By: Webster Tilton
Hunters, starring Al Pacino, is a series about a group of (mostly) Jewish residents of New York city who investigate Nazis living in the United States during the late 70s, and kill them. It’s done in a deliberately comic-book style that will (forcefully) remind you of a certain well-known director.
My verdict up front: The series is another nearly flawless offering from Amazon…but…be aware that toward the end the series does something that may leave you feeling like the victim of a bait and switch. I’ll explain that later. As for the show itself I could only find one actual flaw. The setup for the ending is noticeably forced, and not well followed up on. When the hint is dropped for what will eventually happen in the final reveal, there is no reason for the characters who are present at the time to not become immediately suspicious and start demanding answers.
So, what did I mean about a bait and switch?
In the field of robotics people talk about the ‘Uncanny Valley’; a psychological phenomenon whereby the closer a robot gets to looking human without actually getting all the way there, the more negative a human’s reaction to it will be when they see it. If the robot is noticeably not human, nobody minds it, and if it is flawlessly human nobody can tell the difference. But anything that falls in between those two markers just feels somehow wrong. Our brains can’t decide what this thing we’re looking at is supposed to be, and it messes with our heads.
I get this same feeling whenever I encounter anything from the genre known as Alternate History. The concept is simple; rewrite actual events to make a fictional narrative that suits the purposes of your story. AH has a significant fanbase, but I’ve never been able to tolerate it (or the fanbase). This is because, just like fan fiction, the AH feels inherently self-indulgent and immature. Rather than creating their own world, AH and FF writers take what someone else did and repurpose it as they see fit. And, this is why I hate it; knowing that this isn’t how it happened in real life destroys my suspension of disbelief.
So, with the up-front acknowledgement that just because I dislike something doesn’t mean it was objectively bad, here is my big problem with Hunters. The last couple of episodes combine a badly telegraphed plot twist with a jarring genre switch into Alternate History. It doesn’t derail the momentum of the plot, but it also doesn’t take the audience to the advertised destination. The very last scene of the final episode made me cringe.
And then I remembered that this series is supposed to be like a comic book, which at long last helped me understand the underlying problem: It’s trying to be two things at once and only mostly pulling it off. Hunters is an original story written for Amazon, but it feels like an imperfect adaptation of a graphic novel. I was reminded of the Netflix movie “Polar”, which had the exact same problem to a much greater degree. By comparison, Hunters merely forgot to use the clutch when switching gears.
So in the end, yes, I do recommend it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s still one of the best things streaming right now. A lot of hard work and creativity went into Hunters, I just wish the road it took me on hadn’t ended with a speed bump and a pothole.