The first season of David Weil’s Nazi-hunting series Hunters on Prime Video was met with mixed reviews. As expected with anything politically, emotionally, and historically sensitive, viewers had varying reactions to the series depicting 1970s Nazi hunts and flashbacks to the Holocaust that were not all based on fact. Regardless of valid and divergent opinions, the program was effective in never losing sight of the actual heroes and antagonists.
Hunters show Nazis without remorse as the villains and Jews as the victims whose resolve never wavered. This is the overarching strength of the series: never losing sight of the Jewish people’s resiliency.
The story developed a fictional vigilante squad in response to the real-world Operation Paperclip, mixing fact with creative revisionism. The fact that Adolf Hitler was still alive at the end of the first season was one of the most shocking disclosures. This positioned the second season to conclude with a conclusion that promised a fresh finish for the fascist leader.
Now, the long-awaited second and final season has here, and although being a few episodes shorter, it’s more of a decathlon than a sprint to the finish line. This season takes on a great deal, beginning with the addition of some superhero fun to grounded vigilantism and concluding with the trial of Adolf Hitler.
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The abbreviated season crams so much into its limited running time that it creates a dizzying whirlwind of answers to life’s most profound issues. Despite this, it remains a cathartic and intriguing tale of the Jewish spirit combined with thrilling action.
In the second season, Jonah (Logan Lerman) is living in Europe in disguise. The hunters have separated following the death of their leader and a mysterious occurrence in Spain. However, they are recalled when Jonah and Chava (Jennifer Jason Leigh) report that Hitler is still alive and that they have located his scent. Slowly, the gang heals, uniting with Chava and her team to bring Hitler to whatever sort of justice is attainable for a perpetrator of such horrors.
Hunters were always reminiscent of Inglorious Basterds, employing revisionist history and graphic violence to convey the story of Jewish Nazi murderers. This season has had several sequences that allude to Tarantino’s “Jew Hunter” scene. Scenes such as Chava frightening an Eastern European guy with her eye for liars, or the eighth episode, which operates almost as a stand-alone story about Nazis searching for Jews concealed beneath floorboards and in walls.
This is where the story truly shines, by continuing to blend horrifying and joyful catharsis with grim realism. Hunters create games that may not appeal to everyone, but it never turns Nazis into faceless entities such as zombies or ghosts for fun. Nazis are the personification and face of unadulterated evil in Hunters.
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In the previously stated seventh episode, the Nazis are depicted as not just terrible but also ordinary. They are simply a group of men with unbridled entitlement and a trigger-happy disposition. Even Udo Kier’s portrayal of Hitler is devoid of camp or humor, depicting the villain as a shriveling old jackass who chokes on his own rhetoric. In contrast, the Jewish people are portrayed as powerful. Even more in this season, there is an emphasis on the atrocities and pain the Jewish people endured, the beauty of their culture and religion, and the endurance and strength of a people coping with this tragedy.
Hunters already held the burden of displaying the stories of Nazis and Jews after the Holocaust, so it was crushed by the additional burden of attempting to draw parallels to the present. Jonah and the hunters choose not to murder Hitler but instead to hand him over to the International Criminal Court so that he might face trial, ostensibly to demonstrate restraint and a commitment to order. In doing so, the program aims to address contemporary discussions about “the tolerance of intolerance” and becomes entangled in finding analogies between contemporary fascists and demagogues and Adolf Hitler.
While the point is well-taken, with many current circumstances parallel to the emergence of fascism in the twentieth century, the author falls into the trap of selecting the most extreme example to explain other situations. By attempting to make a significant point about present events, the author ends up reducing the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, losing the metaphor in the process.
To be frank, many of us have made a comparison between Hitler and Trump, and it’s an accurate one. However, taking a hypothetical 1970s media cycle to task for how they might have treated Hitler as a means of exploring the role of the media and courts in the era of Trump is a quick way to lose the thread of analogy and reduce the holocaust to an irrelevant mental exercise. To be more specific, the second season of Hunters failed by doing the most.
Exploring the lives of other marginalized people and their experiences during the Holocaust and in life afterward, the series has been largely successful. This season maintains that legacy by analyzing the marginalization of LGBT people, people of color, and Jews of color while ever losing sight of the Jewish people.
In the film’s conclusion, a Black Jewish lawyer character carries the entire weight of the legal, ethical, and philosophical implications of trying Adolph Hitler in the traditional court system. While it is refreshing to see intersectional identities discussed, this overcrowded situation ends up objectifying his position, forcing him to describe loudly how being a Jewish man of color affects his position in front of a bewildered Jewish defense attorney.
Hunter is an engrossing action-packed movie about a tribe who confronted utter evil and refused to do anything except endure. The second season maintains the series’ legacy of extracting joy, fun, and action from atrocity, resulting in a cathartic and thrilling revenge story that incorporates espionage films and superhero tales. While the second season continues to demonstrate the coexisting power and immense trauma that a person has undergone (and continues to suffer), it loses itself by attempting to take on the entire globe.
The inclusion of side-stories references to earlier films, new characters, stories about goyim not understanding, superfluous scenes to resuscitate Al Pacino, and the present world as history repeating produces the impression of a notepad stuffed with ideas. Real-world comparisons disrupt what could have been more gun-wielding superhero escapism catharsis. At least after eighteen episodes, we can claim that the series concluded with chai.
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