Like a lot of Syfy originals, Hunters has an intriguing premise: The U.S. is under attack by a new breed of terrorists: aliens. It even boasts a bit of pedigree on its side, given that its producers are alums of such properties as The Walking Dead and 12 Monkeys. So maybe it’ll be better you’re your average humdrum cable-TV sci-fi effort?
Or maybe not: Unfortunately, the first episode doesn’t live up to its potential. And, spoiler alert, I’ve seen the second episode, as well…and it doesn’t get too much better.
The (perhaps overly) slick pilot centers on Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips), a tough guy ex-Marine turned FBI agent whose wife, Abby (Laura Gordon), is stolen by the “hunters”— which is what everyone in the know calls the aliens. And these are some evil ETs: They “make ISIS look like Girl Scouts,” we’re told in one of the pilot’s many exposition-rich passages.
Flynn, however, doesn’t know about the hunters — not until her goes into full-on Taken mode to find his kidnapped wife. That’s when we runs into the FBI’s secret Exo-Terrorism Unit, or E.T.U. for short.
From there, the conspiracy thickens without ever grabbing you — mostly because Flynn is so, so boring. The show tries to add some juice to his story line by hinting that Abby might be an alien herself, but good luck trying to muster up the energy for caring about that. I’m not sure if there’ll be a person in America who’ll feel emotionally invested in Flynn’s plight. And if the series is meant to be any metaphorical commentary on our real-world war on terrorism, well, that’s not immediately evident either.
But Hunters does have some things going for it: Britne Oldford, who steals scenes as the conflicted agent. Her character, Allison Regan, is a known alien who fights for the good guys — though that doesn’t mean she’s completely trusted within her unit, or even outside of it. Regan is compelling to watch as that tension plays out; her performance, somewhere between human and Other, is superb.
Speaking of watchable aliens, the main baddie McCarthy is another treat. Julian McMahon plays him with a deranged sense of fun, and viewers will be hard-pressed not to root for him over the dour, depressing Flynn.
The other element Hunters has in its favor? The music! Sure, the opening militaristic scene backed to the Black Angels is cliché by now (True Detective, among others, has done it better before). But much of the show hinges on a delightfully strange story line that involves the OMD song “Joan of Arc.” Spotify is a key weapon in the hunters’ terroristic efforts. Marilyn Manson’s music also plays a role, weirdly. It’s all pretty bizarre, but in a mainly good way — a bright spot in a mostly dull show.