Hunters S2 Review: A Middling Finale
Right before COVID, David Weil’s Hunters premiered on Prime Video. This clever series about Nazi hunters in the 1970s had to be something special to get Jordan Peele as an executive producer on the series, and it was a success in my book. The series gave new life to Logan Lerman’s career and a new type of role for Al Pacino to sink his teeth into. And for all of its campiness, the first season of Hunters had an emotional pull that kept you gripped for the entirety of its length. Where did that spark go when Prime Video renewed it for a second (and supposedly final) season? It’s sad when a show you love goes downhill so, so fast. Every sitcom has that phase where it’s clearly past its expiration date just as Hunters clearly would’ve been better as a standalone series.
The second season of Hunters begins in 1975, a couple of years prior to the events of the first season. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” says Meyer Offerman (Pacino) as he sits at a dinner table. This line is just the beginning of the issues that come with the second season of Hunters. No spoilers here, but the events of the first season’s finale make it clear why Meyer is being presented in flashbacks. We cut back and forth between present-day — 1979 — and 1975 as Meyer navigates conflict including someone knowing his true identity and meeting Ruth (Jeannie Berlin) again. More on this in a moment.
Fast forward to 1979 and Jonah (Lerman) is camping out at a brothel in France. It seems strange at first given that he now has a fiancé named Clara (Emily Rudd), but we soon learn that he’s still chasing Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) and is on the cusp of catching him. Jonah’s now sporting longer, Posiden-like hair and a Paul McCartney–Let it Be-era beard to go with it and has clearly come into his role of the leader of the hunt. During his confrontation with Biff, Jonah learns that Adolf Hitler (Udo Kier) is still alive and is hiding out; leaving him no choice but to team up with Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton) as they need to gather the troops as Nick Fury did leading up to The Avengers and re-assemble their ragtag, Suicide Squad-like “family.”
You may be wondering: What happened to the rest of our friends from the first season? Well, Lonny (Josh Radnor) is in Barcelona, snorting lines in the bathroom of a press junket; Roxy (Tiffany Boone) is in France; Mindy (Carol Kane) is back in New York, still haunted by the ghost of her husband; Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany) is still a badass in Vienna; and perhaps most importantly, Joe (Louis Ozawa), is still in South Africa with Hitler as we saw in the finale of the first season. Once assembled, the team attempts to track down Hitler at any cost necessary and Jonah has to grapple with being a leader and meeting a new member of his family — his Safta’s sister, Chava (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Who would’ve thought that I, a Pacino fanatic, would actually be questioning his presence in a show he starred in? The second season of Hunters had me questioning this as the eight episodes progressed. It’s not that I don’t want to see more of Meyer, but Pacino is mostly restricted to an office for the first half of the season before getting a little bit more to do in the second half of the season. Perhaps all of his secrets have already been revealed, as the finale of this season attempts to throw one more in that felt self-explanatory in the previous season’s finale. I do love Pacino, but this role felt like either a case of the studio feeling the need to keep a big name like his on the show for promotional purposes or a way to pad the runtime of each episode. After all, how else would you get each episode up to 45+ minutes? At least the flashbacks in the first season of Hunters had a clear purpose. The ones in the second season feel like an obligation.
Now, the second season of Hunters does bring some goods to the table — Leigh being a standout addition to the cast. While the role of Jonah’s grandaunt is far from a career-best performance, her bickering with Lerman makes for a fun watch. She’s stern but also has a warmth beneath her hard shell. The second season of Hunters also brings a far more cinematic aesthetic than its first season. Remember how gloomy and blue the war-time flashbacks were in the first season? The series has evolved from WWII flashbacks to more modern-day flashbacks and from chess boards to Mouse Trap.
But the biggest highlight of the season comes in the season’s penultimate episode, “The Home.” It’s a filler episode, but I don’t want to write it off completely. In what’s creator Weil’s first directorial effort in the two seasons Hunters has run, it shows his handle on tension and horror as groups of Nazi officials investigate the house of an old German couple. It’s tense, clever and by far the best part of this second season. It’s a throwback to the first scene of Inglorious Basterds in the best way possible (imagine that scenario three times!). It just stinks that its overall effect on the show is minimal at best outside of its final moments.
Will this really be the final season of Hunters? Who’s to say? It ends with a Dark Knight Rises-like ending and it really wouldn’t be shocking to see them go one more season. And in all honesty, despite how much of a misfire the second season was, I think that there is far more to explore with Ruth (assuming Berlin would come back) than Meyer. Jonah’s story is likely wrapped up, but Lerman has never been better and it’s great to see him in a leading role. But, assuming what Prime Video has said is true and that this truly is the end of what began as a stellar series, it’s a shame to watch it limp to the finish line.
Prime Video will release Hunters Season 2 on January 13.