Friday, February 21, 2020

REVIEW: 'Hunters' - Jonah Pursues Dangerous Answers After His Grandmother Is Killed in 'In the Belly of the Whale'

Amazon's Hunters - Episode 1.01 "In the Belly of the Whale"

Jonah Heidelbaum is an ordinary comic book-loving, pot-dealing, teenage Brooklynite, until his grandmother - a Holocaust survivor - is murdered one night by an unknown assailant. At her shiva, he meets a mysterious millionaire named Meyer Offerman, who seems to know more about the murder than he lets on. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Millie Morris is tasked with investigating the mysterious death of an elderly NASA scientist down in Florida.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Amazon's Hunters.

"In the Belly of the Whale" was written by David Weil and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

At the end of this 90-minute premiere, Meyer Offerman explains to Jonah that he is a Nazi hunter. It's a job he embraced completely a year ago alongside Jonah's grandmother, whose death kicks off this entire series. And yes, that is a clear example of yet another woman being fridged early on to provide a sense of agency to the male lead. One moment, Jonah is a teenager being lectured for selling weed. The next, he is paralyzed with fear over the intruder in his house who has killed his grandmother. After that, he is full of rage in the hopes of getting justice for himself knowing the police are too incompetent to do anything. He solves a case in his limited time at the police station. It's not that difficult for him. The narrative points out that he sees things that others do not. His grandmother is alleged to have that skill as well. In her case though, it's something she kept hidden and so it has to be explained by others instead of seeing firsthand. Jonah actually gets that moment. He tracks down his grandmother's killer. He is still naive though. It's an encounter that almost ends in his death as well. He is confronting a Nazi scientist who has been living a new life in America. One who is just as deadly now as he was a generation ago. Jonah didn't see this as an ongoing conflict. He viewed the Nazis as having been wiped out at the end of the war. His grandmother didn't talk about her time in the camps. That experience defined so much for her. She is forever branded because of it. She lost her entire family as a result. She has held so closely to Jonah because he is her last surviving family member. He feels a duty to honor her no matter what. He isn't the only person to feel that way. Meyer and the rest of the Nazi hunters seek vengeance as well. It's just clear that Meyer doesn't believe in the advice that he is giving Jonah. He tells Jonah that the best form of revenge is to stay alive. His sheer presence is enough to make a statement and annoy those with constrictive views on the world. But again, that's not the foundational theme of this organization. These people take action against those who wronged them in the past. That doesn't even get into whatever nefarious plot the present-day Nazis are trying to enact. Meyer props up his political connections. He built a fortune after coming to America. Jonah can go to him with whatever he needs. He is a lifeline in that way. He presents as a mystery too because he talks in these grand and open terms about the horrors he has experienced. It introduces Jonah to this world in a brutal way. It does the same to the audience. Of course, the viewer viscerally gets to experience every bloody twist that occurs here. The show embracing that wholeheartedly may render the power of the Holocaust visuals moot at a certain point. That would be a massive mistake. It can't glorify violence just to present a campy and colorful world of vengeance-seekers. That's why there is agency in the investigation carried out by FBI Agent Morris. It's horrifying to see a shower become a makeshift gas chamber. The hunters are responsible for that. She understands that something major is being covered up by the government because they don't think she should know. A powerful metaphor can be found about how abusive regimes believe they know what's best for the public at large by simply disregarding their rights and intelligence. These characters have the intention of presenting as smart and capable. It's hard to buy into that at certain times. Plus, this premiere could easily be trimmed down into a more effective introduction of this world. But it may present a solid foundation for a series that wrestles with these moral questions that still have lingering effects to this day. The threat from Nazis isn't some far removed concept. That ideology still attracts passionate believers despite the push for society to become more accepting. Murder presents as a valid choice here. That's a moral argument the show is willing to make even though it should be costly for Jonah now that he has officially joined the Hunt all while the Colonel is making big moves to create the Fourth Reich.