“At Night, All Birds Are Black” takes a heavy-handed approach in an hour full to the brim with torture and misery that’ll surely divide the show’s audience.
This recap of Hunters Season 1, Episode 5, “At Night, All Birds Are Black”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
In case you had any doubts about the general unpleasantness of Katarina Löw (Megan Channell), Hunters Episode 5 opens with an assurance that she’s properly psychotic. In 1976 Paraguay, a room full of healthy local children leaves her visibly disappointed, while another room full of kids’ corpses prompts a big, beaming smile. It’s a thoroughly miserable opener to “At Night, All Birds Are Black”, which promptly shifts gears into Meyer (Al Pacino) recounting his torture at the hands of the Wolf (Christian Oliver) to a horrified Jonah (Logan Lerman), who is being brutally trained in hand-to-hand combat by Joe (Louis Ozawa). There is a point to all this, a lesson to be learned – when you see the opportunity you have to take it. Meyer had the opportunity to kill the Wolf and didn’t seize it; now look where we are.
The next order of business is to track down the Ghost (Bill Corry), and to that end, Meyer sends Jonah, Joe, and Harriet (Kate Mulvany) to Huntsville, Alabama in search of one of his top lieutenants, Dieter Zweigelt (Raphael Sbarge), while he, Lonny (Josh Radnor) and Roxy (Tiffany Boone) head to Westchester, New York, on the hunt for his former girlfriend Tilda Sauer (Barbara Sukowa). Hunters Episode 5 seems to delight in torture, with less of the fantastical cutaways which have cropped up in earlier episodes; the exception is a vivid and stylized ‘Nam flashback experienced by Joe, which is hardly the fun and games of a Bee Gees rendition. This’ll likely prove the most divisive episode so far for exactly this reason.
Another throughline of “At Night, All Birds Are Black” is the increasingly reckless behavior of Travis (Greg Austin), who is ordered by Tobias (Jonno Davies) to basically run an errand. It’s disrespectful enough that he later does away with Tobias’s henchmen, plants a bomb under Meyer’s car, and opens fire on that trio with a shotgun while singing – an unsuccessful attack, but surely a sign of things to come regarding his psyche.
Biff (Dylan Baker) also proves himself typically useless. To try and cozy up to the Colonel’s (Lena Olin) superior, the General, he has to go back and convince Juanita Kreps (Becky Ann Baker) to stop delaying the Latin American trade deal that he talked her into delaying in the first place, which she’s understandably unwilling to do given how it’d make her look. In many ways, Biff is the sadistic but ultimately idiotic embodiment of Nazism that a show like this enjoys making fun of, whereas the more subtle and sinister threats of the Colonel and the unhinged followers like Travis whose loyalty they inspire are the real threats of a burgeoning Fourth Reich.
Anyway, in Alabama, Jonah, Harriet, and Joe verify Dieter’s identity, tie him up in a barn and torture him in a similar manner to how he experimented on Jews during the war – this experimentation, he explains, is why he and many like him were recruited by NASA to speed America along in the Space Race following the war’s end. Harriet goes rogue and kidnaps another Nazi at Dieter’s Fourth of July party, Moritz Ehrlich (Ronald Guttman), making off with him in a car; the final shot of Hunters Episode 5 is the two of them driving along.
Things are similarly morbid in Westchester in “At Night, All Birds Are Black”. Tilda is captured, tied up, and forced to watch her own propaganda movies while being spoon-fed manure in the hopes that she’ll reveal her real identity or give up the Ghost, neither of which she’s willing to do. At first, I thought Hunters Episode 5 was making a point about torture here, and how it frequently yields false information shared out of desperation for the misery to end, but I’m not sure. I think the likelier alternative is that Tilda was simply too committed to break, since she wasn’t shy in antagonizing her torturers until Meyer heard enough and executed her, much to Roxy and Lonny’s disgust.
And finally there’s Millie (Jerrika Hinton), who in Hunters Season 1, Episode 5 meets with journalist Danny Rohr (Miles G. Jackson) and is told that Meyer enlisted him to expose a Nazi in America and then didn’t help him when, after exposing many more, he was blackmailed with child p*********y to the ruination of his career. A source that can apparently prove all this is dangled in front of Millie, but it only leads her to a beating in a bar bathroom by assailants who threaten to expose her homosexuality. All in all, then, a thoroughly miserable episode with a blunt approach that’ll definitely split an audience.
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