Hanna‘s tensions come in other ways, and this series is very good at maintaining a simmering level of suspense that boils over in the story’s many action-driven moments, which are varied enough in the first four episodes that they never become redundant. We care about the action because we care about the characters—or at least we care about Hanna, a girl coming-of-age in some seriously shitty circumstances, and we are fascinated by the game of chess she is caught in.
Visually, the show looks great, with frequent moments when the budget really shows: Hanna stargazes with a boy on top of a massive satellite dish. Later in the series, she ducks into a cavernous cathedral as a choir sings; the camera pulls back to show our protagonist amidst the ornate statues, marble columns, and candelit chandeliers of the church. You can’t fake this stuff, and it sets Hanna apart from not only most action fare on TV, but most serialised drama period.
The soundtrack is emotive, and heavy on the female singer/songwriters. It fittingly features Karen O’s “Anti-Lullaby” as Hanna’s recurring, angsty theme, as well as teen girl pop hits like Billie Eilish’s “bellyache” to remind us that there is part of Hanna who just wants to be a “normal” teen.
Like the feature film before it, Hanna is good at juggling multiple genres and making it look easy. Unlike the feature film, it has the time to really dive into Hanna’s struggle to understand her place in a world she has only just been permitted to become a part of. The series is at its very best not in its nailbiting car chases or gunfights (although those are great), but in the quieter scenes of Hanna wandering through a new city or seeing a “normal” family in routine action, and trying to process it all.
Hanna may be a trained killer, but she’s also just a kid, and the suspense of waiting for her to determine how she will use her power is one of the most fascinating parts of the show, and a driving question that puts the agency firmly in the hands of our female protagonist.
In this era of #PeakTV, media can’t just be good to succeed; it has to be great. Hanna is great: that rare TV adaptation that isn’t afraid to build on its source material. With the extra room for slow-burn character exploration that the TV format offers and its movie-like action, Hanna feels like the best of both the television and cinematic worlds.
Hanna arrives on Amazon Prime Video on Friday the 29th of March.
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