“You think if you understand everything,” the villainous Lionel McCarthy (Julian McMahon) threatens during the fourth episode of Syfy’s Hunters, “you’ll sleep better at night.” He’s being restrained, strapped to a chair, and will be tortured via some sort of sonic device that impairs the hunter’s ability to think. It’s a particularly effective moment because it highlights McCarthy’s ability to always be one step ahead of the ETU even when they have him paralyzed, seemingly to be dissected and locked away forever. But the line feels as if the show’s creators are speaking directly to the audience.
Our main gripe with Hunters so far is that it’s presented far too many questions without any solid answers to support its already shaky approach to the plot. It has a rich aliens-as-terrorists mythology, but its excessive mysteries sometimes make it difficult to embrace everything the show does right. McCarthy’s cryptic warning is like the creators telling us all to calm down — we’ll find out answers just like the characters in the show.
The appropriately titled “Love and Violence,” picks up after last week’s jaunt in the jungle, which saw Flynn (Nathan Phillips), Regan (Britne Oldford), and Briggs (Mark Coles Smith) following the evidence of a Colombian cartel linked to McCarthy’s human victims. But a whole hunter bloodbath and a chance encounter between a native hunter and Regan led to, well, nothing. The ETU heads back to Washington, their tails between their legs, and are none the wiser before they take a different approach: tracking McCarthy’s seductive troubadour persona via the subliminal messages he posts on Spotify or otherwise.
Thankfully, some of Flynn’s detective chops leads the group to a seedy motel where an informant said she might have seen McCarthy. The alien bad guy has allegedly been perusing dive bars, karaoke-ing to “Gimme Danger” by The Stooges (Hunters has great musical taste besides the British New Wave), and picking up women only to murder and harvest their blood or plasma or something. This still hasn’t been specifically explained. But it turns out the failure in the jungle is only a minor hiccup, as a vulnerable McCarthy and a female hunter companion are caught off guard at the motel and brought in for some enhanced interrogation. It’s the first time the ETU has had a live hunter in their custody and they don’t want to mess it up.
The title of the episode is key, here. It turns out McCarthy’s lady friend is carrying his alien baby, which is revealed in a particularly gruesome birthing scene with the most disgusting practical special effects probably since The Thing. Her oozing spine cracks open, with the hunter newborn squealing inside the emptied out cavity. Proud papa McCarthy has a weak spot for his human/alien kid, or so the ETU thinks. They can use it for leverage. The endgame here is to find the hunter known as Brother #4, the leader of the invasion.
But it’s that very vulnerability used against McCarthy that backfires. Flynn’s own soft spot for finding Abby makes him breakdown, trying to beat the details of his wife’s whereabouts out of McCarthy. The ETU needs to know where Brother is, they need to know who the mole inside the unit is, and Flynn needs to find out where Abby is. For a moment, you think McCarthy will cave out of the need to reassure the safety of his kid, but it’s seemingly all for naught.
McCarthy would rather kill his alien hybrid baby (in another gruesome scene) than let the ETU have it, though he does give up Abby’s location. She’s in a storage garage somewhere close by, which isn’t the most reassuring thing for the audience or for Flynn. In the episode’s final moments, when her dead body is revealed in a storage freezer, it’s both shocking and a bit of a letdown. Surely it couldn’t have all been for this?
Hunters is still playing the mystery game, but in a way that doesn’t let the audience give educated guesses to keep them invested. If we understand everything then we will sleep at night, but if we don’t understand anything then we might as well not bother. Abby is dead, so now what? Flynn’s plot may be the most uninteresting part of the show, but still, McMahon’s sinister portrayal of McCarthy, and Oldford’s delicate handling of Regan’s ongoing search for her self-identity is enough for audiences to stay in the hunt.