‘Hanna’: The Personal Intrigue Gets Deeper and the Action More Thrilling in Season 2
Some shows just need breathing space. The second season of Amazon’s “Hanna” leaves the gloomier setting of its first round and takes on the tone of a more recognizable international spy thriller. It’s a wise move considering this is one of those shows essentially stretching out the premise of a movie. The original season was based off of a 2011 action thriller by Joe Wright about a girl raised in the wilderness by her father to be an assassin. As a premise it served the first batch of episodes well. By changing settings and scope, season two keeps the narrative going while giving it a fresh feel.
When last we left young assassin Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) she was trying to convince other adolescent killers from the secret CIA program Utrax to leave with her. As the season begins she is trying to escape with her only recruit, Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince) who would like to find her mother. Into the woods of Northern Romania they go, with Hanna teaching the inexperienced Clara in the ways of outdoor survival. After the events of last season the rest of the Utrax trainees are moved over to a new facility called the Meadows, which looks like a high-end boarding school. Here they will be trained to think and act like regular teenagers. Overseeing this process is Terri Miller (Cherrelle Skeete), who must keep track of all the activities involving the girls, even their personal emails. Lording over Miller and the whole Utrax project is John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), who will soon put together missions (basically assassination jobs) for the trainees to carry out once they’re ready. When Hanna and Clara are cornered by Utrax operatives they get separated and Clara is taken back into the Meadows. Hanna will be forced to work again with her former hunter, Marissa (Mireille Enos), to get Clara back and infiltrate Utrax.
Season 2 of “Hanna” can feel like a darkly creative combination of “La Femme Nikita” and “The Baby-Sitters Club.” It’s part action thriller and part teen drama. Showrunner David Farr, who wrote the original movie, almost seems to be wanting to comment on the stereotypes of teen living. Much of the early episodes lack little action, they are more about life at the Meadows and how everyone is forced into living in a “normal” environment. This is when a new character, Sandy (Áine Rose Daly) is introduced, who loves the Meadows and basks in the illusion of being a regular teen. Another newcomer is Jules (Gianna Kiehl), who plays the role of Punkish rebel. Farr uses these characters to play with the typical espionage angle of double lives. Jules and Sandy talk about liking boys and being annoyed with their teachers, but it’s all a façade. Jules talks and talks about a boyfriend we never meet, because all their lives are lived online, they never go anywhere. Their only venture into the outside world will be when Carmichael feels they are ready to kill. When Clara is brought into the Meadows Terri convinces her to stay by making her feel like a regular orphan, motherless and without a home.
Another classic spy touch is the device of infiltrating the enemy. Last season one got the sense Marissa was the villain, now she is clearly on Hanna’s side, attempting to destabilize the whole Utrax project. Last season Hanna’s father Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman) was killed, so Marissa fills in the parent/mentor role. Together they leave the cloudy skies of Romania for the sun-kissed streets of Paris. This is when the show begins to expand its wings and go to new places. By the end of the season the plot will have flown around from Paris to Spain. Real tension is generated once Hanna pretends to give in and joins Utrax, the project her father had been training her to fight against. Her true goal is to get to Clara and get her out. In these chapters the show has fun with new identities and well-staged action sequences. Hanna temporarily assumes a new name, Mia Wolff, and takes on a darker hair style. The plot takes on a strong combination of personal drama and action when it moves to Spain when Hanna and Jules are sent to kill a journalist threatening to expose Utrax.
Amid all the gunfire “Hanna” has some well-written moments of genuine emotional punch. Hanna’s friendship with Clara is one of the season’s best features and results in some moving sequences, particularly in the finale when Clara appears to have found her mother. Marissa’s role also goes beyond mere antagonist and becomes something more complex. She is willing to risk her life for Hanna by the finale, and we wonder what awaits them now that Utrax has no doubt about where they stand. The final scene by a poolside, as Hanna faces off with Carmichael is an elegant cliffhanger.
“Hanna” is not just a worthy second season but surpasses its predecessor. There is a fine art to making the preposterous believable and this show does it exceedingly well. The action has adrenaline and the writing is sharp, and by branching out into new places it becomes an even better popcorn ride.
“Hanna” season two begins streaming July 3 on Amazon Prime Video.