Amazon Prime’s Hanna, the sci-fi lite action series, is back with season two. The weirdo teen spy thriller went full Deadly Class with surprising results. The TV series based on the 2011 assassin film starring Saoirse Ronan has doubled down on genetic modifications, government goons, and teen angst. Season one was much heavier in tone than the movie. Less fairy tale and more intense personal nightmare, Amazon’s reimagining is part wish fulfillment and part cautionary tale. The eight-episode first season gave us reason to hope that the loss of an integral character(Erik of the gorgeous abs) and a story we already knew the ending too could be expanded into a second season.
Hanna has always been gritty. It is one of the distinguishing components of the series. It is more complex and grounded than the film. This season that grittiness evolved into something more stylish and cohesive. The new ensemble cast only enhances Hanna’s strange world and make the signature character more interesting.
Early one, Hanna’s insular existence continues as she tries to keep Clara safe the only way she knows how. Extreme isolation in the woods is what Erik taught her. Now the child has become the parent as Hanna struggles to protect Clara. Just as Hanna rebelled, so too does Clara. The maturation of the people on the fringes of Hanna’s life is a highlight of the season.
Character arches take such wild swings you half expect the reverberations to effect season one if you rewatched it. Hanna’s world has expanded past Erik, Marissa, and the few other random people who moved in and out of her life. Instead of a focus on Hanna and her father, the series has grown beyond the woods to a place more concerned with Utrax and the government group that runs it. That’s to say; there is more meat on the bone for us to chew.
In some cases, it works as in the cases with Marissa’s expanded role as a duplicitous champion for our girl. Mireille Enos(Marissa) is fantastic, and now that she is operating within the confines of the group, she hates and secretly with Hanna, she is more fun to watch. She is the single best thing about season two. Her unassuming cold demeanor hides an intellect that matches Hanna’s. Marissa has filled the void left by Erik when he died. Hanna is smart and capable, but she needs someone with wisdom and patience, which she frequently lacks. She also needs the connections Marissa has. The uneasy trust the two women circle is captivating television.
Hanna season two doesn’t share the intimacy of the first season that allowed the limited initial cast to shine. In early episodes of season two, not all of the new girls seem worth our time. One girl, in particular, Jules(Gianna Kiehl), gets to do little more than angst her way through the cause of the week. She’s exhausting at best and a time-suck at worst. That is no knock on Kiehl, who tries her hardest to imbue a certain amount of gravity into seemingly rebellious Jules. There is a sly commentary here about what makes an identity. Is it what others tell you, or what you want to believe?
The rigid feminine demands society and to a different degree Utrax places on these girls are explored on the backdrop of the idyllic yet dangerous boarding school for highly trained and brainwashed girls. It’s gripping rather than annoying and one of the best aspects of the new season. These girls are victims, but they are also villains. At some point, you have to stop drinking the Kool-Aid and think for yourselves. That’s where the bulk of the season’s conceit comes from. Accountability and personal responsibility are essential components of morality. Hanna grew up outside of Utrax and therefore has Erik’s sense of right and wrong. Clara did not have that same benefit but is capable of independent thought. We don’t know why exactly, but that makes it even more exciting.
As uneven as the plot beats were with Jules, they are consistently excellent with Clara. She is, at times, wooden and others a mass of anger, needs, and pain. Yasmin Monet Prince’s(Clara) performance as the emotionally stunted trainee is a welcome addition to the cast. Clara wants what Hanna offers, but Ultrax promises her what she needs. Her conflict more closely follows Hanna’s own than the other girls. Just like Hanna, Prince manages to make Clara sympathetic and scary. Jules and Sandy(Áine Rose Daly) not so much. Daly’s Rose is a lethal child that uses her innocent appearance and unwavering inexperience to hide her brutality. She is a true convert that wants to believe, and so she does, entirely, right down to the frequent fucks she doesn’t give when shit goes down at the end.
Newly minted CIA Analyst turned therapist of sorts to the girls’ Terry(Cherrelle Skeete)manages to be both naively eager, and wincingly sinister. She is wicked smart and which is hazardous for both the girls and Utrax, who she is beginning to suspect isn’t as altruistic as they pretend. She is loyal to Utrax and Carmichael for now, but doubt is creeping in, and the revelation she is on the wrong side is coming. Until then, her cyber interactions with the girls posing as their fake parents are genius and very icky.
Yummy Leo(Anthony Welsh) is another one of the many additional characters this season. The honey-voiced social instructor at The Meadows is channeling brooding company man turned(maybe)hero Michael Bishop(Shane West) from Nikita.
Despite the expanded cast, Esme Creed-Miles(Hanna) still does most of the heavy lifting. Her narrow shoulders carry the series even when it swerves off course at the beginning of the season. In season one, she was a fish out of water. At times exasperated and amused, and others downright confused. Most of her emotional journey centered around Erik. In season two, having shed all hope of a normal life, she is laid bare. Creed-Miles is a talented actress who maintains the emotionless affect of the traumatized girl holding it together by willpower alone while demonstrating a range of warring emotions. There is a point in episode three that is filled with such heartbreak, disbelief, and surrender it is breathtaking.
The Fight scenes are predictably fun with interesting physical restrictions and backdrops. Hanna’s fighting style plays better in tight shots where the impracticality of such a diminutive fighter is not as glaring. It is easier to suspend belief when her agility is shown more than her strength. The quick moments of intense brutality augment the pulsing soundtrack and spectacular choreography.
For fans of Hanna the movie, you may walk away frustrated. The weightiness of season one gave way to a glut of teenage drama that would fit better in Vampire Diaries than a series about secretly modified killers. All that said, there was enough in the exciting final act to hook me. When the girls left The Meadows and went full assassin, season two took off. The profound shift between innocent babbling girls and cursing killers is engrossing. These girls take their jobs very seriously, all while having make-believe text conversations with their moms about meeting new friends. It’s incongruous and jarring, but oddly spectacular.
Hanna season two is the same pulpy fun as the first season. Like the haunting Anti-Lullaby by Karen O that runs throughout the series, it’s equal parts strange and hypnotic. The world of Hanna is stunningly beautiful, and cinematic styling is spot on. It is an immensely binge-worthy series filled with cool action scenes, weird science, and killer performances. Where Hanna the TV series season one may have fallen short, season two swelled the mythos and was better for it. Amazon’s Hanna takes the brio of the movie and combines it with the character development of a series. As episode eight ends with a possible happy ending and another chapter beginning I’m dying to know what’s next? Watch all eight episodes on Amazon Prime on July 3rd, 2020.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.