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August 10, 2022

Despite good production, Hunters falls morally flat

By BINYAMIN NOVETSKY | February 27, 2020

Amazon Prime released its highly-advertised new series, Hunters, this past Friday. The show follows a nefarious plot going on amongst 1977 Nazis, who plan to take over the United States and re-found the Nazi party (or something along those lines). The show also features an FBI agent played by Jerrika Hinton, who is herself discovering and following that very nation-wide Nazi conspiracy.

The show is, to put it lightly, incredibly problematic. Now, that’s not to say it’s bad — it isn’t. In fact, much of the show is quite well done. In particular, the acting is at times tremendous. 

Al Pacino isn’t necessarily at his lofty best, but he’s certainly more than adequate, and a few of his intensely passionate monologues are quite moving. For the record, Pacino is not actually Jewish, though in fairness he did play a Jew in the most recent film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. Logan Lerman, who is best known for Percy Jackson rather than The Godfather, does an excellent job as the protagonist Jonah Heidelbaum. 

Jonah is a huge superhero fan at the height of the 70s comic book era, and the show takes a few artistic liberties to show you the world through that lens. Those sequences can border on being a bit absurd, but they’re also fun, artistic and genuinely interesting. So to be clear, the problem isn’t that Hunters is a bad show. Rather, it’s that it sends some highly faulty and flawed messages. 

The show focuses mainly on the quest of a small group of hunters who go around finding and killing old Nazis, and its central question is basically just “Is this okay?” That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. The show sets out to ask questions about the morality of killing Nazis, but I found these questions to be in poor taste and even more poorly answered.

For one thing, we’re not talking about theoretically remorseful or regretful Nazis here. The show actually goes to great lengths to be absolutely clear that these Nazis are still evil, that they still think Jews are vermin and that they clearly intend to do damage to the fabric of America. When the hunters capture one of the Nazis, the Nazi actually says the words, “I was just following orders.” 

Not only that, but Hunters is also full of horrifyingly explicit flashbacks to the Nazi death and concentration camps. So, while being constantly reminded of just how incredibly evil Nazis are, am I, as a viewer and as a Jew, supposed to question whether killing them is morally justifiable? I’m not at all sorry to say that such a goal for a television show is offensive and objectionable. 

Another important thing to note that many others who have already reviewed this show online have mentioned, is that some of these Nazi horror stories are fabricated or exaggerated. 

That all aside, there is a much greater flaw that undermines the entirety of Hunters. In the first of 10 episodes – each of which are a full 90 minutes long – the aforementioned FBI agent discovers that a dead NASA scientist was originally a German chemist and a part of the Nazi party. This, of all things, is the most historically accurate part of the show. 

The history of American science is plagued by the fact that the United States accepted many, many Nazis in order to help further the space program and other missions. 

The thing is, that’s already pretty bad in and of itself. I don’t need to watch 11 hours of television to realize that it’s probably not great that America forgave all those Nazis (without asking any Jews, of course) just to beat Russia to the moon. 

By also adding fabricated stories and conspiracy theories about Nazis, Hunters fails to realize that the atrocities committed by the Nazis were already bad enough. To be specific, the show fabricates a fictitious Nazi conspiracy theory to take over America just to really push the point home that we probably shouldn’t have let them into America in the first place. 

Somehow, a show so heavily focused on questioning the morality of killing Nazis actually makes it even easier to hate them by altering history to elongate their reign of evil. 

Earlier this week, the Auschwitz Memorial also released a statement that criticized the show’s various inaccuracies. 

“Auschwitz was full of horrible pain & suffering documented in the accounts of survivors. Inventing a fake game of human chess for @huntersonprime is not only dangerous foolishness & caricature. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy,” the tweet stated. 

I’m not here to tell you that the Nazi hunters this show is loosely based on were all perfect people or that their mission was truly sanctified by God, as they violently put forth. I’m not trying to say that killing anyone is ever an easy choice to make. I also will not deny that America might need a show right now just to remind everyone about the dangers of hatred and supremacy. 

But Hunters is a show that asks too many questions too poorly for it to really make the point it’s going for.

I want to be clear that I plan on finishing this show, because again, it’s not actually bad television. The production value and acting performances are very impressive, and the story is admittedly compelling, albeit slow. However, that doesn’t justify the fact that the show bites off far more than it is capable of chewing, and it deserves all this criticism and more for doing so. 

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