Amazon gives us a dark story of the people who try to thwart the rise of the American Reich.
Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman) is a math prodigy and a drug dealer who witnesses his grandmother (Jeannie Berlin) being murdered one night. It turns out that she was a member of the Hunters, a group of Nazi-killers led by Meyer Offerman (Al “Please Forget I Was In Jack and Jill” Pacino), a holocaust survivor. Meyer and the other Hunters reveal that there are a number of Nazis who escaped after the fall of the Third Reich and made their way to America where they have acquired positions of power and are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich under the Colonel (Lena Olin).
So, Nazis suck. I’m told this is a political position nowadays, but my grandfather thought they sucked enough that he got a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star fighting them, so I’m going to stand by my position. Any further discussion on this post is going to contain anti-Nazi opinions. If that bothers you, well, go f*ck yourself, Snowflake.
This show is pretty dark, mostly because it frequently, by necessity, addresses the horrors of the Holocaust and the treatment of Jewish people by the Nazis. People are frequently shown being murdered, tortured, humiliated, and worse, all because of the beliefs of the Third Reich. Moreover, it is shown that America is more willing to tolerate those same beliefs than we would like to admit, as long as they’re couched in something a little more subtle. While the show doesn’t go full-on into the relationship between American racism and the Third Reich, it does make it clear that the Hunters only do this because they are sure that the actual authorities won’t.
However, weirdly, the show actually doesn’t go as heavy into the disgusting behavior of the Third Reich as you might want. Instead, it comes up with comic-book-esque supervillainy that, while not less horrible than some of the things that the Nazis DID do, come off as somewhat ridiculous and almost farcical. I understand why the Auschwitz Memorial didn’t appreciate some of the sequences, because there really isn’t any point in doing inaccurate portrayals of the Holocaust when an accurate one would do the job better. I mean, you have some of the worst monsters in world history, you don’t have to give them weirder kinks just for watchability.
That’s sort of where the show fails: It just keeps trying to give us some more enjoyable and familiar scenes at the cost of a consistent or grounded narrative. There are a lot of stylized cut-aways similar to the ones in Inglourious Basterds or Kill Bill or… well, a lot of Tarantino films, as well as many modern superhero movies, which kind of undercut the very grave nature of the subject matter. I mean, I don’t want to see Josh Radnor doing a fake PSA in character right after I’ve watched a realistic story about Auschwitz.
Despite that, the show still kind of works because of the performances. While Pacino’s accent may be a bit much, he’s still Al Pacino and, when the moment calls for it, even he remembers that he can be a subtle and convincing actor. Logan Lerman delivers an amazing performance as well, really holding the story together. Dylan Baker is excellent as one of the undercover Nazis, hamming it up in a surreal way that does actually perfectly match the tone of the series.
It also helps that, since the bad guys are Nazis, you never really feel bad about what happens to them. The Hunters tend to work on a love of ironic punishments, making Nazis suffer what they did to the Jews, but there’s not a ton of moral ambiguity even when they’re being seemingly cruel. It also helps that the action sequences and the cutaways are really entertaining, even if they’re a bit jarring at times.
Overall, I did like the show. It’s not really as unique as I was hoping, but it was enjoyable.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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