Entertainment

Season 2 of Amazon's 'Hanna' Finally Escapes the Shadow of 'Hanna' the Movie

Stars Esme Creed-Miles, Mirielle Enos, and creator David Farr discuss the tide change of the second season of 'Hanna.'

hanna season 2
Esme Creed-Miles in 'Hanna' Season 2 | Amazon Studios
Esme Creed-Miles in 'Hanna' Season 2 | Amazon Studios

When Hanna first premiered to Amazon in 2019, there was plenty of doubt surrounding the series. After all, this was the same story audiences had already seen play out on the big screen eight years earlier; Oscar-winner Saoirse Ronan played the titular role of Hanna, the genetically modified super-teen who, under the guidance of her ex-CIA agent father Erik (played in the movie by Eric Bana), ventured out to take down the evil Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett), who oversaw the program that turned young girls into killing machines for the American government.

What exactly could the Amazon series cover that the movie did not? Quite a lot, actually. After the streamer gave David Farr -- the writer of the Joe Wright-directed film -- creative license to expand upon his idea, a nuanced coming-of-age thriller emerged that lent more emotional layers to the story which anchored its subject matter in both the show's character exploration and tone. 

It helps that Farr holds more creative control here. But the performances of the cast were key: Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman had already developed a killer rapport and chemistry during their time on AMC's The Killing and their on-screen reunion as Marissa Weigler and Erik Helleradded an air of welcome gravitas and emotionality that allowed acting newcomer Esme Creed-Miles to dive right in and live in the character of Hanna, bringing the heroine to life in a refreshingly organic way.

Throughout Season 1, the Amazon series stepped out of the shadow of its big-screen predecessor. The journey of Erik and Hanna brought important issues to the table, such as identity, the impact of social media on young women, and society's acceptance (or rejection) of teenage girls looking to find where they fit in the world. And, in its second season, which premieres to the streamer on Friday, July 3, the program expands on those themes exponentially. "We've just cracked the world open and now we have a whole bunch of girls who are each grappling with that," Mireille Enos told Thrillist over the phone. "So I think it's actually just an expansion of that idea -- of looking at how nature-versus-nurture affects each individual person's growth."

The final moments of last season's finale found Erik, Hanna, and fellow teen super-soldier Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince) attempting to escape Utrax -- America's shadow government operation that conducted experiments on babies taken from their abortion-minded mothers, with the goal of raising them away from civilization, assigning them manufactured identities and backstories, supplying them with weapons training, all under the grander scheme of molding these young women into killing machines. They wouldn't have made it out alive if it weren't for surprise assistance of Marissa Weigler who, up until this turning point in the series, was hell-bent on capturing Hanna and putting a bullet in the head of Erik, her former Utrax recruitment partner. "She decided to make the unselfish choice and actually let them go free, kind of as an act of restitution for the bad choices she's made for most of her career," Enos continued. "She doesn't know if that might be the last time she ever sees Hanna."

As much as Marissa ran from the concept of being a parental figure throughout the show's first episodes, the former head of the Utrax organization flips her own script and welcomes the young girl back with open arms -- that is, once she learns Hanna is definitely alive and well, physically speaking at least. The death of Hanna's father deals a huge blow to the 15-year-old who, with Clara in tow, retreats back into the woods for safety in the first episode of Season 2. Without Erik's guidance, Hanna uses her understanding of the world to act as a mentor and protector to the recent Utrax escapee. 

"The way that she processes [Erik's death], especially at the beginning, is sort of by becoming Erik and protecting Clara from what she perceives to be the outside world which is just full of evil and death and something that she wants to escape again," Esme Creed-Miles explained to Thrillist.

hanna season 2
Esme Creed-Miles | Amazon Studios

Her fears are completely warranted and it's not long before the government comes searching for the girls, first in the form of a drone hunter and second, more maliciously, in the guise of a Utrax lie that lured Clara back into captivity. Enter John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), the new head of the off-the-books outfit, who recruits Weigler to continue doing that familiar shady government work of lying to young women in order to give up their identities and autonomy for the skewed interests of some hidden power structures of the world.

With Clara gone, Hanna is driven out of hiding once more and the reunion between her and Marissa opens up a whole complex can of worms. Can they trust each other? Do they even have a choice? These are questions that Hanna continually asks, providing an innate sense of tension, even in the show's quieter moments. And, while the kinetic nature of Season 1 helped add energy to that tension -- with Hanna running from one country to the next, offering a delightful global aesthetic to the show -- Season 2 finds our unlikely duo slowing down and setting their sights on a palatial estate in the English countryside known as The Meadows. This is where the Utrax girls undergo their next stage of education, which David Farr described as "socialization training."

"It occurred to me immediately when we were working on Season 1 that, hold on, these girls are really interesting!" Farr explained. "What are they intended for? And how are they going to do it? And actually, what an amazing resource: You have these genetically modified girls who are extraordinarily dangerous, yet very talented. And they also have no moral scruples because they haven't been brought up to have any. So, they'll do whatever you say. If you say, 'Go kill that kid over there,' they'll just do it because it doesn't occur to them that they shouldn't. At least, that's the theory."

As the show pivots its focus on this weird boarding school, Hanna sheds its Season 1 message, which was all about Hanna's search for the truth. Yet, when she heads to The Meadows to free Clara, and expose the organization once and for all, her mission becomes skewed as she's lured in by an unexpected familial aspect to the place. The girls at The Meadows offer Hanna a sense of community and family she's never had before. While it's obvious to the viewers this is a trap, Hanna gives in (albeit briefly) to the appeal of being a normal girl in a community of like-minded girls who all were created, like her, in the same place. This casts a wedge between her and Weigler who, let's be real, brings a lot of baggage to the party.

hanna season 2
Esme Creed-Miles and Mireille Enos | Amazon Studios

"This girl is obviously so capable, and Marissa has a long history with her," Enos continued. "She's the reason that her real mother died; she's the reason that her father died. There's this idea that she would be listening to some impulse in her that wants to save her. I think there's also something in Hanna Marissa recognizes about herself from the past. And she just wants to nurse that person and send her on her way to a better life."

If anything, one of the biggest highlights of these new episodes is Mireille Enos' hero-turn, delivered with a steel-eyed, yet weathered focus of a woman coming to terms with the demons from her past. On one side of that coin is Hanna, whom she feels completely responsible for; on the other is Utrax, the facility who drove her to commit a cavalcade of heinous acts and, ultimately, left her out in the cold. Her goal now is that of an unrequited mother looking to nurture a life she almost vanquished while taking down the shady establishment she once aligned herself with. 

Which brings us back to the central theme that continues pushing Hanna forward: the power of identity. When the show first began airing, we watched as young Hanna ventured out into a world that Erik worked tirelessly to keep her hidden from. As she befriended Sophie (Rhianne Barreto), a rebellious teenage girl, Hanna began to learn about how social media, men, and society, in general, can imprint certain expectations on young women. 

What happens, though, when those men and that society decide to weaponize these expectations in the form of manufactured identities in order to steal away free will and agency from young women? And what happens if those same young women were super-soldiers in-training, being cultivated by military forces unbeknownst to them? The show shines in its exploration of these questions, especially through the Lord of the Flies-style community of girls at The Meadows, where their own hierarchy begins to take shape. This act of control is something that, at its core, opens the door to discussing important real-world issues young women face daily. 

hanna season 2
Amazon Studios

It surely helps that Farr continues to enlist a team of formidable female directors for the series. While the show-creator previously pointed to the 2011 movie as inspiration for female-led action franchises, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent films, one thing he never wanted for Hanna was the Hollywood-style sexualization of his reluctant heroine.

"From the minute we did the first episode of Season 1 with Sarah Adina Smith, right through to what the young Icelandic director, Ugla HauksdĂłttir, did in the middle of this season, in 'The Meadows' episode, there's a different, more female way of seeing; it's gorgeous," Farr said. "And it does mark the show as slightly different, certainly, to the very fetishized female action heroines we've seen in Hollywood movies, which I actually loath. They may be female action heroines, but they are not female existentialist heroes. They're just fetishes." 

Hanna's new episodes may not carry the intense emotional connection between Creed-Miles and Joel Kinnaman -- whose influence on Hanna and Marissa still permeates Season 2 -- but that's for the best. After following the same story beats as the movie, the Amazon series has forged a new path that's riveting, thought-provoking, and continuously heartfelt. 

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Aaron Pruner is a contributor to Thrillist and on Twitter @aaronflux.