This review contains spoilers for Hanna Season 1. It is based on all eight episodes of Season 2.
Three years ago, when it was announced that Amazon would be adapting 2011 action thriller Hanna into a series, enthusiasm was understandably measured. What does work about that film—namely, Saoirse Ronan’s lead performance as the titular teenage super soldier and the brutal beauty of Joe Wright’s directorial style—are specific to that intersection of time, place, and talent; they’re not necessarily inherent to the story itself. As Amazon prepares to launch the second season of the Hanna TV series, however, creator David Farr proves this grounded and gorgeous teenage assassin series has legs.
Heading into Hanna season two, we are well past the plot depicted in the original feature film. At the end of season one, Hanna (Esmé Creed-Miles) freed fellow genetically-enhanced super soldier Clara (Yasmin Monet-Prince) from the Romanian Utrax facility. Erik died in the effort, and Hanna carries that loss with her, protecting her new family in the ways that her father taught her, which is to stay: by moving it deep into the wilderness.
When we catch back up with Hanna and Clara in the first episode of season two, they are living in the Romanian forest where Hanna feels she can best keep Clara safe. Much like Hanna circa season one, Clara doesn’t particularly want to spend her days cut off from the rest of civilization. She longs to find out where she belongs—most of all, she wants to find her birth mother. Ironically, Hanna takes on much of the role Erik had in the first season. Now, she is playing the role of the overbearing parental figure and Clara is playing the role of the restless child forced to rebel in order to get the chance to find herself.
Elsewhere, we begin exploring the repercussions of Marissa Wiegler’s (Mirielle Enos) shifted motivations. At the end of last season, Marissa killed Sawyer and let Hanna, Erik, and Clara escape. In the aftermath, her relationship with The CIA and Utrax remains fraught. Marissa may have shot herself in the leg to cover up her actual role in the Utrax massacre, but the new leader of the program, an old colleague named John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), isn’t buying it. Lucky for Marissa, he doesn’t care much where Marissa’s allegiances lie—as long as they don’t interfere with his goals.
Marissa would no doubt be an excellent ally for Hanna to have, but can Hanna trust her? In exploring this question, Marissa plays a similar role as Erik did in season one, claiming to want to help but often keeping the whole truth from the younger character. While it’s riveting to see these two intense and complex characters interact on various points on the friend-to-foe spectrum, their relationship doesn’t hold the same weight and complexity as Hanna and Erik’s daughter-father relationship did, and therefore can’t emotionally ground this story in the same ways. In season one, one of Hanna’s chief journeys was coming to understand that Erik did love her and to recognize him as her father. Hanna season two is never able to frame the driving questions of the Marissa/Hanna dynamic, nor the Clara/Hanna relationship for that matter, in equally emotionally-resonant ways, and the season doesn’t hit the same emotional heights when it comes to Hanna’s character in particular because of it.
But Hanna season two doesn’t put all of its storytelling eggs in one basket. We see a significant broadening of the scope of this world and story in season two. What was merely hinted at towards the end of the first season—i.e. an interest in the girls who, unlike Hanna, didn’t escape the Utrax program as babies—becomes a full-blown story line in season two, as we follow the future assassins to the next phase of their training. This takes place at a well-landscaped estate in northern England called The Meadows, which reads like X-Men‘s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters or Vampire Academy‘s St. Vladimir’s Academy. The Meadows may look like a swanky boarding school filled with privileged teens chafing against the perceived and/or actual rigidity of adolescence, but it’s not. It’s a baby-abducting, CIA-run assassin program that is brainwashing a group of captive teen girls into becoming obedient killers.
Some of the season’s best stuff comes in this setting, which effectively blends the coming-of-age boarding school drama genre with the espionage thriller genre. The juxtaposition is brilliant and, as the trainees receive the character profiles meant to become their lives (complete with names, fake families, and and a new wardrobe), there is room to reflect on the nature of identity performance in teenagehood, as well as the unique pressures put on teen girls even when they, you know, aren’t super soldiers. It’s a particularly effective examination when you compare the intentionally performative ways the trainees engage with expectations of modern femininity with the wonderfully feral quality of Hanna’s exploration of identity in season one.
In the process, Hanna season two becomes much more of an ensemble story, keeping the series fresh by slowly expanding its scope. While Hanna may still be figuring herself out, we’ve already seen this character make her first steps into a larger world. Now, we get to see Clara, as well as fellow Utrax trainees Sandy (Áine Rose Dalye) and Jules (Gianna Kiehl), do it too—albeit in a much different way, as Utrax doesn’t give them much choice as to which path they will walk.
If you’re in it for the ambience, Hanna continues to look and sound beautiful. (This show’s soundtrack slays.) The series brings on all new directors this season—French director Eve Husson and Icelandic director Ugla Hauksdottir, as well as series creator Farr—and they meet the high aesthetic bar that was set in season one. Even when Hanna feels reminiscent of TV series we have seen before (most notably in season two, the severely-underrated CW spy drama Nikita, another adaptation of a feature film), its visual style sets it apart. From the undomesticated depths of the Romanian forest to the bright possibilities of Barcelona, this is a rich and immersive world to spend time in.
We are living in a time when it is popular to discuss the blurring of lines between the film and television mediums, and there is value to that discussion. But there are still things that TV can do that film cannot. Most notably, TV has the narrative space to follow character, theme, and plot in expansive directions and, in the modern TV era, a series doesn’t necessarily have to trade a cinematic aesthetic to do so. The Hanna TV series is taking advantage of the space, and it makes for a hell of a ride. Looking back on the 2011 film from 2020, it no longer feels like a fair fight.
All eight episodes of Hanna season two will be available to watch on Amazon starting on July 3rd.