HANNA SEASON 2
** SPOILERS **
Hanna season 2 ingeniously reinvents the series about the teenage super-soldier Hanna Petrescu (Esme Creed-Miles) and injects the story about one lone girl searching for purpose into a compelling larger universe of an entire school of teenage assassins looking for a greater purpose. Hanna season 1 was loosely adapted from the 2011 feature film directed by Joe Wright starring Saoirse Ronan in the title role before it veered in a different, and frankly, better direction. With Hanna season 2, showrunner David Farr's soft reboot cleverly forces Hanna to answer the question of where she fits in and what role she will have in this new expanded universe she finds herself at the center of.
Hanna was originally part of Utrax, a clandestine CIA program that began in the early 2000s in Romania. Utrax has a vague, science fiction-y premise of injecting infants with wolf DNA to make them superior soldiers... uh, however that works. Regardless, Hanna and her adoptive father Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman) shut down Utrax in Hanna season 1, although it cost Erik his life and Hanna fled back to the forest where she grew up with her 'sister' from Utrax, Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince). Hanna season 2 picks up some time after; as Hanna and Clara continue hiding in the Romanian wilderness, Utrax relocated to a Downton Abbey-like English country manor called the Meadows. Utrax's trainees, who were treated like robots in season 1 and are now enhanced synthetically instead of through genetic manipulation, received a serious lifestyle upgrade. Each given fabricated names and histories, the girls of Utrax find themselves living and learning in a boarding school for assassins. Hanna turns season 2 into a cross between Harry Potter and Killing Eve - it's brilliant and it works like gangbusters.
Naturally, Clara is unhappy living in the forest (who can blame her?) and she's obsessed with finding her birth mother (again, hard to blame her). Utrax reacquires Clara and sends her to the Meadows where she's the problem child in the school -- until Hanna arrives to rescue her and Hanna herself becomes the school's even more-of-a-problem child. But the best characters of the show are the girls who are gung-ho to be in Utrax. Hanna's prize pupils are Sandy Phillips (Aine Rose Daly), the blonde, effervescent true believer, and Jules Allen (Gianna Kiehl), the headstrong, independent thinker who figures out pretty early on that she fancies girls more than boys. When Hanna season 2 focuses on the trainees at Utrax, their training, and their attempts to be "normal teenage girls" (wholly sponsored by their CIA overseers), the series really crackles. These girls are being trained to become US Government sanctioned assassins but they're delightful, bright, naive, and incredibly dangerous. No teenage boy is a match for Utrax's trainees and they know it. Placing the girls of Utrax at the heart of the show alongside Hanna is the series' masterstroke.
Meanwhile, there are also adults on this show. Hanna season 2 brings back devious and tough-as-nails Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos), who was relentlessly hunting Hanna in season 1 but they're now on the same side, although Hanna can't bring herself to fully trust Marissa (Erik taught her well). Marissa's real obsession is getting to the bottom of Utrax and her old teacher at the agency, John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), who now runs the program for a shadowy section of the CIA called the Pioneer Group. Marissa has a tough season 2; she's beaten up and captured several times (Hanna also hands Wiegler her ass) but she's the smartest person on the show and, eventually, Marissa figures out how to take Utrax over to her own advantage. Another compelling new character is Terri Miller (Cherrelle Skeete), a fresh recruit from the CIA who creates all of the Utrax girls' identities and intimately gets to know them in ways no one else does. Also, Carmichael doesn't seem all that bad for a bad guy. Late in the series, Carmichael gently pats Sandy on the shoulder and tells her "I'm proud of you". This sweet moment was one of the highlights of young Sandy's life.
As entertaining as the Meadows school setting is, the final three episodes of the season highlight the new direction's true potential when Hanna and Jules are deployed to London while Sandy and Clara are sent to Barcelona to take out their targets. Hanna season 2's spy games are a cross between the first Mission: Impossible movie and Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Utrax's girls are trying to acquire a list of future targets but that list sounds suspiciously like Hydra's Project Insight plan - except Utrax will use 18 -year-old female assassins in lieu of Helicarriers. Hanna, Jules, Sandy, and Clara plunged into the real world, and posing as international boarding school students delightfully brings with it all of the requisite coming-of-age thrills of travel, discovery, rebelliousness, and, of course, gun-toting violence. More of this please, Hanna.
If there's a stick-in-the-mud at the Meadows, it's Hanna herself, who can't bring herself to fit in at Utrax, even though it's really where she belongs. Esme Creed-Miles always makes Hanna empathetic, but come on, she's not much fun to be around, is she? It's certainly hard to go to school with Hanna. To her credit, Hanna fundamentally objects to being used as an assassin, which is what makes her a hero, and yet, she simply can't survive in a world where the CIA will continually hunt her. As the Utrax O.G., Hanna is certainly tough, clever, and resourceful but Hanna season 2 does a thorough job of defining her limits. The show doesn't flinch from the harsh realities that Hanna has no options for a happy life of freedom, but Hanna herself, for all of her abilities and life experience her 'sisters' lack, can't see how to make Utrax work for her. This is why the ending of Hanna season 2 is so brilliant: Marissa takes over Utrax from Carmichael and will use them to fight their patrons, the Pioneer Group in season 3. That's a hell of a hook and Hanna season 3 can't come soon enough.