There’s a scene in the 2013 German WWII miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter that I thought about while watching Amazon’s new series Hunters. Viktor (Ludwig Trepte), a young Jewish man who’s managed to survive the war, goes to apply for work in the new Allied-run administration. He recognizes the man taking names as a former Gestapo Sturmbannführer. When he tells the American captain who the man is, the American could not possibly care less. To understand why I was reminded of that, you’ll have to read this review of Amazon’s Hunters.
What is Amazon’s Hunters?
image via Amazon
As I mentioned back when we got the first teaser, Hunters takes place in 1977 New York City. Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman) lives there with his grandmother, Ruth. One night, an intruder murders Ruth in their home. However, it doesn’t seem like something pedestrian, like a robbery gone wrong. Before the stranger killed Ruth, she told him, “You can’t hide.”
That ends up leading Jonah to his grandmother’s old friend, Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), and his merry band of Nazi hunters. They include Vietnam vet Joe (Louis Ozawa), nun Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone), and married couple Murray (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy (Carol Kane) Markowitz. Some of them are Holocaust survivors. All of them are dedicated to rooting out and terminating Nazis living in the United States. *electric guitar riff*
A Little about the Background of the Show
The surrender of von Braun; image via the National Archives
As much as I’d love–LOVE–to explain the war from start to finish, I will instead be as brief as possible. I’m going to focus on one specific part, because it’s most relevant to the show and because I just happen to be an expert on it. It all started right after the War of German Aggression ended, when the United States had a dilemma, I say charitably.
They were aware of a large number of still-surviving German scientists and engineers. And that was the dilemma. What should be done with them all? The United States certainly didn’t want the Soviet Union to get ahold of them. And sure, they should maybe be punished, but…those minds. Imagine what we could do with those minds.
So, in a secret program called Operation Paperclip, the United States government smuggled in over 1600 former Nazi party members. Over a hundred of them, for example, ended up at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, where they rebuilt a city in their image and put a(n American) man on the moon. And their Nazi party ties, including the fact that the man who headed it all, Wernher von Braun, had been a Sturmbannführer himself, were quietly erased. They just lived among us and everyone was cool with that.
The Hunt is On
image via Amazon
But everyone was not cool with that. In the world of Amazon’s Hunters, the review is overwhelmingly negative. For the hunters themselves, it’s not just the fact that the Nazis are here in the United States, living free lives. I mean, that would be nauseating enough, but it’s actually worse. Because, as it turns out, they never gave up. They’ve spent the last 30 years preparing for and building a Fourth Reich.
So while the hunters are taking out Nazis all the way down the Eastern Seaboard and back, they’ve got to figure out the Reich plan and disrupt it. That would be enough of a challenge, but they’re also being hunted themselves on two sides. On one side is FBI agent Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton), who’s driven by a need to do things the right way. And that doesn’t include extrajudicial murder. On the other side is Travis Leich (Greg Austin), an Amerikaner convert to the Nazi cause. He is the perfect specimen of a Hitlerjunge, an Aryan wet dream who loves belting showtunes almost as much as he loves killing. If I had to pick one standout in this seriously stacked cast, then I would pick him. His performance alone is almost worth the price of admission.
Amazon’s Hunters: A Review
image via Amazon
Because for the most part, Hunters works. The pulpy grindhouse Nazi story has been done before, of course, but creator David Weil manages to find some new life in it. One of the things that helps is that this time, it’s a story in which Jewish people are centered. Instead of being rescued, they get to be the heroes. Jewish artists and writers created most of our iconic superheroes, after all, so it’s been a long time coming. And overall, it’s an entertaining watch, although I wouldn’t advise binging it. The often cartoonish violence in the 1977-set scenes is easy enough to take for genre fans, but there are also a lot of trips to the awful past.
And on that note, the Auschwitz Museum has criticized the show for its depiction of a human chess game at the death camp. Their argument is that showing fictional events just lends credence to Holocaust deniers. Personally, I’m divided on the topic. While I see the museum’s point, there’s something vile to me about recreating in loving detail the darkest moments of someone’s life. As Weil said in a statement, he wanted to avoid depicting “specific, real acts of trauma.” I’m not sure, though, what a good solution would be.
Historian is German for “Nitpicker”
But again, I understand the museum’s point of view. As someone who did her senior research on the Third Reich, particularly German rocket engineers, I couldn’t help but bristle at parts of the show. The hunters’ process of selection is scattershot, for example. They go down to Huntsville to look for a certain Nazi, but the city is crawling with them. It’s the Axis of Weevil. It’s never quite explained, though, why they limit their efforts to a select few.
Further, there is a depiction of a specific person that I did not care for. I can understand to an extent why they chose that one, but it still feels strange to me. They hunt a succession of fictionalized Nazis, but choose this one (fictionalized) real person to make an appearance. I would love to know their reasoning. But I think I have an idea.
And Then There’s That Ending
If you’ve googled the show, then you’ve probably seen headlines like “Amazon’s Hunters Ending Explained.” I thought the ending was fairly self-explanatory. Yes, it is absolutely bonkers. However, there are hints to the major revelations, including in the scene I just mentioned–the one with the fictionalized real Nazi. Whether they work or not is an entirely different subject. In the context of credulity, oh, we’re straining it. But as an aspect of the show’s pulp fiction roots, the finale certainly fits.
It’s like an echo of Travis’s final scene in the season, in which he chants a phrase that’s chilling in its relevance today. And all of it is just more proof that the Nazis never went away. Not really.
Have you watched Hunters yet? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below or on social media.
featured image via Amazon
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.