced to participate in a game of human chess was called out as "dangerous foolishness and caricature". The museum was also concerned that the show "welcomes future deniers".[55][56][57] Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Stephen D. Smith heavily criticized the show and concluded that "Amazon must not renew it for a second season."[58]

In a statement, series creator David Weil, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, responded to the criticism and spoke to wanting to tell a story about the Holocaust without borrowing from a specific survivor's real life or experience without their permission. He said, "It is true that Nazis perpetrated widespread and extreme acts of sadism and torture – and even incidents of cruel 'games' – against their victims. I simply did not want to depict those specific, real acts of trauma ... I did not want to misrepresent a real person or borrow from a specific moment in an actual person’s life. That was the responsibility that weighed on me every night and every morning for years, while writing, producing, and editing this show."[59]

Rubinek also responded to criticisms about the show's violence, explaining that it was warning the viewers about the negative consequences of revenge violence, not promoting it: "If the theme of the show was just violence – yes, maybe they'd have a point... But it's not just about that. It's about the consequences of it."[60]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2020 Black Reel Awards for Television Outstanding Directing, Drama Series Millicent Shelton (for "(Ruth 1:16)") Nominated [61]
Outstanding Writing, Drama Series Zakiyyah Alexander (for "(Ruth 1:16)") Nominated
2021 Critics' Choice Super Awards Best Action Series Hunters Nominated [62]
Best Actor in an Action Series Logan Lerman Nominated
Al Pacino Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Nominated [63]

References

Citations

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  1. ^ Known as Sonar Entertainment in season 1
  2. ^ a b "In the Belly of the Whale" was later divided into two separate episodes, or "parts".

Video sources