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Nazis Were Never This Clever, Al Pacino Always Was

I enjoyed the much-hyped series on Amazon Prime, starring Al Pacino as a sort of Jewish Professor X leading a team of experts and super soldiers on a path of revenge: Nazis have infiltrated America, and they have escaped justice for their crimes in the Holocaust. Holocaust survivors gather together, along with hired guns that have the skills and abilities and youthful vigor necessary to root out the Nazis who had worked in the death camps under their aliases and assumed identities and kill them all. The show opens with a bang. A terrifying Dylan Baker is hosting he most American of backyard barbecues, and a guest is a survivor of the death camps who immediately recognizes this state department leader as a butcher in the death camps of Poland, under a different name. Swiftly and remorselessly, “Biff Simpson” murders his own wife and children, then her husband, and then taunts her before murdering her, at last. She had blown his cover, and he had to act. With this horrifying opening, the viewer is pulled into a world where Nazis crept into the country secretly, with the aid of the US Government at a massive scale, and began a plot and scheme to subvert the United States of America into a Nazi country, ready for Nazi control and global domination.

It is violence that is cartoonish and grotesque, and the show revels in it. At its best, Dylan Baker and Al Pacino and Saul Rubinek and Carol Kane chew scenery and steal scenes. The bland central figure, Jonah, played straight by Logan Lerman, seems to be from a different show, entirely, nearly devoid of humor and whose few witticisms carry an edge of malice. The modern day (this is when Carter was President in the late 70s) is juxtaposed with scenes of the concentration camps that are painted like technicolor and soaked in a violence that is over the top even by the standards of the camps. That’s not to say that the camps were unspeakably violent and cruel and terrible things were done there, but the way Nazis are presented as a bunch of scheming terrors, each more crafty than the last. No doubt, many were. But, the different predicaments presented of abject cruelty in flashback demonstrate a vision of the camps somewhat less plausible and quite cartoonish in expression that feels off, and a little disrespectful at the end of the series, for the very real horrors did not need to be gussied up in the guise of fiction.

Also horrifying was the presentation as clear as day in the very real, realpolitek thinking behind bringing Nazi scientists to America.

As far as the pleasures of the show, the plotting and scheming and twists and turns and sudden outbursts of ultra violence all tell a story of how those who fight monsters become them, but ultimately the world is full of monsters, and racism is one of the signs of the monstrous. It is a thing that hangs like a dead bird around the neck of a country, and any sign of Anti-Semitism, Racism, or prejudice should be cut out with a dull and painful knife. Those who spew racism, in the show, are forced to eat a last meal of literal manure. Those who would gas children in camps, die by the gas naked and afraid. It is a refreshing in a show tackling the evil of -isms that two of the heroic avengers are an elderly Jewish couple whose age and experience in their craft is a huge asset. In the final episode, there is a significant plot development that is perhaps not satisfying, at all, because it means the loss of one of the best actors in the show, for good, but for all of us holed up in our homes, these dreams of visceral vengeance and justice can be very satisfying as we can do nothing but wait for the invisible wave to strike our communities.

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