In its final season, Hanna fails to smash through tired action-thriller tropes

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Esmé Creed-Miles and Mireille Enos in Hanna
Esmé Creed-Miles and Mireille Enos in Hanna

Throughout its three seasons on Amazon, Hanna has advanced an alternative version of Joe Wright’s 2011 film of the same name, swapping out the savage affair at the fairy tale park for a more conventional battle royale at a super-secret government compound (is there any other kind?), and giving Hanna’s (Esmé Creed-Miles) nemesis, Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos), a change of heart instead of a fatal wound.

After essentially re-mixing the movie in season one, the show allies Hanna and Marissa in a standard-issue quest to take down the various nefarious forces conspiring to maintain their iron grip on the globe. Season two deepened the intrigue around Utrax, the teenage super-assassin training program, and now, the third and final go-round reveals the program’s wicked endgame: snuffing out the brightest, most revolutionary young minds around the world, before they can spark real change.

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It’s a mission straight out of the Jason Bourne franchise, down to the getting too attached to the innocent civilian one is supposed to protect and damn near blowing the operation. Still in deep cover as Utrax’s bloody-handed golden girl, Hanna cozies up to Abbas Naziri (Adam Bessa), a political activist whose speeches about freeing one’s mind from the cosseting of social media and soul-numbing norms lands him at the top of the list—only to fall in dreamy, clinging-to-his-waist-on-the-back-of-a-motorcycle young love.

As Hanna tiptoes into a new future, one gentle kiss at a time, Marissa goes toe-to-toe with a serpentine adversary from her past, Gordon Evans (Ray Liotta) a.k.a. The Chairman behind Utrax. There’s an encrypted computer drive, a race against the clock, an apple-cheeked child imperiled—the usual. And that’s the problem. With just a little retooling, there’s nothing significant to distinguish this final act of Hanna’s story from the back-end episodes of a typical action-thriller featuring cover art with John Krasinski or Chris Pratt’s sweat-soiled face staring out from with an expression of grim determination.

Of course, one could argue that allowing women to play through the tried-and-true tropes of the action genre straightforwardly is compelling enough—why should Hanna be expected to tread where Jack Ryan or Without Remorse won’t go? Still, works like Salt and Atomic Blonde elevated these tropes through rich, compelling characterizations like Angelina Jolie’s elite spy turned contented family woman, turned rogue agent on the run (a part famously first written for Tom Cruise), palpably aching with the loss of her hard-won domesticity even as she chokes out her enemies with lengths of chain. Or the truly iconic fight sequences of Atomic Blonde, including a stairwell melee that defies physics while retaining a claustrophobic, bone-snapping intimacy that feels unmistakably human.

This grand finale of Hanna seems rote, a paint-by-number that has been hastily sketched. Creed-Miles is effective in Hanna’s silent moments, whether plotting against hapless captors or staring down a rival combatant; over three seasons, she’s grown as a physical performer, going from plot-armored practitioner of waif-fu to a believable brawler capable of driving a corkscrew through a man’s chest. But she has no chemistry with Bessa, who is unconvincing as a man worth burning the world for and poorly served by the material—Abbas’ supposedly dangerous political teachings are innocuous enough to belong on a #Resistance Twitter feed.

Ray Liotta in Hanna
Ray Liotta in Hanna

All too rarely, the show’s tight, binary structure opens up on Sandy (Áine Rose Daly) and Jules (Gianna Kiehl), two of Hanna’s fellow child soldiers as they start reckoning with the consequences of their carnage: To suppress the bloody visage of the murdered woman who accuses her in bathroom mirrors, Sandy wraps her fist in the barbed wire of the company line. Jules’ awakening is steeped in the unexpected empathy she finds for her target, and the emergence of her humanity—despite years of brutalist grooming against it—is a compelling thread that’s never woven into the story, just tied off at a fraying edge to offer some loose closure.

The show’s reliance on emotional shorthand—the killer growing a conscience, the irredeemably evil conspiracy, and the incorruptible innocent—keeps it from mining more nuanced, complex material, effectively squandering its best performers. Much of the dialogue over these last six episodes is some iteration of “let’s move” or “we’re on the move” or “we need to move.”

The show’s biggest departure from its source material is the decision to retcon Marissa back to life, and throughout these three seasons, Mirielle Enos has shaded brittle wit and weariness into the character, making her arc from single-minded hunter to a sly penitent wholly engaging. In earlier seasons, Marissa’s slow-burn dissolution with her life’s mission contrasted powerfully with Hanna’s naivete. But season three adds a baldly contrived backstory, replete with the supposedly motivating grotesquerie of childhood abuse, that fails to infuse its intended high drama and instead gives a sense that the writers ran out of plot for her—or that the story of a woman’s moral reckoning isn’t compelling enough.

The subtlety of Enos’ performance—when Marissa discovers Hanna’s dalliances with Abbas, she informs the girl that they’ll be discussing, “matters of the heart,” in a tone that fuses a commander’s cold displeasure at being disobeyed with the wistfulness of a mother remembering her own first love through her daughter’s—makes the clumsiness of Marissa’s last arc incredibly frustrating. Her relationship with The Chairman is almost immediately evident and entirely predictable before it’s revealed, and there are only so many shades of petulant even the most gifted actor can play. For his part, Liotta is left with little to do but sneer and scream and stare at his targets with vein-bulging rage. He and Enos are tasked with scaling a mountainous emotional landscape, but they’re never given a toehold by the writing.

The tonal flatness of the writing gives scenes that should be absolute socks in the gut the emotional impact of light swats on the cheek. Moments like the last scene between Hanna and Marissa are saved only by the tender rapport that Creed-Miles and Enos have built over the series’ run. Flickers of every emotion that has ever passed between them pop like fireworks before fading into the hot night sky. It’s the closest the show ever comes to the raw emotionality of the film, while remaining its own, more subdued but no less potent, creation—and it’s sadder still, that we only get it at the very end.