At the end of the first season of Hunters, there were a series of significant twists that got dropped right into the middle of the story and shattered all we had come to know up until then. While this review will keep some of the specifics under wraps, for those who may be still considering whether to see how the story begins before it ends, writing about the direction of this second and final season is impossible without at least acknowledging them.
The first revelation was that the real identity of Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino) was found out by the young Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), who subsequently killed him. It was a misguided development, tying itself into knots to justify its addition and not let Meyer off the hook for his deception while still coming dangerously close to making him into a martyr of sorts. The second was that this group of Nazi hunters would have a new target, that they would have to find, who also would be their biggest yet. They weren’t all aware of it, but in this world, Adolf Hitler never actually died. Instead, he went into hiding where he remained for decades. However, after being mostly dormant, he is now building a force to come after the Hunters themselves just as they are looking for him. The series then picks up with Jonah as well as the rest of the team coming together for one last job: find Hitler and bring him to justice.
This premise is in keeping with the pulpy tone of the first season that played fast and loose with history to let its characters grapple with the all-too-real forces of fascism that continue to take hold. In the first season, this opened in a grim fashion, with a former Nazi murdering his whole family that he had been using for cover. It established the stakes immediately, all of which further escalated as the Hunters learned of a hateful plot to carry out another genocide. The pivot away from America, which was skewered for its complicity in allowing Nazi scientists to avoid the consequences of their contributions to the space race, is then a fundamental one that loses much of the pointed criticisms. Still, the beating heart of the story in Hunters' present which remains forever haunted by the past has plenty of promise. Most of this gets capitalized on, with some opening sequences packing an appropriate level of dark humor to balance it out with the horrors of everything else. In particular, there is one episode that has the least to do with the characters though also proves to be the most fun. Unfortunately, just as these moments strike a balance, the story itself gets caught up in flashbacks that provide little to the story other than an excuse to bring back a famous actor.
Despite his character dying in the first season, Pacino is an oddly central part of Hunters' conclusion. It is odd as we already know what his fate is, making any of his actions or storylines feel inconsequential. The way he is integrated into the story feels like it is working backward from just wanting to have an actor of his caliber around for as much as they can. Perhaps in small increments, this could work, but it really drags down the rest of the story. As he goes around pretending to be a different person and recruiting members for the Hunters, his deceptions are already known to us as the audience. When done with more care and attention, this could create some sense of dramatic irony. It tries to create some tension in seeing whether anyone around him had any suspicions about his identity, but we already know that most of them don’t. It just never quite feels alive in the way the rest of the story does, taking a twist that already felt like it was straining to justify itself and compounding it even further by doubling down on making it so integral to the show. There is the addition of a few more developments that it uses to try to tie this storyline into the present, but it never connects in a compelling fashion. Instead, Pacino seems to exist in a different show entirely.
The unfortunate truth is that, not only did Hunters not need to bring the character back, but it goes further than that as the emphasis placed on his presence puts a damper on everything else. It tries to be cheeky about it, with his opening line containing a double meaning that winks to the audience, though it still can’t gloss over the fact that this narrative choice is one that never carries any weight in the story. Thankfully, the journey of Jonah where he is torn between building a life after being part of the Hunters and finishing this one last job, while not the most unique of personal struggles, draws us back in. Sure, his hair is much longer this go-around, but he is facing some of many struggles. While there is a bit of a false equivocation carried over from the first season about whether he is becoming like the monsters he is setting out to bring to justice, that battle taking part for his soul provides an interiority that the actor is able to do quite a lot with.
Just as did with the outstanding recent film Shirley, Lerman once more proves he is capable of taking on subtly dynamic characters. He is able to capture the turmoil that often bursts out in rage when he finds himself worried that he might not find a way to get out unscathed. The relationship he has with some of the new characters offers up some of the best, most emotionally resonant scenes in the series, though the rest of the returning cast are also all great. Despite the many narrative flaws that are sprinkled throughout, the destination at which their journeys all arrive actually makes for a rather fitting finale. Though it was not entirely surprising that this season will be the last, it is nice to see characters get given some closure when other streaming series aren’t so lucky. It makes Hunters a show that, while not as successful in executing its ideas as one would hope, will still be remembered for the moments when everything managed to come together.
You can watch all eight episodes of the final season of Hunters starting on Prime Video on January 13.