The premise of a genetically-modified soldier can only go so far, one would think. But if the project features writers such as David Farr — who is known for high-concept hits including The Night Manager — you are in for a violent awakening. Said project is the stylish thriller series Hanna.
Hanna is centred around a genetically-modified soldier who must take down the nefarious facility Utrax which takes DNA modification to ungodly heights. The series has all the throw-downs and showdowns without the unnecessary lycra and spandex-clad females with added layers on deeply personal narratives. In fact, one of the most alluring aspects of all the Hanna characters is the scope for longevity. The new season finally saw these characters move out of the territories in which the film and the first season primarily lay, and venture into new worlds unknown.
The finale of season one of Hanna carried a lot of weight, leaving audiences excited for an explosive season two — and the new line-up of episodes of the Amazon Prime series delivers. We saw Hanna’s father Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman) succumb to his wounds as she rescues Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince) from Utrax. Carmichael, Utrax’s mastermind, discovers Hanna to be alive and puts his plan to ‘mass produce’ more controlled soldiers into action with no hesitation as a conflicted Marissa (Mireille Enos) observes.
The mass production takes place at Utrax’s palatial educational facility The Meadows, a place of jarring paradoxes being both beautiful and calming but also disconcertingly uneasy. Viewers cannot help but feel like they are watching these young soldiers ‘socialise’ — as Carmichael puts it — as one would observe goldfish in a bowl. Given Sandy (Áine Rose Daly) and Jules’ (Giana Kiehl) plot-lines are focussed here, the sinister ambiguity of the environment does have these young girls go through the most frustrating existential crises, often becoming hard to watch from an emotional standpoint. But one thing viewers will love is the friendship forged between Sandy and Jules, however much they are opposite to one another.
Casting done right
The casting in this show continues to shine. Dermot Mulroney, who has described Carmichael as an ‘approachable villain’ embodies both charm and aloof, while Anthony Welsh personifies charm and efficiency as Leo, Carmichael’s right-hand man, which comes in handy when dealing directly with the young soldiers at The Meadows such as Sandy and Jules.
Of course, Esmé Creed-Miles brings a wondrous transformation to Hanna who processes Erik’s death in the only way she knows how: by being proactive. Having been taken care of and guarded in season one (despite her skill-set), she switches over to caretaker for Clara post their escape from Utrax. Though Erik does not reappear, he still has a lasting effect on Hanna. We see Hanna’s capacity for empathy develop into something of a sisterhood for her fellow soldiers as they all grapple with identity and womanhood in their own ways.
However, Clara gets recaptured by Utrax, and this paves the way for a reunion between Hanna and Marissa who, at the end of season one, ended up protecting Hanna and Clara in the final fight at Utrax. Perhaps this is where Farr’s team of female writers came into play; the alliance of Hanna and Marissa did not feel forced in that superhero-esque feel but rather one of necessity and, eventually, empathy. Hanna comes to understand that people are a lot more complicated than she let on, and Marissa grapples with responsibility and the darkness of her past. And, yes, these moments mark the transition of Hanna going blonde, a rather telling moment in the whole season.
Hanna season two’s appeal lies in the war of identities embattled by the patriarchy. As Sandy and Jules respond to the manufactured identities handed to them by Utrax, Hanna, Clara and Marissa are left raw to fight the aforementioned system while building their own stories.
The fight scenes are choreographed with a slickness that can only come with such a minimal show; it comes across as art and power-play of the best visual sort. It’s all like watching a well-oiled machine heat up, churning out wildcard spanners in the works. The series does justice in keeping the mood unsettling across all eight of its second season episodes, through an amalgam of well-paced writing and clever directing. Put a weekend aside for season two; it is emotional and so bingeable, you may not know that eight episodes have gone by — just like me.
Hanna Season 2 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video