Amazon Prime’s Hanna
Season 1, Episode 1: “Forest”
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Written by David Farr
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Friend” – click here
We start off in Romania, 2003.
Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman) heads into the woods, ditches his car keys, and walks until he reaches a large electrified fence. He presents an ID at the gate before entering the facility. He sits in a waiting room. We hear of a “decontamination process” and see doctors come out of on area wearing surgical masks. Soon, Erik breaks into a locker and get himself a uniform with an ID. He heads on through to one of the secure areas. He finds a room full of newborn babies. He takes one from a bassinet. Back outside and a couple guards come across him, prompting Erik to use his impressive fighting skills— one of the guards gets burned alive.
Doesn’t end there. Erik runs off into the trees and meets a woman— Johanna (Joanna Kulig)— in a car. They get away before the armed guards catch up. At a motel later, they’re found by a security team headed by a woman called Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). Erik and Johanna have to make a fast getaway. Once again, men with guns are nipping at their heels. A chopper trails their car soon. Machine gun fire rains down onto the road, forcing Erik to veer into the woods. They reach a field and in the middle they’re shot at again. The car crashes into a tree, killing Johanna, leaving father and daughter alive, and eventually erupts into flames when Marissa gets to the scene. Yet off running through the forest, Erik refuses to let them take his daughter again.
Soundtrack note: Karen O’s “Anti-Lullaby” plays over Erik’s escape with the baby.
“I‘m taking you to mommy“
Skip ahead 15 years.
The child has grown into a young woman, Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles). She’s a hunter and, judging by how well she spars with her dad, a damn good fighter, too. Erik’s trying to prepare his daughter for what one day may— or, likely will— arrive at their doorstep. So, they live off the grid far from society. They hone their skills every moment of the day. Hanna’s quizzed by her father on everything from new languages to geographical information to “Beatles songs” and “great American movies” like Casablanca. May not be a typical childhood, though you can’t say dad’s not trying. There are some things he can’t teach her. Like one night when she first gets her period. She feels it with her fingers and wonders what’s happened, albeit calmly, smelling the blood and tasting it— she’s been reduced to animalistic, out there in the woods living like a reclusive predator, and this natural moment shows how connected she is to that natural world.
An interesting image— “the red markings” on the trees— follows Hanna’s bloody discovery of her womanhood. These marks represent where she cannot go, as if the literal divide of the space between childhood and adulthood. Now that the red mark of her period has arrived, she’s growing up and, consequently, wants to wade into the world beyond the red marked trees. Such great writing by David Farr, and excellent visualisation from Sarah Adina Smith proving why women need to be behind the camera more, particularly for stories involving moments like this one.
“Human beings are?”
“Dangerous and not to be trusted.”
Eventually Hanna sneaks past the red markings and into the forest on the other side, taking care to cover her tracks. She heads into the vast unknown by herself. She stumbles onto a man sawing wood. He offers her something she’s never had: a chocolate bar. His name is Arvo (Aleksandr Gorchilin).
Will this chance meeting bring any unintended consequences?
Dad’s stressed waiting at their camp. Erik gets slightly violent when she comes home, slapping her across the face. Hanna now wants answers about her past, kept in the dark about her own mother’s death. She goes back to see Arvo again the next day, wanting to know “what‘s beyond the forest.” Arvo takes her for a ride on his ATV to show her an arm of the digital world. They visit a satellite and he takes her inside. They lie on the dish together staring up into the stars.
“You eat like an animal, you know?”
Arvo and Hanna get interrupted when men with dogs show up. She makes a run for it without even thinking, heading straight for home. This has Erik worried sick. He’s concerned someone saw her face. No telling how far Marissa’s reach extends. For now, they go on as normal. Although things have changed. Hanna’s experienced time with a boy, she’s seen a glimpse of the modern world. Her father knows she wants to “live in that world.” He knows he can’t keep her there, or safe, forever. He finally decides to show his daughter a picture of Marissa. If they’re to live a normal life again, they’ll have to find her before she comes for them.
Speaking of, Marissa’s given info about the satellite break-in. The previous mess she was involved in was covered up, everything blamed on Erik. She continues to keep tabs on the father. Now with a report of a father-daughter pair living not far from where Johanna died, Marissa’s looking to cauterise the past.
One night, Hanna sees “machines” in the sky. She and Erik have to run— they’re being hunted. They grab only what little they can carry before heading into the dark woods. Armed soldiers check out the camp while others start searching elsewhere. Erik and Hanna are forced to split up. She lures a group of soldiers in to save her dad from sniper fire. Then she’s taken by Marissa’s people, whisked away as a “terror suspect” to be locked in a secret facility. She “does not exist” anymore. Ironic how she sees out into the world from a chopper for the first time as she’s simultaneously being taken away to be shut off from the world even further than she was in those woods.
Soundtrack note: Gnarly final tune is “Wulfstan II” by Beak
Such a fantastic start for this series! Whoa. There’s lots of room to grow, and there’ll definitely be more action as the episodes progress. Stellar performance from the young Esme Creed-Miles, whose acting chops are being shown off in this first episode big time.
“Friend” is next.