The acting doesn’t help, either. In a show rife with inconsistent lore, cumbersome writing, and a boring tone, Phillips is the overdramatic, drab center of Hunters. It’s a perfect hurricane of every single one of the show’s failings when, in an opening scene, Flynn stumbles upon a breaking-and-entering kitten in the middle of the night and tells his wife, “We can’t keep every stray we find,” not knowing that the adopted daughter of his dead partner, Emme (Shannon Berry) is standing behind him. That’s how drama on Hunters is generated, and Phillips doesn’t have the toolset to keep it going. There’s a line later about a fortune cookie that’ll either make you roll on the floor laughing or turn off your TV.
Oldford is served the best by a character who doesn’t say much but fuels Hunters‘ scant dips into hilarious camp. In one sequence, she chases bad guys up a tree at lightning speed, shooting her air gun as they hop from branch to branch; like anything else in Hunters, it’s nonsensical, and there’s nary a glimpse into an explanation for what she can do or why (“I cried at E.T.,” she admits when Flynn asks about her origins), but it’s a witless tone that should have been adopted for the series as a whole. She doesn’t do much for women on TV, but she’s not as cringe-inducing as poor Berry, who has to spend every episode whining about not being loved and/or shoehorning in a distasteful subplot about self-mutilation on a series far too gung-ho about showing off some actually stomach-churning gore.
Those are the large swaths of Hunters‘ failings, but the show keeps disappointing in smaller categories, too. The score and sound effects are about the quality of a N64-era Turok game, but maybe less novel, with every commercial cutting to black before some “thing” clicks asynchronously to the events being depicted on-screen.
The show’s big bad (or the big bad of the first two episodes at least), McCarthy (Julian McMahon), is prone to ritualistic clicking every now and then, but what we hear never feels like it’s coming from McCarthy. It’s like a foreign language film that suffers from poor dubbing, and McMahon – similar to Phillips – sells none of it. He goes big in some of his evil schemes, whooping and dancing and maybe trying to elevate (and by elevate I mean lower) Hunters to where it needed to be. His efforts don’t pay off.
It’s not so awful as Syfy’s Dark Matter, which premiered last year and netted a renewal after its first season ended, but Hunters just continues to represent Syfy at its most identity-confused self. Does it want to become a serious contender for the drama circuit alongside AMC and FX? Could it put out a few brainless hits to justify more high-quality offerings like the cable networks? Is it content to make bank with a low-budget Sharknado trash event each year as its public-facing identity? Even though they each suffered from freshman stumbling blocks, The Expanse and The Magicians felt like potential future touchstones for a better network.
The downcast, meagre, aggressively un-entertaining Hunters isn’t a touchstone of Syfy. It, for better and for a lot worse, is Syfy embodied. It’s the televised, 42-minute, episodic representation of everything that the network is no longer sure about what works and what doesn’t with its audience. It ditches quirky but negates logic in the process, creating a series that was meant to be for people Syfy feasibly lost when it rebranded, but it panders to them so insultingly that most probably wouldn’t mind an episode of Warehouse 13, even at its absolute kookiest, in the place of this show’s early installments. Hunters isn’t part of the network’s identity crisis: it is the network’s identity crisis.
An enthusiastic step back for a network that was starting to find its voice again, Hunters is a self-serious mess that finds none of the humor, fun, or danger in its alien terrorism set-up.