“The Mourner’s Kaddish” introduces the Nazi-hunting team and some fractious internal conflicts as they pursue a new target and various subplots simmer in the background.
This recap of Hunters Season 1, Episode 2, “The Mourner’s Kaddish”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Five minutes into Hunters Episode 2 we’re going to be treated to a ridiculous imagined bat mitzvah which introduces the various members of Al Pacino’s Nazi-hunting vigilante team, complete with stylized title-cards and quintessential 70s attire, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the opener of “The Mourner’s Kaddish”, which returns to the concentration camps of the war where a group of prisoners forced to play Wagner instead rebel by breaking out into “Hava Nagila” and are all executed for their trouble. Silly exploitation tale this may be, but the lurching tone has by no means settled into a consistent sensibility at this early stage.
But anyway, about that bat mitzvah. It might not fit what came moments before, but it’s a useful way of introducing the team without reams of exposition, so you can’t complain too much. It occurs in an elevator as the crew head to the secret operations center built by Ruth (Jeannie Berlin) and dubbed “The Ark”, its nickname redolent with the kind of Old Testament grandiosity you’d expect from a biblical fable of the type Hunters clearly aspires to be. They need the Ark to research a note about Karl Holstedder (John Hans Tester) found in Richter’s possessions, which contained a code deciphered by Jonah (Logan Lerman). Thus, during the bat mitzvah, Jonah is dubbed “The Codebreaker” and given a purpose in the group to offset his youthful naïveté. He’s joined by MI6 spy-turned-nun Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), failed actor and master of disguise Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor), black power activist Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone), Vietnam vet and combat master Joe Torrance (Louis Ozawa), and married weapons experts and “Chabad-asses” Mindy and Murray Markowitz (Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek). They all, along with Meyer (Pacino), light the candles on a young girl’s cake.
Following these introductions, Hunters Episode 2 confirms the next target and helps to contextualize the opening flashback: Holstedder, aka the “Pied Piper of Buchenwald”, the sadistic Simon Cowell figure of the camps who rewarded every bum note with a bullet. We’re also reminded of some percolating subplots. Millie (Jerrika Hinton) dooms Detective Sommers (Tramell Tillman) by showing him the photograph of Gretel (Veronika Nowag-Jones) with Hitler, which is later investigated by Travis (Greg Austin) and leads to the death of Sommers and his entire family. Travis remains one of the show’s genuinely intimidating figures, perhaps more so than the notorious war criminals; his plainness, quiet demeanor, and inability to not kill everyone in a scene give all his moments, even a non-violent plane journey during which he lectures the mother of a little boy with a peanut allergy about how society would be better if we let nature weed out the weak, a simmering nutcase intensity.
Millie later in “The Mourner’s Kaddish” visits the home of Gretel’s brother Hans, also dead, and apparently, at least according to his wife, a Red Cross doctor during the war. The discovery of photographs and the teeth of Jewish children suggest not, though. We also meet Millie’s nurse girlfriend Maria (Julissa Bermudez), providing a very personal target for the Nazis to inevitably go after when Millie’s sleuthing threatens to expose them.
And lest we forget, Under Secretary of State Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) is still milking the supposedly tragic death of his family, though it isn’t enough to convince The Colonel (Lena Olin) to take his calls – she’s busy blackmailing American politicians by threatening to expose their role-playing gay sex life should they not pass a bill facilitating Latin American imports, which you’ll recall was the same matter addressed in the previous episode at the bowling alley.
Back to the A-plot of “The Mourner’s Kaddish”, the team breaks into the home of Holstedder, from which he’s broadcasting a coded German lullaby. Jonah, being the young newbie, is susceptible to the German’s manipulation, buying into his sob story about drowning out the ringing in his ears with music; in a scuffle, Joe has no choice but to execute Holstedder with a bullet that also destroys the radio equipment before Jonah can decode the message. The team chastises him for being stupid and Meyer for bringing him into the team in the first place, introducing some internal conflict and what becomes wracking guilt for Jonah, experiencing the same ringing in his ears as described by Holstedder and Macbeth-style bloody hands. These are interesting elements that would probably work better if they weren’t coming after a fantasy sequence in the form of an exploitation movie trailer starring the Hunters.
Hunters Season 1, Episode 2 keeps the mystery ticking by ending on a cliffhanger in which a man and woman separately hear the German lullaby and decipher from it both a spot on a map and a date. Something is afoot.
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