‘Hunters’ Season Finale Explained: The Problem with Those Twists

     February 28, 2020

Spoilers for the Hunters Season 1 finale follow below.

As it turns out, the Nazi hunting show was about a Nazi hunting Nazis all along. The Hunters finale packs a serious punch, as it reveals pretty much everything we thought we knew about Al Pacino’s Meyer Offerman was wrong, and a confrontation between Meyer and Jonah (Logan Lerman) lays bare the truth: That Meyer Offerman isn’t Meyer Offerman at all. He’s The Wolf.

This is one of a few different twists that occur at the end of the Amazon series’ first season, and while they’re certainly surprising, they also shed light on some of the show’s biggest flaws. While, yes, also setting up a stacked Season 2 should Amazon decide to order a second season. So let’s break down what happened, how the clues were there all along, and why that ending feels a bit off.

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Image via Amazon Studios

The central premise of Hunters is that Jonah Heidelbaum becomes aware of a group of Nazi hunters living in 1970s New York City after his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor named Ruth (Jeannine Berlin), is murdered in cold blood. This group is led by another Holocaust survivor named Meyer Offerman, who is a wealthy businessman and thus has the means to fund such an operation.

Jonah joins the Hunters and sets about tracking down and murdering notable Nazis who are living in America under assumed identities, with Meyer leading the charge and calling the shots.

Meyer was in the same concentration camp as Ruth, and the two struck up a romantic relationship amidst the horror. The two (and many others) were tormented by a Nazi doctor named Wilhelm Zuchs, aka “The Wolf,” who was obsessed with both Ruth and Meyer.

It’s revealed in the middle of the season that Meyer is in fact Jonah’s grandfather, but Meyer and Ruth became estranged shortly after liberation and didn’t reconnect until one year before her death, when she recognized a Nazi in New York City and brought this to Meyer’s attention. Indeed, it was Ruth who inspired Meyer to start tracking down and killing Nazis.

So why were the two separated? Ruth says that one night in November 1945, Meyer up and disappeared, leaving a note that said he was still tormented by the horrors of their time in the concentration camp and couldn’t bear it. Indeed, in one particularly sadistic event, Meyer was forced to choose to kill either Ruth or different Jewish victim, and 11 times in a row shot the other person to save Ruth’s life.

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Image via Amazon Studios

Throughout the season, Meyer is not only the head Nazi hunter, but a mentor to Jonah, continually urging him to choose revenge over mercy. This leads Jonah to track down The Wolf himself using research that Ruth gathered independently. He brings the man he thinks is Wilhelm Zuchs (played by William Sadler) to Meyer’s house—a plastic surgeon to whom Zuchs transferred all of his money shortly after the war. Indeed, despite previously thinking they had tracked down The Wolf (that dying dude with poisoned blood), it turns out the Nazi doctor escaped imprisonment by the Soviets… in November 1945.

Meyer viciously (and quickly) murders this plastic surgeon in front of Jonah, but does not pray over him, which strikes Jonah as odd. In Ruth’s recollections, she said Meyer told her he would track down The Wolf sooner or later, but was determined to pray over him before killing him. The wheels begin to turn, and Jonah realizes the Meyer Offerman standing before him isn’t Meyer Offerman at all. It’s the real Wilhelm Zuchs.

Zuchs/Offerman admits it, and explains that he escaped capture but needed an identity to get out of captivity. So he killed the real Meyer Offerman, forged a letter to Ruth about leaving her, and assumed his former captive’s identity. He eventually tracked down the aforementioned plastic surgeon, who gave him a new face so he wouldn’t be recognized. But he says that living life as a Jew—having assumed Offerman’s identity—made him finally feel guilt. Killing Nazis was his form of penance.

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Image via Amazon Studios

Jonah pushes back and argues that Wilhelm doesn’t deserve penance. It’s not his birthright. He’s not Jewish. So Jonah kills him, and the other Hunters are in complete and utter shock at learning that they’ve been working for a notorious Nazi doctor all this time (ether that or they don’t believe him—it’s unclear because the scene is mostly silent).

There were clues along the way that Meyer wasn’t who he said he was. In Episode 5, after a long interrogation of Tilda, she begins talking about how “Meyer” is the biggest hypocrite of all and he immediately shoots and silences her. She recognized him. There were also clues at the beginning of the finale episode: in the flashback to Ruth’s visit to Meyer’s house, she mentions how he looks different somehow. As for more subtle clues, pay attention to how Meyer washes his hands. Surgeon-like, perhaps?

There’s also evidence that The Wolf is the one who killed Ruth in the very first episode. If you look closely, the silhouette matches, and the last thing Ruth says before the figure shoots her is, “You can’t hide forever.” It’s highly likely that she discovered Meyer was actually The Wolf, and that’s why she was murdered—although it remains to be seen if this was meant to be implied, or if it’s a plot thread meant to be picked up in future seasons.

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Image via Amazon Studios

But it’s also a bit… confusing, which is indicative of some of the problems plaguing Hunters. This is a show that wants to be a lot of things, but tonally has trouble finding the right balance. Upsetting flashbacks to the Holocaust run up against fourth-wall-breaking exploitation-style comedy bits, and it just doesn’t sit right. The fun and colorful satire makes it hard to fully emotionally invest in the somber tone of the flashbacks, or even the present day scenes that find survivors wrestling with faith, revenge, and loss. Hunters isn’t sure if it wants to be Inglourious Basterds or Schindler’s List, and severely falters when it tries to be both at once. See also: Jonah’s finale birthright speech to The Wolf.

But on top of the tonal issues, the plotting is also at times somewhat shaky. Practically, how did no one realize who Meyer Offerman really was all this time? How did none of the Nazis he confronted recognize him? Why would Ruth not tell anyone when she discovered who Meyer was?

There’s also whatever is going on with Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), who is seen communicating in secret twice in the first season. In her first phone call to someone with a British accent, she says “They’re getting closer” in reference to the Hunters. In the second, the (same) person on the other end of the line is seemingly happy to learn that The Colonel is dead before asking if the Hunters will interfere with their plans. Who’s on the other end of the phone call? It’s not revealed, but my guess is MI6 conducting their own separate investigation into Nazis who are still alive and well.

In truth, Harriet’s storyline offers the most intriguing path forward. Especially in the wake of the big finale reveal that not only is The Colonel alive, but she’s Eva Braun and is living peacefully in Argentina with… Hitler? Yep. Hitler himself is behind plans to build a Fourth Reich.

Going forward it appears the central throughline of Hunters will find the ragtag group eventually coming face to face with Adolf Hitler himself, which will require a very strong handle on tone. Showrunner David Weil has said he already has at least five seasons planned out, but here’s hoping that if Amazon does renew the series for a second season, some of these tonal issues are addressed.

For more on Hunters, check out our interview with Lerman.

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