This recap of Hunters Season 1, Episode 8, “The Jewish Question”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“Paint It Black” is always a safe bet for any media set in or adjacent to the 70s – remember when it was used to promote Conflict: Vietnam on the PlayStation 2? – and it’s used to solid effect in the opening of Hunters Episode 8, “The Jewish Question”, during which Jonah (Logan Lerman) roams through the New York blackout while being chastised by Ruth, Murray, and Arthur, whose deaths are on his conscience. But the upside of the city’s total loss of power is that Meyer’s (Al Pacino) insistence that an attack was imminent proves he was right about a Nazi conspiracy, and so Millie (Jerrika Hinton) frees him.
Virtually nothing is made of Lonny (Josh Radnor) having been stabbed when everyone debates their next steps by candlelight. For once, the Hunters are thoroughly on the back foot, after having lost one of their own – Jonah (Logan Lerman) is forced to break the news of Murray’s death to Mindy (Carol Kane) – and been unable to prevent an attack; when Harriet (Kate Mulvany) has the Ghost’s blood tested by her old friend Patricia (Francesca Faridany) at the CDC, she learns that it contains a pathogen impossible to cure which activates after six weeks of dormancy.
The Nazis, meanwhile, are loving life, with the Colonel (Lena Olin) and Katarina (Megan Channell) excited over their minority-targeting bioweapon. But Meyer (Al Pacino) is still a threat, so Travis (Greg Austin) and Tobias (Jonno Davies) are once again sent to kill him. Their season-long rivalry finally amounts to a payoff though as Travis kills Tobias, which feels somewhat overdue.
What we begin to see in Hunters Episode 8 is Meyer coming into his own in this chaos. He speaks in grandiose terms to Jonah about childish fantasies versus real heroics, suggesting that on some level he’s pleased by the circumstances that allow him to prove what he believes himself to be: a righteous combatant in a long-running war against fascism. And “The Jewish Question” reveals why he feels this way. At Auschwitz, the Wolf (Christian Oliver) gave him an impossible choice: to witness the execution of his love, Ruth, or to be made a tool of the Nazis. In choosing the latter he handed over a piece of himself that he’d never get back; he allowed them to win then and is unwilling to do so again.
We also see an even closer blending of real-life with fantasy here, as Millie discovers that the Argentinian Schidler Corp brought in a shipment via the ports – thus tying together the Latin America trade deal and the distraction of the blackout – and that one of their apparently dead board members was Wernher von Braun, the leading figure in Nazi Germany’s V-2 rocket development program and latterly a famous aerospace engineer for NASA, played here by Victor Slezak.
In finding out whether Wernher is still alive, Meyer is forced to confront what he addressed earlier about his backstory and his determination to be a specific kind of hero in this new war. His adversary in the debate is Simon Wiesenthal (Judd Hirsch), who he turns to for intel. Like the insistence on going ahead with the wedding of Mindy and Murray’s daughter, the counter-argument to Meyer’s self-fulfilling rationalization is that by compromising their steadfast morality Jews are, in a sense, compromising being Jewish; they are giving up their identity in the same way that Meyer did to save Ruth at Auschwitz. On the level of the individual, it’s an understandable personal failure, but on a larger scale, it would be cultural suicide. The debate is circuitous but not fruitless since it leads to Wernher’s residence, but Meyer’s further justifications of his “necessary” work become less compelling and more self-serving the more they’re reiterated.
Wernher meets the same fate as Moritz in Hunters Episode 8: A single, merciful bullet. But at least Wernher had information to impart. He worked with the Fourth Reich in exchange for space program support – a surprisingly believable close-to-reality justification – and reveals that the Colonel’s plan is to target inner-city underclasses with tainted corn syrup. I’m highly skeptical of this plan but also not about to debate it; suffice it to say I don’t feel the effects would be as specifically limited as the Colonel believes, though.
The question hovering over the end of Hunters Season 1, Episode 8 is was it worth it? Jonah on some level seems compromised by Meyer’s ideology, and as the body count continues to mount up, it’s easy to believe that the desire for vengeance is beginning to run away with those who consider themselves the heroes in this story.
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