Sunday, April 14, 2019

REVIEW: Hanna: Season 1 (live action TV series)

Hanna is an action TV series based on a 2011 movie of the same title. I haven't seen the movie and didn't even know about it until I began writing this post.

This review includes slight spoilers.


The series begins 16 or so years in the past. A man we later learn is named Erik breaks into a high-security facility that for some reason has a lot of babies in it. He takes one of the babies and meets up with a woman who we later learn is named Johanna. Erik and Johanna refer to themselves as the baby's parents, although it's not initially clear whether they're actually her biological parents or consider themselves her adoptive parents. During their efforts to escape their pursuers, Johanna is killed. Erik takes the baby into the woods.

For the next 16 years, Erik trains his daughter, Hanna, in survival techniques, combat, and evasion. Hanna knows her mother was killed by enemies outside the forest, but she still can't help but yearn to see the outside world. She eventually ventures outside, and it isn't long before her and her father are forced to abandon their home and split up. In order to see her father again, Hanna must navigate a world she's only ever heard about before, with dangers she only partly understands.

The first episode of this series was slow, and the season overall was shorter than I expected (I was surprised when I checked part of the way through and saw that there were only 8 episodes). Considering how bored and frustrated parts of the first episode made me, I wasn't sure whether I'd last the whole season, but thankfully it became more bingeable later on.

Which isn't to say I didn't have problems with the season as a whole. I continued to be frustrated with the series, and one particularly bad moment reduced me to shouting at Hanna despite the fact that she's a fictional character.

Hanna was a difficult character for me to watch, sometimes. On the one hand, she was a teenager frustrated with the rules she was forced to live by and her father's desire to protect her from everything he could, even full knowledge about her own past. On the other hand, she was supposed to be terrifyingly capable. These two things didn't always mesh well, especially considering the writer's vision of what a stereotypical teenager is supposedly like (hey screenwriters, FYI, not all teens are ruled by lust).

This led to lots of moments that went against a lifetime of training. For example, there was Hanna's encounter with Arvo, the first person besides her father that she'd ever met. She ate candy bars he offered her (no worries about being drugged, I guess, even though the only one she witnessed him eat a bite of was the first one) and later allowed him to take her someplace else on a vehicle traveling at speeds she'd likely never experienced before (no worries that it might be a trap). And there were so many instances with Sophie and her friends, as well. Even though Hanna was on the run and knew she had to stay sharp, she allowed Sophie to talk her into trying alcohol. She also risked discovery by repeatedly going to parties she didn't even seem to enjoy. (Although apparently she enjoyed getting drunk and dancing, so I guess she didn't completely dislike those parties.)

The stuff with Hanna, Sophie, and Anton made me downright angry. Sophie liked Anton, and Hanna knew it. For a moment, it seemed like this would be one of those rare shows where the main character realized that friendship was worth more than whatever might develop between her and a boy she'd briefly made eye contact with, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

I was practically shouting at my TV as Hanna betrayed her one and only friend, the most loyal person she'd ever known in her life outside of her father, for sex with some guy she'd practically just met. She then tried to justify it by saying she couldn't control her body. I suspect that the writer was aiming for something like "she'd grown up knowing only her father and couldn't control her hormones once she was in the outside world," but that's utter garbage. She'd spent years learning a variety of self-control techniques that she could have applied to this situation, and she could easily have found someone other than Anton to cozy up to. I mean, judging by what had happened up to that point, heterosexual boys had a habit of losing all their sense and survival instincts around her - they were constantly falling at her feet despite clear evidence that she'd likely be trouble.

I wasn't a huge Hanna fan up to that point, but the stuff with Anton really soured my viewing experience for the rest of the series. Hanna didn't deserve Sophie. And for the record, I didn't think Sophie deserved to end up with Anton just because she wanted him - but whether he turned Sophie down or not, Hanna should have steered clear of him for the sake of her and Sophie's friendship.

This series had so much potential that its missteps were painful to watch. The Anton thing was the worst of it, for me, but it wasn't the series' only stupid moment. The overall story would have been much stronger if the writer had spent less time on stereotypical teenage partying and sexual urges and more time on Hanna's evolving friend and familial relationships. There was some really good stuff there, especially in the last few episodes. I loved the way Hanna and Erik's relationship evolved - the pride in Erik's eyes as he realized Hanna could more than take care of herself was wonderful, and I was glad that Hanna got a chance to put into words how she felt about Erik. Even Marissa, one of the series' primary villains, turned out to be more complex than I expected.

When Season 2 airs, I'll probably watch it, although it'll be interesting to see how well it works for me considering that one or more of my most favorite characters won't be around anymore. One thing I know for sure: Hanna alone can't carry this series for me.


  1. Replies
    1. Whoops, sorry, just saw this comment. From what I've read, it's supposed to come out sometime in 2020, but I don't think a release date has been announced yet, so who knows.