Hunters was a promising show that got kneecapped by a last-minute cancellation and shortened episode count.

After a three-year hiatus, Hunters is back on Prime Video with its second and final season. For those who don’t remember, the series takes place in the 1970s and follows a group of vigilantes who target Nazis who escaped Germany after the war. Helmed by Al Pacino as Meyer Offerman, leader of the Hunters, season one ended with some big bombshells – that Offerman was in fact the notorious Nazi doctor known as “The Wolf” who killed the real Offerman; that antagonist The Colonel is actually Eva Braun (Lena Olin); and, most astonishingly, that Adolf Hitler (Udo Kier) is still alive.

Creator David Weil attempted to balance dark comic-book humor (a la The Boys) with the horrors of the Holocaust and was met with mixed reviews. I personally loved season 1, and was eager to see what would happen in season 2.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Carol Kane, Josh Radner, Kate Mulvany and Logan Lerman in Hunters II on Amazon Prime
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Carol Kane, Josh Radner, Kate Mulvany and Logan Lerman in Hunters II on Amazon Prime

Season 2 picks up several years later, with the Hunters having disbanded, following a disastrous mission in Spain. I won’t lie, I was a bit shocked when I started episode one, as it was so different in tone, that I actually had to double check that it was the same show. Jonah (Logan Lerman) is no longer the youthful neophyte morning the loss of his murdered safta, but now a long-haired, bearded man, engaged to the brilliant Clara (Emily Rudd) with the weight of wisdom and experience on his shoulders. I had to review BTS photos just to confirm that this was in fact the same actor as season one as Lerman’s transformation was so absolute, he truly is a different character.

After tracking down Nazi congressman Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker), Jonah receives confirmation that Hitler is in fact alive. With this knowledge, he tracks down FBI agent Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton) and the two get the band back together – warrior nun Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), Hollywood star Lonny Flash (Josh Radner), counterfeiter and former Black Panther Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone), and Polish Holocaust survivor Mindy Markowitz (Carol Kane). Missing is Saul Rubinek’s Murray Markowitz, who died at the end of season 1, and Joe Mizushima (Louis Ozawa), who has mysteriously disappeared.

Moving Backwards and Forwards

Episode two returns to the tone we became so familiar with in season 1 of Hunters. In order to keep Al Pacino’s star power in the series and give more insight into how he could have gotten away with this deceit for over 30 years, the season jumps back and forth in time. We see how Pacino came to form the Hunters and also make sure there was no one left to expose his secret.

In the “present day” (1979), the hunters embark on their mission to track down Hitler. After a little misunderstanding and a bit of treachery, the hunters join forces with long-time Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Chava Apfelbaum (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her partner Tobias (Jonno Davies). On the Nazi side of things, along with Eva Braun and a much more prominent Adolf Hitler, Travis Leich (Greg Austin) is a sadistic as ever.

Carol Kane and Tiffany Boone in Hunters Season 2 on Amazon Prime
Carol Kane and Tiffany Boone in Hunters II on Amazon Prime

The Actors Truly Shine In Hunters II

As with season 1, the actors are the ones who truly shine in this show. The performances are are compelling, heartfelt and powerful. Each character has so much nuance and depth, that it’s honestly some of the best acting I’ve seen on the screen. It’s obvious through the performances that these characters have so much more depth than what we’re seeing on the screen.

Where the show gets bogged down is in the story. With just one season and only eight episodes, Weil had to compress a lot of information into a little amount of time, which resulted in the storytelling being a bit clunky and several of the actors being underutilized.

The most egregious example of this is Carol Kane’s character being almost completely relegated to the sidelines. In season 1, Mindy and Murray were truly the heart of the show. They brought the pain and suffering that came from being Holocaust survivors to the young group who have only heard stories of the camps. They anchored the group and the series in the first person horrors of surviving the Nazi regime. That being said, when Kane is on screen, she delivers with so much heartbreaking passion, I wouldn’t be surprised if an Emmy nomination follows. In the final episode, “The Trial of Adolf Hitler,” she gives one of the most impassioned monologues I’ve ever seen on screen.

Kate Mulvany, Josh Radner, Jerriker Hinton and Logan Lerman in Hunters II on Amazon Prime

While the show already has a tight cast, the addition of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Chava is a welcome addition. As with Mindy and Murray, she embarks on this work as a survivor of the camps, though we get very little background information on her. Grizzled and bitter, she dominates every scene she’s in and has a wonderful arc that reminds the audience how important family is.

Millie has one of the most extreme character developments, losing complete faith in the government and justice system and coming to the realization that the way of the Hunters might be the only way to enact justice. Hinton expertly portrays the struggles Millie is dealing with, and it was a joy to see her joining the team rather than fighting against them.

Sister Harriet has some of the most enticing revelations this season and Mulvany continues to play the character with compelling strength and sorrow. Unfortunately, Lonny and Roxy have much more truncated roles this season, but we are able to see the demons they are struggling with. Radner’s depiction of Lonny’s struggle with loss and cocaine addition has a beautiful transformation as he realizes that he needs to love himself for who he is. We learn more about Roxy’s struggle as a single mom, and Boone dexterously displays that the work she does is fueled by the love for her family and the injustices her community has faced in this country.

The supporting character of Clara was a nice addition, as it added an element of humanity outside of violence and was a reminder to Jonah that he is more than his revenge. I was especially pleased to see that the writers didn’t just make her a plot device. There is a fantastic scene between Clara and Joe, where she uses psychological tactics to appeal to his humanity rather than violence. Rudd gives an expert performance, balancing the fear of the character with the strength she possesses in understanding the human mind.

The Making of a Murderer

The antagonists this season continue to be Nazis and Neo-Nazis, but it becomes a bit more personal for the Hunters. Joe’s character had one of the strangest journeys this season and one that I found a bit unbelievable. But Ozawa deftly handled the pressure of portraying an interment camp survivor and military combat veteran who is brainwashed by Nazis into turning against his friends. Olin’s Braun is as shrewd as ever and it was interesting to see her evolve this season and start to assert herself and question Hitler’s methods.

Hitler had only a brief appearance last season, but this season we see the man he has become after 30 years in hiding. I can only imagine all the work that went into Kier’s portrayal of one of the most evil men to ever live and must commend him for his performance. He keeps all the seething power we have seen in recorded speeches by Hitler, but layers over that the desire to be relevant once again. And of course, Al Pacino is Al Pacino. While I feel like the addition of flashback scenes at times bogged down an already over-stuff season, Pacino’s performance is a constant reminder as to why he has won an Oscar, a BAFTA, two Emmys, two Tonys, and four Golden Globes.

Hunters II: Kneecapped by the Studio

With such compelling writing, I’m hesitating to blame the bloated plot on creator Weir or EP Jordan Peele. Instead, the show was the unfortunate victim of a pattern of behavior by streaming networks to cancel shows before they have time to fully explore their story. Hunters would have been well served by a third or even fourth season, or even just a few more episodes. The penultimate episode completely takes us out of the main story lines to examine a myth Jonah heard about a couple who hid Jewish families during the war. It is almost a non-sequitur in story and tone, but an absolutely fantastic hour of television. If the show had more time, I would loved to have seen more episodes like this. Hunters is a unique story that is incredibly pertinent today, as we see fascist elements becoming more empowered in this country and globally, that Amazon did us all disservice by canceling. It’s especially curious given that Amazon gave The Man in the High Castle four seasons and they didn’t have Al Pacino headlining the series.

A Story that Needs to be Told

If you were a fan of season 1, I encourage you to watch season 2, if for nothing more than to see how it ends. If you are someone who appreciates fantastic acting, then you won’t be disappointed. If you enjoy compelling dialogue and monologues, Hunters delivers in spades, especially the final two episodes.

The ultimate theme of the show is that the survivors of these atrocities deserve to and need to be heard, so that events like this never happen again. With the modern day atrocities we are seeing, Hunters is a show that needs to be heard. For those individuals who are a threat to freedom and democracy, the best thing we can do is remove their pulpit. Hollywood has the power to tell stories, change minds, and influence the zeitgeist. As we saw in the movie She Said, there is power in holding people accountable. While Hunters is fictional, there was something very cathartic about seeing justice (or vengeance, depending on your point of view) being enacted against Nazis who were able to escape the war with impunity. There was triumphant irony in seeing Hitler be held accountable for his crimes against humanity and reduced from a person to a number in a prison, where no one knows who he is.

Watch Hunters II now on Amazon Prime Video.

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