REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (EPISODES 1 – 3) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
The message of the nationwide poster campaign that preceded the release of new Amazon original series Hanna was pretty opaque. And with good reason. There's no simple catch-line for this hybrid spy-thriller-fairytale coming-of-age drama that is fiendishly hard to categorise.
Adapted from the 2011 movie of the same name by scriptwriter David Farr, this eight-part mini-series is inventive, unformulaic and frequently surprising. Its slow-drip plot, and less-than-manic tempo, is lit up by an impressive performance from Esme Creed-Miles in the title role.
Opening episode Forest is intriguing, but it gives little sense of the mood or pace that the show will soon adopt. The parents of titular hero Hanna abduct her from a secret experimental facility as a young baby. After the pursuit ends in tragedy, her father takes her into the isolated depths of the woodlands of the Ukraine to evade the hunters.
As the years pass, he diligently teaches Hanna the skills of survival and of combat, to prepare her to complete and as-yet-unspecified mission. Hanna acquires abilities and learns self-reliance but is given few answers about her life and little in the way of love from her emotionally closed-off Dad.
When Hanna’s teenage curiosity leads to more than a decade of separation from the world being breached, the young woman’s pursuers pick up the trail and close in, forcing father and daughter to flee. Topped and tailed by action sequences, this first episode is more about mood, atmosphere and character than the simple exposition of the show’s premise.
Episode two, Friend, spends a good chunk of the running time establishing a bickering British family holidaying in Morocco. Their daughter establishes a connection with the free-spirited Hanna, and through that affinity Hanna finds an entry-point into the excitements of teenage life and passage back to mainland Europe. As the story ends, Hanna has to unleash her formidable fighting skills to evade capture, ending her brief respite in normality.
City shifts the focus to Berlin and reveals a little (but not much) more about the nature of the cat-and-mouse game between Hanna’s father and those running the experimental programme from which she was sprung. The motivations and morality of all those with whom Hanna’s fate is entangled also come into question, as a series of flashbacks explain more of her past.
Three stories in, and the direction that Hanna is headed in is still completely unclear. Much of the pleasure of watching the show comes from trying to piece together the fragments that hint at the many as-yet hidden secrets. The rest of the fun comes from watching Creed-Miles’ brilliant performance as ingenue killing-machine Hanna; as she tries to balance her talents as an assassin and escapologist with her sense of wonder at the extraordinary world now opening up all around her.