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With Their Use Of Violence, The Showrunners Of Hunters Pose An Important Question

Season 2 of Amazon's "Hunters" is officially available to stream in its entirety, with the bloody and brutal anti-Nazi series dropping on Prime Video in early January. And just like last season, people at home — and the showrunners, themselves — are continuing to struggle with the program's underlying theme of "is this justice or is this vengeance" that we're witnessing? 

"Hunters" wound up dividing a lot of people after its debut season in 2020 on account of its violent subject matter and ruthless protagonists. The series focuses on a group of Nazi hunters in 1970s New York who are originally led by Al Pacino's Meyer Offerman and then Logan Lerman's Jonah Heidelbaum after Offerman is outed as a former Third Reich member himself. After the release of Season 1, Jewish groups blasted "Hunters" for making Nazi and Holocaust survivors seem so bloodthirsty and savage. 

"Survivors of the Shoah sought justice, not revenge," wrote Holocaust scholar Stephen Smith in a March 2020 op-ed published by the Jewish Journal. He brought up one scene in particular, which shows a Nazi chemist being gassed in her shower during the pilot. "Jews never gassed Nazis. Period," Smith said. "That I must even make this point is proof enough how perilous this slippery slope can become."

Now, Smith makes a very good point about what's happening with "Hunters" and the reputation it possibly places on the Jewish community. But what he and others don't realize, though, is the fact that the showrunners want viewers to question the characters' motives and wonder if they're seeking justice or revenge. And they're purposely doing it through unabashed violence and barbarism. 

'It's not just perpetrating violence for violence's sake'

When it comes to all the violence in "Hunters," showrunners David Weil and Nikki Toscano believe it's necessary for them to tell the story they're trying to tell. And that means making people question whether there's a true difference between justice and vengeance.

"Throughout the course of the first season and hopefully beyond, this is a show that is asking those questions," Toscano explained in an interview with AV Club from February 2020. "It's not just perpetrating violence for violence's sake. It's asking the question, what is the cost of that violence? ...Do you become the monster that you're hunting? Do you have to be evil to fight it?"

For both Weill and Toscano, the underlying theme of what motivates a person or character to seek revenge or justice is what "Hunters" is ultimately about. Its main idea is that if a person spends so much time seeking vengeance or getting someone back for something, will they become just as bad as them? Is it better to just seek justice? And let the authorities and fate take control? 

"That is the thing that they struggle with," Weil said. "What is the cost of violence, the cost of vengeance?" Toscano added, "What is justice, what is vengeance? And I think that our main characters are struggling with that throughout the course of the series. Asking that very question: Do you become the evil that you're hunting?"