Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
If the advertisements for Syfy’s new series Hunters were promising in their silly mish-mash of modern-day terrorism and B-movie monsters, it might not have been exactly because of the premise itself. In retrospect, Hunters piqued my interest because of the quality turn-around the network took with the largely solid first seasons of The Expanse and The Magicians.
I saw a commercial for Hunters during a particularly fun episode of the latter and, I admit, my enthusiasm for the network’s attempted return to Battlestar Galactica-level TV made me ready to consume everything on offer.
The problem with Hunters, then, is a tragically awkward disconnect between a silly premise (alien terrorists) and aggressively dour tone, one that’s only exacerbated by particularly lame world-building. It’s got the case-of-the-week camp vibe of the Warehouse 13 era, but showrunner Natalie Chaidez overly course-corrects what could have been mindless fun into a completely humorless, melodramatic slog.
It’s also a bit nonsensical. The series tries to build mystery by throwing viewers into the world of the titular Hunters and all of their various eccentricities without so much as a guidebook, but the show is far too hackneyed for such a set-up. The gist is that FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips) has discovered his wife is missing, under particularly strange circumstances, and runs headfirst into a shadow organization operating at the highest level of discretion within the government as he tries to rescue her. Hunters tries with conviction, but nothing engages, nothing clicks, and none of the characters’ actions in the first half of the pilot resemble anything nearing sensible, logical conclusions.
When the show finally decides to explain its acronyms, it further reveals blunt, frustrating, paint-by-numbers plotting. In a particularly ham-fisted scene, Flynn confronts the head of the “Exo-Terrorism Unit” Truss Jackson (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) after connecting the dots of the disappearance of his wife Abby (Laura Gordon) to Jackson and his league of special agents. Jackson reveals the ETU deals with threats other organizations aren’t capable of handling. He leaves the “we hunt aliens” bit as a mystery, because Flynn “isn’t ready” for the truth. And yet, two scenes later, Flynn’s inducted into the ETU with full clearance.
The first two episodes are both like that, teasing and yet remarkably incapable of following through, and it builds up to a frustrating, bordering-on-annoying experience. It’s a trend encompassed by Flynn’s visions, which he starts getting after Abby goes missing, and which are seemingly connected to a scar on his arm that the ETU finds particularly interesting.
The show wants to suggest a mysterious past for Flynn, that he might be something other than human, like his ETU partner Regan (Britne Oldford), but it’s another carrot on the end of the stick that no one will care about chasing. The mythology is stale and entirely arbitrary at this point, and that makes caring about the characters tangled up in it comparably unrewarding.
Hunters sports some questionable logic as well, with dialogue repeatedly making the point that the Hunters might not actually be aliens. Government conspiracy theories are bound to pop up, but when medical experts working for the ETU reference “stronger gravitational environments” as the possible cause for the abnormal innards of the Hunters, it feels like a cheap ploy rather than an engaging misdirect. Oh, and the book the show is based on, by Whitley Strieber, is called “Alien Hunter,” so there’s that. Most frustrating on a show built around instilling the fear of an unstoppable, deadly enemy – the Hunters themselves are entirely un-terrifying foes, and the weapons the ETU has reverse-engineered to fight them lack satisfying oomph.