Hunters (2020) s01e01 – In the Belly of the Whale

“Hunters” fully realizes the potential of a popular entertainment revenge action-drama. There’s the Marathon Man-esque scene—not a Nazi dentist scene but a Nazi toy shop owner (a perfect Kenneth Tigar; “Hunters” seems like it’s going to be way too good at casting its Nazis)—but it ends with the good guys killing the evil Nazi bastard. They’re not action hero good guys, they’re not old man action heroes or soulful action heroes.

One of them is Al Pacino, who’s decidedly not a soulful old man action hero, rather a well-fed, lovable, cuddly old man Pacino. And the other is Logan Lerman, who’s almost thirty playing a late teen who looks ever fourteen. He’s a smart, likable, empathetic, bullied, young Jewish man in 1977 Brooklyn.

Lerman, the show lead, is so smart he’s already helped the police solve a case thanks to his passively analytical mind. The likability and empathy has come through in his post-Star Wars screening dissection of Darth Vader’s childhood brainwashing (better idea than reality)–show creator and episode writer David Weil owes a whole bunch to Kevin Smith and Clerks for this kind of onscreen Star Wars dissection (whereas the show owes its whole production aesthetic to Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam).

Lerman’s scene right after he and his friends talking about Star Wars is the girl across the street (Ebony Obsidian) who he’s crushed on forever helping him set up a pot sale only for the buyer, her boyfriend, to kick Lerman’s ass for being Jewish. This attack comes after the opening which has political fixer Dylan Baker being outed as a Nazi and killing his family in suburban Washington D.C.

“Hunters” is a lot and knows it.

Meanwhile, Black female in 1977 FBI agent Jerrika Hinton is off in Florida investigating in a case and finding out her government doesn’t just not want her—a Black woman FBI agent—around even though they hired her around, they’re also covering up a bunch of Nazis in the United States, working for its government.

The episode’s a nice, long, traditional 90-minute pilot. We get Lerman’s origin story with finding out grandma Jeannie Berlin (it’d be nice if she were better) and fellow concentration camp survivor Pacino are amateur septuagenarian Nazi hunters.

They have to do it themselves because the U.S. government doesn’t care (or worse) and because “Hunters” is seemingly going out of its way to mention Israel too much, which is fine… it’s mainstream, inclusive entertainment.

The main Nazis seem to be Dylan Baker—who’s perfect because it’s Dylan Baker and he was born to play a Nazi sleeper cell agent—Lena Olin as Ms. Big, and Greg Austin as the “born in the U.S.A.” Nazi hitman. Austin’s great. It’s too soon to tell with Olin but it’s also not like she’s going to have much to do.

Lerman’s a great lead—even if the episode spends an hour putting him in a holding pattern—Hinton’s good, Pacino’s borderline adorable, and the villains are loathsome. “Hunters” does everything it should do.

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