In its first three episodes, Hunters hasn’t made any bones about wearing its influences on its sleeve. When recapping the premiere episode, we mentioned how its aliens-as-terrorists premise was full of obvious film and TV inspirations. The ETU squad could easily be an earthbound version of the colonial marines from Aliens; the show’s police procedural tendencies make it feel like Law & Order: Special Alien Unit; and the plot-line about Flynn’s missing wife could easily be a more serious version of any number of weepy network TV dramas. We even mentioned that the aliens’ creepy reverberations reminded us of the title character from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, Predator. So it’s no surprise that Hunters took the Flynn, Regan, and the ETU team deep in the South American jungle to try and ambush some alien enemies this early on.
The show’s second episode, “Messages,” left us with far too many questions and almost no answers, but thankfully, with its third episode, “Maid of Orleans,” Hunters seems to realize that it has to try and tease out hints from its backstory, even if that history is still incomplete. The central questions still remain: Where is Abby, and who is the mole in the ETU?
After Regan (Britne Oldford) killed the human wife of a hunter last week, the ETU team is put on semi-leave and given a covert mission in the Colombian jungle. Capitalism has evidently spread across the universe, and so like their counterparts on earth, the alien terrorists of Hunters need a cash source. Our extraterrestrials have been running drugs via a cartel in the South American country (also much like earth’s terrorist groups), and the gang has to go check it out to see if they can extract any information. No McCarthy (Julian McMahon) this hour.
But thankfully, the episode isn’t all an homage. The jungle strike is interspersed with flashback slivers of Regan’s life before the ETU, the most fascinating of which is her life as a girl in 1997, unaware of what she truly is. A violent jump rope accident with a friend forces her father to brandish a knife and cut open his own hand, revealing an alien skeleton beneath. “We’re different,” he tells her. “I’m gonna show you the truth.”
Besides being itself a reference to a similar image from The Terminator, the scene is a key moment in Regan’s early self-realization, even if she can’t cope with it as a pot-smoking teenager listening to Interpol’s first record or a damaged waitress crack addict in later flashbacks. But it turns out an earlier home invasion, with Regan’s mother remaining conspicuously unseen, by the same hunters who could be the drug cartel aliens offers a link with the ETU’s sort of perplexing and bloody jungle adventure. It’s also what forced Regan to go on the run and eventually get recruited as an ETU commando.
But back in the present when they get to the cartel’s camp, Flynn finds everyone mangled and ripped apart. The practical effects here are particularly gruesome, especially when they find more victims with hollowed out backs like the junkie in McCarthy’s warehouse. Exactly what the hunters are harvesting has to be saved for another day, because the episode is really about Regan getting what she’s chasing after: answers about her own alien identity.
Unfortunately when the episode’s big reveal happens, it’s deflated a bit because there isn’t really anything driving the moment to hit home. Why does she want to meet the hunter in the jungle? Why doesn’t it flinch when she reaches out for it? We finally get a peek at the hunters in their native form, which could be a bit too soon, and they resemble a mix between the actual Predator and the xenomorph from Alien. It’s another explicit example of Hunters lifting from other media semi-wholesale, and it’s getting tiresome.
But most of all, the episode simply goes nowhere besides some superficial soul searching. “Your wife — you never suspected?” Regan asks Flynn while they’re camped out. He answers back: “What? That she could be from outer space?” By the time the credits roll, the team has found no new information save the potential human harvesting, and they haven’t even made it out of the jungle. We’ll have to wait until next week to figure out what what Regan will do with the native form alien.
If this all sounds kind of ridiculous, that’s because the show is patently ridiculous. It’s effective in a way because Flynn and Regan, along with the audience, have to realize that these things aren’t normal. But we’re three episodes in and Hunters is still trying to find out what it wants to be to viewers besides a Predator imitation, or an Aliens imitation, and so on.