Monday (April 22) finds the premiere of Syfy’s latest scripted series, “Hunters.” From the advertisements for the series, it’s plain to see the network is banking on the success of “12 Monkeys” and “The Walking Dead” to bring in the viewers.
While that second series isn’t even on the network, it’s from executive producer Gale Anne Hurd — the biggest name attached to the project. That’s enough to get some eyes on the program but after viewing the premiere episode, titled “The Beginning & The End,” it’s hard to find any positive note for us to hone in on to really talk you into watching.
The series, which is based on Whitley Streiber’s “Alien Hunter” books, tells the story of FBI agent — and PTSD-riddled war vet — Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips). After some brief character introductions, we find Flynn’s wife Abby (Laura Gordon) the victim of an abduction while Emme (Shannon Berry), their (not) daughter deals with her own emotional issues that drive her to cut her arm with a pair of scissors.
Off the bat, the episode is cluttered with sci-fi tropes that feel like they are ripped from more successful properties — “Fringe,” “X-Files,” even “Alien Nation.” Carroll soon finds himself recruited into the Exo-Terrorism Unit. As Truss Jackson (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), the unit’s leader, explains, “The ETU deals with the kind of terrorists other agencies aren’t equipped to handle.”
Sure, ETU sounds like CTU, but don’t expect Flynn to carry the same intense bravado as “24’s” Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).
If you haven’t figured out by now, the show’s main antagonists are terrorists … alien terrorists. Called “Hunters” by the ETU, their maniacal leader is a dreadlocked, ’80s synth-pop loving, Lionel McCarthy (played by Julian McMahon). Lionel here is the best part of the show and, really, that’s not saying much. Still, tackling the character with the same engaging charisma he brought to “Nip/Tuck,” it’s worth noting his work here.
McCarthy was the one who took Flynn’s wife and we soon see her naked in a cage while he plays O.M.D.’s 1981 hit (?), “Maid of Orleans.” Sending out subliminal messages through music, we see blood coming from Abby’s ears. She’s hearing impaired, which will probably be a main driving device in this story … but, it’s hard to care.
It’s not long before the exposition and convenient plot devices lead our FBI hero to the hideout where Abby is being held. This scene was one of the more intense moments of the episode and would be considered a positive for the show, too, if it weren’t for the blatant aesthetic rip-off from “Silence of the Lambs.” Except here, there was no Agent Starling (Jodie Foster) or Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), and that O.M.D. track acted as a poor replacement to Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses.” Still … A for effort?
It’s when Flynn joins the ETU, that the audience gets a better view of the other agents he’s working with and the only one really worth mentioning is Regan (Britne Oldford) as her character holds a deep dark secret — she’s a Hunter, you guys. Yet, somehow, she’s one of the good guys … or at least she is for now. With McCarthy activating alien terrorist cells across the country, it may be only a matter of time before she switches.
By the end of the episode, we’re given glimpses of alien autopsy results, witness shaky-cam chase sequences involving cloaked villains, see the Hunters run through the treetops with ease, are shown a new type of gun then sends out shockwaves instead of bullets … and hear an annoying clicking noise which is how these aliens communicate. Not for nothing, but this unknown language sounded better in “Predator.”
There’s always a possibility that shows like these will get better as the episodes progress. However, the combination of exposition, science fiction story cliches and one-dimensional characters, “Hunters” feels more like an unnecessary video game cut scene that just won’t end.
Still, with the terrorism angle, there’s a good chance the series will pick up some sort of audience. If dialog like, “What we do know is that Hunters make ISIS look like Girl Scouts” piques your interest, then give the series a shot. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you!
“Hunters” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.