The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Hunters season 1.
Hunters is not a perfect TV show. Through its 10-episode first season, the series struggled mightily with tone – never quite able to figure out whether it wanted to be a hokey grind house thriller or a sober examination of the soul-decaying ruination of revenge.
The finale, titled “Eilu v’ Eilu” very much picks the former grind house option and it’s all the better for it. This final hour is so utterly ridiculous and insane that the mind reels as to where to even begin breaking it down. Do we start with Al Pacino being revealed to have been a Nazi using Face/Off technology or the fact that Hitler and Eva Braun are alive and well in Argentina with a cadre of little Adolf clones? Let’s start with Al because it’s chronologically sooner…and we need a minute to catch our breath from the Hitler reveal.
When we first spoke with Hunters creator David Weil prior to the show premiering, he described the tone and intention of the show as somewhere between Quentin Tarantino’s stylized Nazi revenge drama Inglourious Basterds and Steven Spielberg’s brutally serious Munich. In the process Weil revealed that he was not necessarily a huge Basterds fan.
“With Inglourious, I didn’t find the same kind of depth that one can inject into a two hour film. So I wanted to feel both the catharsis in wish fulfillment and also ensure that the respect was paid to the stories of the past which certainly inspired me to write this piece,” Weil said.
Weil’s lukewarm response to Inglourious Basterds is interesting in light of this finale. The reveal that the entity known as Meyer Offerman isn’t really Meyer Offerman but rather a Nazi known as Wilhelm Zuchs a.k.a. The Wolf harkens back to a certain character in Tarantino’s film.
Inglourious Basterds is ultimately a film about filmmaking and within it Colonel Hans Landa a.k.a. The Jew Hunter (Christoph Waltz) is its ultimate actor. Landa loves playing roles and in Nazi Germany, the most prestigious role that he can play is that of a Jew Hunter, so he throws himself into it with great enthusiasm. Throughout the film, however, we come to see that there is no role that the genial German isn’t willing to play as long as its expedient to him. The man speaks seemingly every language on the European continent so that he can better ingratiate himself into each society. When the opportunity arises for him to shed this Nazi identity and become an American citizen, he is beside himself with excitement. Aldo Raine carving a swasitka into Landa’s head is his ultimate punishment for him because it means it’s the end of his “acting” career. He’s stuck as a Nazi forever. Hunters, however, introduces a character who is equally obsessed with adopting a new persona and this time is given an opportunity to do so.
Wilhelm Zuchs a.k.a. The Wolf was a German surgeon at a concentration camp who became singularly obsessed with two Jewish prisoners, Meyer Offerman and Ruth Heidelbaum. He admired them for their resolve in a terrible, inhuman situation and for also how they kept their love for each other intact. He did everything he could to break Meyer’s spirit, even forcing Meyer to kill 11 of his fellow Jews rather than Ruth. But even that didn’t break Meyer fully. Much to Ruth’s surprise, when Meyer promises her that he will one day kill The Wolf, he says he will recite The Kaddish Prayer to him before doing so.
“I must pray for him before I kill him,” Meyer tells her. “It’s the monsters among us who need prayers most of all.”
Unfortunately Meyer is never given the chance to pray for his enemy as The Wolf kills Meyer before he’s given a chance. When the Soviets liberate the death camp on November 4, 1945, The Wolf is set to be hanged. He escapes captivity somehow and returns to the tents where the liberated Jews and being held and kills Meyer, burying his body in the woods. From that moment on he adopts Meyer’s identity and moves to the United States. When he discovers that simply having Meyer’s name isn’t enough to make him truly feel like him, he enlists former fellow Nazi surgeon Frederick Mann to build him a new Meyer face.
Jonah, with his brilliant analytical mind (remember he is a chess prodigy who was accepted into Harvard) is finally able to suss all of this out when “Meyer” kills Frederich Mann (who Jonah believes is The Wolf) without reciting The Kaddish first. That moment makes Jonah do a quick rundown of all the evidence in his head: The Wolf disappeared on Nov. 4, 1945, Meyer didn’t recite the prayer, he’s excellent at fixing wounds, Nazis have been known to take new identities and faces, and so on.
Instead of denying what seem to be a truly ludicrous accusation, Meyer admits to his treachery. He admits to this thing in part because he really seems to believe that he is, for all intents and purposes, Meyer Offerman now. He’s spent just as much time being Meyer Offerman as he did being Wilhelm Zuchs. His hunting of Nazis is sincere.
“I don’t want redemption. I don’t seek it. I don’t deserve it,” Meyer says. “The hunt is my penance because it gives me penance finally. I killed for the hunt. I would die for the hunt.”
Die for the hunt he does as Jonah then kills the man he believed to be his grandfather. That’s a series wrap on Al Pacino. If anybody was wondering how film legend Al Pacino was convinced to do a multiple season TV show, the answer now appears to be that he only had to commit to doing one season – and he got to be revealed as a secret Nazi by the end of it. Not a bad couple months of work for any actor.
Wilhelm Zuchs/Meyer Offerman is in some ways Hans Landa’s dream realized. Here is a man who really did get to lead two lives. For while Jonah may disagree, Wilhelm Zuchs well and truly became Meyer Offerman. His transformation was so total and Mann’s surgical work was so precise, that Ruth didn’t even realize she was speaking to an imposter when she finally met up with him post-Holocaust many years later.
Meyer Offerman may have been a fraud, but the hunt was real. Now that hunt will live on, led by the grandson of Ruth Heidelbaum and the real Meyer Offerman. The last few scenes of Hunters season 1 find Jonah assembling his troops together once again. Joe Torrance (Louisa Ozawa) has seemingly quit the team (more on that later) and Mindy Markowtiz (Carol Kane) is set to retire with her surviving family members. That leaves Jonah, Lonny Flash (Josh Radnor), Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), and Roxy Jones (Tiffany Boone) on the case.
When Jonah points out that hunting in the U.S. could prove difficult now that detective Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton) is setting up her own legitimate Nazi-hunting program, Sister Harriet offers an alternative. Apparently, shortly before Nazi Germany fell, the Third Reich scattered eight of its important generals and figures across Europe. Harriet proposes that they head to Europe to track them down. The hope seems to be that Hunters season 2 will be a sort of Nazi-hunting European Vacation installment for the franchise. Though the question of Sister Hariet’s utlimate loyalties remain unclear, as she gains this information via a British superior over the phone. Is she working for a British intelligence service – or some sort of European extension of the hunters?
While the Hunters are off in Europe, two important members of the cast will remain stateside. Millie is approached by a Congresswoman named Elizabeth Handelman (Zoe Winters) to start her own anti-Operation Paperclip task force. Handelman is loosely based on real life Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (prior to Elise Stefanik in 2014) and helped pass legislation in 1978 to expel Nazi war criminals from the U.S. Given that Hunters season 1 took place in 1977, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a second season will cover this event in ‘78. Millie and Elizabeth could have their hands full though as Travis Leich (Greg Austin) seems poised to create a formidable Aryan army from prison.
There is one character who won’t be in Europe or the U.S. in season 2 though. Joe Torrance didn’t really quit the Hunters, – he was kidnapped. Joe is taken to Argentina and it’s through his perspective that we see the Hunters’ absolutely nuts final scene.
It’s a well-known historical fact that many Nazi officials escaped persecution by fleeing to South American following World War II. That fact has also become conflated with legend and rumor over the years to the extent that some fictional enterprises have imagined a scenario in which Adolf Hitler and his love Eva Braun did not commit suicide but rather escaped to Argentina.
That’s conspiracy theory is likely too crazy to be real, of course, but it’s definitely not crazy enough for Hunters. In the reality of this show, both Hitler and Braun did indeed make it to Argentina successfully. Eva Braun is the woman who we have known as “The Colonel” throughout the entirety of the season. She survived the car crash at the end of episode 9 and somehow made it down South to reunite with her man. Not only that, but the couple lives in opulent seclusion with several identical Aryan boys, who could very well be clones of Der Fuhrer himself.
Why did Eva and Adolf bring Joe down to witness all of this? It’s anyone’s guess. Though perhaps they admire the martial skills he displayed throughout these episodes and believe he can be coerced into training the next generation of young Adolfs. Stranger things have happened. Stranger things like the entirety of Hunters season 1. For as wild and weird as Hunters season 1 was at some points, it seems clear now that once confirmed, Hunters season 2 will make this all look like child’s play.