Hanna Season 2 Episode 1: Safe Recap

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Hanna, the series based on the 2011 film of the same name, returns for its second 8 episode season on Prime Video. Season 2 picks up not long after the end of season 1 and follows Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) and her new sister, Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince), as they try to survive on their own in the Romanian forest without Hanna’s adopted father, Erik (Joel Kinnaman).

S1 Big Bad Marissa (Mireille Enos) is still involved with Utrax and is soon brought back into Hanna’s orbit. She’s also asked to consult in the new school that the rest of the Utrax trainees have been taken to, where they undergo socialization training so they can blend in when deployed as assassins. The trainees are given new identities and carefully managed by John Carmichael (Dermot Mulroney), the director of The Meadows, and his team of operatives.

While S2 still has plenty of action and movement across Europe, it’s focus is on the characters’ struggles with their identities and finding (or holding onto) their places in the world. S1 introduced us to Hanna when she was new to the outside world, as she struggled to make sense of herself  and the urban forest environment she was plunged into, while wars were fought around her and over her.

In S2, Hanna understands her own abilities and history, at least according to Erik’s perspective. Now she’s discovering for her herself how she might fit into the world outside the forest. Marissa goes through a similar struggle as she continues to dig deeper into the truth about Utrax. She faces more decisions about what she’s willing to live with and what she needs to fight for. 

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Recap

The story begins back in the Bukovina Forest, Romania, where Erik raised Hanna. Hanna and Clara now live there and Hanna trains her sister in the wilderness survival skills that Erik taught her. Utrax is still searching for them, sending unmanned drones to scour the forest. When one catches them hunting, Clara hides under an uprooted tree and Hanna submerges herself in a stream until it’s gone.

The rest of the Utrax trainees have been moved several times since they left their home facility at the end of S1. Now they are taken to The Meadows, a remote boarding school in Northern England. They are still wearing their identical blue sweatsuits, but seem more curious and alert than they did the last time we saw them. Maybe their medication levels have already been adjusted.

Marissa has been recovering from the gunshot wound in her leg at Stefanesti Air Base in Romania. She’s doing stretches when her old friend John Carmichael pays her a visit. Once they get past the social niceties, he brings up the attack at the Utrax facility at the end of S1 and plays a recording of the phone call she made to report the attack. On the recording, Marissa says that Jerome Sawyer, who was in charge of the operation, is dead. She was shot by Erik, who was badly wounded and escaped with Hanna. On screen, we’re reminded that in truth, Marissa killed Sawyer, let Erik and Hanna leave and then shot herself to cover up her actions.

It’s still satisfying to watch Sawyer get shot. That guy was horrible.

Carmichael is the replacement Utrax authority figure. I do not have high hopes for him. Marissa is already giving him her trademark smile that looks like her face is about to break, but in reality she’s preparing to kill you. If you see that smile on a woman’s face, run.

He gives her a smarmy look and goes over the “facts” of the case, questioning why she was even at the Utrax facility, since Sawyer’s report said she wasn’t involved with the operation. Marissa tells him that she and Sawyer disagreed on how to handle Erik and Hanna. He tells her that they found Erik’s body buried next to Hanna’s mother and “disposed of him in a more strategic fashion”.

Probably by way of the incinerator, a Utrax favorite. But I’m going to cling to the hope that Erik was barely alive when they found him or they brought him back somehow so that Joel Kinnaman can come back for S3 or a guest spot someday. Hanna has already been renewed for its 3rd season.

Carmichael takes Marissa to another building on the base. She gets nervous, since he won’t tell her where they’re going, but relaxes a little when they reach a large office filled with people and phones. He’s still intent on questioning her further.

Terri Miller (Cherrelle Skeete) interviews with the CIA in Virginia. She has the choice between a standard desk job as an NSA analyst or Operation Utrax, which is extra super classified. She has to sign on for the Utrax job, including signing the nondisclosure form, before they’ll even tell her what it is.

Hanna and Clara have added stealing supplies to Erik’s forest playbook. From what we saw, he only used that skill in the urban jungle. They sneak up on a pickup truck while the owners are hunting and take their extra guns.

They don’t leave the truck looking like they found it, which bugged me because if they had, it might have confused the owners about when and where the guns were stolen. Since the girls are in hiding, they should be careful about camouflaging their position.

Later on, Hanna and Clara sit together in the woods. Hanna notices a medication capsule embedded in Clara’s upper arm. Clara says that it’s to keep the trainees calm. Hanna removes it, telling Clara that she doesn’t need it now.

While I agree with Hanna that it’s better for Clara to be unmedicated with unnecessary drugs, removing the capsule should have been Clara’s decision, when she was ready. There could have been more conversation around what the drugs were doing to Clara and why it would be better for her to learn to control her body and mind without drugs. Bodily autonomy and critical thinking start at home.

Erik wasn’t a perfect parent and one of his flaws was the way he sometimes treated Hanna more like a soldier than a child. She needed intense training, but she could have been given a childhood with more worldliness and creativity if she hadn’t been raised by a depressed man in a cave. He was afraid of her capabilities because of what he knew about her potential from Utrax. He sought to keep her under tight control because of that and because they were in hiding.

This isn’t criticism- Erik did the best he could and saved Hanna’s life. It’s up to her now to fill in the gaps in her childhood experiences, just like every other young adult. The forest scenes include brief voiceovers from Hanna’s memories of Erik, which guide her actions. They suggest that she misses him and is always thinking about him and what he taught her.

At The Meadows, the trainees attend an orientation assembly in a large hall. A woman introduces herself as Joanne McCoy (Katie Clarkson-Hill), group leader, and tells them they’re entering a new stage of their education. Their medication will be reduced, rules relaxed and they’ll have more freedom. Soon they’ll each receive a personalized character profile that will introduce them to the identities they’ll be assuming. They should spend time learning everything that’s in their profile. It contains every detail about their new history, personality, hobbies, family, aspirations and dreams.

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Trainee 242, who will become known as Sandy (Áine Rose Daly), finds her personalized character profile waiting for her on her bed and sits down to flip through it. The profile looks like a scrapbook, as if her mother continued with her baby book all the way until the present moment. It has pink pages and is decorated with stickers, in addition to photos and information.

Carmichael: “Operation Utrax. Initiated in 2002, Darabani, Romania, to explore in utero enhancement of genetic makeup in early stage embryos. Wolf DNA, implanted into a 3 month old fetus, to affect bone density, sensory sensibility, and reduce susceptibility to disease. All with the intention of creating a perfectly defined military tool.”

Marissa is surprised that Carmichael knows about Utrax. He says he recommended her for the job. He reminds her that they shut down the original operation in 2003 after Erik took Hanna, but secretly restarted it in 2004. Marissa is still angry that they kept her out of the loop for so many years.

Carmichael: “It was decided a clean slate was necessary. The DNA enhancements are now synthetic. Modelled on the same material, but now nonorganic and this time, it worked… They’re in socialization training, developing their new identities. When socialization is complete, they’ll be transferred into the field. They’ll live in the real world, normally, quietly. All we have to do is flip a switch and they’ll do whatever we ask. 100% deniability. Who’s really going to suspect an 18 year old freshman in pig tails of state sponsored murder?”

In a world where kids are trained to be suicide bombers? And the president of the US defends teenage killers? To be fair, this was probably filmed a year before the summer of 2020, when that 2nd question still seemed unthinkable.

But Trainee 249, aka Clara, is a glitch in their matrix. She shouldn’t have been able to think for herself and leave with Hanna. They need to figure out how their empty vessel developed a will of her own, so that they can prevent the others from doing the same thing. That means they need to get their experiment back, which is what they need Marissa for.

The look on Marissa’s face during that last part was priceless. She didn’t even bother to put on one of her fake looks, she just flat out looked skeptical, like they’re idiots for thinking anyone is going to control a teenage mind for long.

When Carmichael gives her the assignment, she just nods at him. She’s already planning her coup. He should pay closer attention to what happened at the last Utrax facility, instead of going down the same smug, superior route that Sawyer did.

Hanna and Clara break into a cabin to steal supplies. The cabin has an indoor pit toilet that Hanna checks out. They take clothes and food. Clara takes a framed mother-daughter photo.

After they leave, Clara asks why they can’t stay in one of the cabins, since it would be more comfortable. Hanna explains that they’d be too close to the edge of the forest, with too many people around, so it wouldn’t be safe. Clara doesn’t look convinced. She’s not used to roughing it or thinking for herself the way Hanna is and she isn’t enjoying it.

At The Meadows, Leo Garner (Anthony Welsh) begins the trainees’ political indoctrination education. It’s time to catch them up on what they’ve been missing in US and world events, so they’ll understand why it’s important for them to follow through with the assassinations they’ve been assigned, even when the target turns out to be a child or someone they’ve befriended. The trainees will be fighting danger on behalf of the world!!

When 242 Sandy returns to her room after class, it’s been completely redecorated, down to the tiniest detail, as if she’s lived in the room for years. The makeover includes new clothing, makeup and books for Sandy, to help complete her persona.

Terri Miller arrives at The Meadows and is greeted by Leo. Time for her Utrax indoctrination to begin.

John shows Marissa drone footage of the forest. She tells him that they’ll never find Hanna in the forest since she knows it so well. They only caught her the last time because she was unhappy and that caused her to make a mistake. John pulls out a phone displaying the photo of sleeping Hanna that Marissa took in the hotel in S1 and asks why she’d take it. Does she care about Hanna enough to help her hide from Utrax? She tells him she took the photo as proof that Hanna was in her custody. She doesn’t have feelings for Hanna and he should stop acting like being a woman makes her automatically act and feel motherly or she’ll shoot him too.

Okay, that last part was me projecting, but, God, it would be so, so satisfying. A domineering attitude isn’t the same thing as either intelligence or insight, as Carmichael is showing right now, but people sure try to substitute domination for wisdom. Marissa is quiet, but can run circles around him as a spy. He’s not using any sort of deductive skills beyond stereotyping both Marissa and Hanna. Clara doesn’t even factor into his reasoning, because he doesn’t think she’s a person, despite her “atypical” behavior.

Marissa tells Carmichael that she wants to leave and he can’t hold her against her will.

Carmichael: “Okay. Let me ask you something first. Are you lying to me? Did you really shoot Erik Heller or did you go to Utrax to kill Sawyer and save Hanna’s life? I think I know the answer, so here’s the deal. I stay quiet about what you did and I leave Hanna alone. But you give me Trainee 249.”

It can be more than one thing. Marissa just smiles at him. It doesn’t matter what the truth is, because there’s an implicit threat in what he just said. If Marissa doesn’t go along with the plan he just laid out, he’ll take his accusations to their boss and make them facts.

Remember this speech when we get to the end of the season.

Clara and Hanna sit in front of the lean to they’ve made as Hanna cleans her gun. Clara asks if Utrax killed Hanna’s mother and if Hanna misses her. Hanna refuses to talk about it, but says she never knew her mother and asks how you can miss someone you never met. Clara looks like she disagrees with that idea.


Differences Between Clara and Hanna

Hanna had a parent who loved her and was devoted to her 24/7. She misses him, but she felt safe, protected, secure in his love and didn’t feel any lack of parenting when she was growing up. She met all of her childhood emotional developmental milestones because she had Erik. Her life is difficult now because she’s on the run, but Erik gave Hanna a healthy emotional foundation to work with and that gift will stay with her forever. That’s what makes Erik her father.

On the other hand, Clara was raised as an experiment in a eugenics camp. Her childhood was neglectful to the point of being horrifically emotionally abusive. She was surrounded by many people, but none of them took any interest in her as a person. She didn’t even have a name. Though her physical needs were met, her emotional needs were drugged away. In reality, there is no undoing that kind of damage, since she can’t go back and regrow her brain and body in a healthy environment.

But this is fiction, so they’ll play down the neglect and abuse aspect and pretend that receiving a little affection now will make up for it. And pretend that the result would be malleable personalities instead of highly stressed individuals with chronic physical and mental illnesses. That would be where the science fiction aspect and wolf DNA come in, even though wolves are pack animals who need socialization, just like humans.

The treatment of the trainees also conveniently mimics society, where women and girls are expected to tolerate neglect and abuse without acting out, then magically be healthy, normal, functioning adults when outsiders are looking. We are expected to absorb whatever is thrown at us, do emotional labor for others without comment, be nice, and conform to societal norms at all costs. Mostly the cost is to us.

Men have different issues and expectations, which was shown last season in the violence, depression, alcohol and drug abuse and PTSD that Erik and almost all of his fellow veterans suffered from. Where women are made to sit down and shut up, men are taught to dominate and act out negative emotions while repressing anything that makes them appear “weak” or “soft”.

The dichotomy is toxic to both sides. Part of what made Erik so amazing as a parent is that he was able to put aside most of his own issues while raising Hanna, in order to give her what she needed. He raised her as a person, in a gender neutral environment, so that she grew up to be herself, without worrying about whether what she thinks or wants is appropriate for a boy or a girl. She’s a girl because she’s a girl, not because of what she likes or does or what anyone thinks of her. That frees to her to act in the world as an independent person, without the need for approval that most girls and women are raised to implicitly crave. She’s more dangerous because her mind is free than because of her enhanced abilities.

The trainees are exaggerated versions of normal teen girls, who capitalist society sees as silly, empty vessels meant to be filled with the need for products and services to be consumed or used as products themselves, meant to be consumed and then discarded by those more powerful than themselves. Clara is, as Carmichael said, like Hanna, a mistake in a capitalist society- a serious, intelligent, troublesome girl who won’t follow the plan. Either she’ll accept being molded into something useful, or she’ll be discarded more quickly. Terri Miller and Marissa were probably the same sort of teenage girl, who each found a way to survive by joining the exploitation machine. There aren’t many other options.


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The trainee now known as Jules joins Sandy for lunch in the cafeteria. They exchange their new names and feel superior to the girls who haven’t stopped wearing blue sweats and switched over to their new identities yet. They tell each other about their new identities and try to own them, but they’re so sheltered that they don’t really understand what they’re talking about.

Sandy is from a small, forested town in Ohio where fishing is popular. Jules is from Oregon, near the ocean, and likes to surf. Her boyfriend is named Aaron. 

After a few minutes they decide to go back to Jules’ room and look at each other’s scrap books. Sandy wants to see Jules’ “hot” boyfriend. The profiles even tell the trainees how to feel about their siblings. Jules has an annoying brother. Sandy also has a brother. Her sister has a serious muscular disease, but Sandy loves her without resentment, even though the sister takes up much of her parents’ energy.

Marissa interviews the trainees about Clara and Hanna. She speaks to Sandy, since her room was next to Clara’s. John has already interviewed all of the trainees, so Sandy is confused because she told him everything. Marissa explains that she wants to help get 249 back so that she doesn’t miss out on the opportunities that Sandy is experiencing.

Sandy tells Marissa about the conversations she had with Clara through the wall the day Hanna came to the facility, when Clara looked out the window against orders and knew someone was coming. When Hanna arrived, she told them they were free and encouraged Clara to leave her room. Sandy tries to lie about what happened next, but Marissa is able to get her to tell the truth. Hanna and Clara used a wall panel to look up the identity of Clara’s mother and find Clara’s real name.

Hanna and Clara practice their combat skills. When they take a break, Clara asks if they’re going to stay in the forest forever. Hanna once asked Erik the same question. Now she explains that the drone wasn’t looking for her, it was looking for Clara. If they leave the forest, they’ll quickly be found by Utrax. 

Hanna asks if Clara wants to go back to the facility, where everything was the same everyday and she had no freedom or fresh air. But to Clara, that was home and she felt safe there. She is in the position Hanna was in at the beginning of S1. She hasn’t experienced enough of the world to know what she wants or whether it really is safe or dangerous. Clara just knows that she isn’t happy with what she’s got and she isn’t being given any choices. She’s being told that what someone else wants for her is the only safe choice.

Hanna has already gone out into the world, discovered it was treacherous, just as Erik had warned her, and lost him in the process. While she’s grieving that loss, staying holed up in the one place she understands, with the one person she trusts, is the only plan she can cope with. She was thrown into a hostile world alone and unprepared. Many of her seemingly normal teenage social interactions were disastrous, so she’s not in a hurry to try again.

Leo explains to Terri that she’ll be in charge of maintaining the 30 trainees’ social media accounts. Whenever they post to their accounts, she’ll respond, posing as their family, friends and acquaintances. Since they’ll all show their responses to each other, each character will need a separate persona. She can add visual materials through their Gemini data archive.

Each trainee potentially has 100 separate people they’ll be corresponding with. Their social media accounts are an important aspect of developing the trainees comfort with their identities and will also help provide authenticity when they move on to college, etc. Terri is a little overwhelmed at the volume of responses and characters she’ll be providing.

A security guard gives Terri a tour of The Meadows once Leo is done briefing her. Food is available 24/7 and she has access to whatever entertainment consoles she might want, but there’s no contact with the trainees or her own family. She wasn’t told in advance that she’d be unable to contact her family. They think she’s on an oil rig. She dives right into familiarizing herself with the program and the trainees.

Carmichael proves that he’s creeper by watching Sandy put on makeup in her bedroom. It’s a safe bet he doesn’t stop there.

That night as they’re falling asleep, Clara apologizes to Hanna. She feels like she’s not grateful enough for everything Hanna’s done for her. Hanna tells her it’s okay. Clara says she doesn’t want to be alone anymore. Hanna replies that they aren’t alone, they have each other. Clara looks at the mother-daughter photo she took from the cabin. 

Clara’s had scifi siblings her whole life who don’t know anymore about surviving in the world than she does. She wants to feel a stronger connection to someone and she wants a parent whose love, experience and wisdom will help her feel safe and protected.

As noted before, Hanna has already had that. Though Erik was an adoptive parent, he knew Hanna’s mother, so he could tell Hanna stories about her. Hanna has met her biological father and made the decision for herself that she didn’t want the life he could offer her. Hanna doesn’t need to search for her parents, but Clara knows her biological mother could be out there waiting for her.

Marissa tells Carmichael that they’ll be able to find Clara when she searches for her mother. He says that her mother was an Egyptian illegal immigrant to Romania who accidentally got pregnant by a Nigerian man. She gave the baby up to Utrax, then disappeared. There’s no record of where she went. They may not even have her real name. Marissa suggests they create something for Clara to find when she goes looking for Samira Mahan.

The trainees have a session with handguns at the firing range, then Sandy checks her social media accounts. She’s received a message from her mom saying that they took her sister out for a walk. Sandy replies with a detailed message, telling her mom about her life at boarding school in “New York”.

As Clara is running through the forest, she hears a dog barking and realizes there are people staying at one of the cabins. She finds the cabin and tells the mother and daughter that she’s lost. She says she was with her mother, but they got separated. They ask a lot of questions that Clara can’t answer. She gives them Samira Mahan’s name and the daughter finds a profile for a woman who’s staying at a hotel in Bucharest. The mother offers to take Clara to her mother. During the drive, which takes a few hours, the daughter is able to contact Samira to tell her Clara is coming to find her.

Hanna gets worried and looks for Clara. She finds the photo of the same mother and daughter in their lean to and realizes what happened. She’s able to track Clara to the cabin, but they’re already gone.

Sandy tells Jules about her family and all of the messages she’s been exchanging with her mom. Jules thinks Sandy is taking her new backstory too seriously. Sandy thinks their families must be real people who they can meet someday, in order to make their stories believable. Jules explains that their families are just a story for them to tell other people. Sandy gets upset and walks away.

Sandy is looking for a real connection, too. And maybe deep down she realizes that if the homes and families aren’t real, the trainees will never be considered normal people. Maybe they won’t even be allowed to live very long.

Carmichael sends Marissa and a security team to meet Clara add the hotel. He tells Marissa that they’ll leave Hanna alone, like she asked. 

Like he said he would. She didn’t ask. He rewrites even the smallest pieces of history at every opportunity, so the truth is irrelevant and he’s in control. 

Hanna searches the cabin, trying to figure out where Clara might have gone. An armored truck full of soldiers arrives to capture her. Hanna grabs a map or two before she hides.

Sandy writes to her mom about her argument with Jules. She wonders if Jules is jealous Sandy’s loving family.

Sandy’s going to will herself into security and mental health. She WILL be a nice, normal midwestern girl.

Hanna shoots several of the soldiers, then hides in the pit toilet. The soldiers shoot the propane tanks on the porch, causing them to explode and taking the cabin with them.

The mother and daughter drop Clara off at the hotel. She thinks her mother is waiting for her, since they’ve been texting during the car ride, but it’s actually been Marissa writing the texts. Once Clara gets to the hotel room, Marissa tells her that Samira is dead, so it’s up to Utrax to take care of her. Carmichael listens in from the next room. Marissa shows her what it will be like at The Meadows and what her new identity as “Clemency” will be like if she cooperates with them.

She puts a weird emphasis on the fake backstory that Clara will never live in, acting as if Clara will have that life. She doesn’t say much about what the other trainees are doing, probably for Carmichael’s paranoid security reasons.

Marissa promises that Clara will be loved. Clara tries to take it in, but she’s devastated. She tells Marissa that she wants her mother, not more of Utrax. Marissa says that her mother’s gone and signals that Utrax is listening. Clara starts to leave. Utrax goons bust in to stop her. They fight, then taze her and drag her out.

Carmichael comes into the room and offers Marissa a job. She’s surprised he’d trust her in that kind of position. He’s been impressed by how well she’s handled the trainees.

She also guesses that he didn’t leave Hanna alone. He tells her that Hanna was killed in the gas explosion at the cabin, but it wasn’t on purpose. She tells him to go. He leaves a card with his number on the table and says the job offers still stands.

A man drive up to the flattened remains of the cabin, just as Hanna climbs out of the pit toilet. She cleans up, then finds the mother and daughter and asks where they took Clara.

Sandy has a virtual piano lesson.

Marissa sits in the hotel dining room and looks at the photo of Hanna on her phone. The real Hanna walks in and gives her a little wave. Marissa actually looks happy and relieved.

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Commentary

The trainees start the episode as good little soldiers who practically stand at attention when a superior officer enters the room. As they come to understand their new orders and take on their new roles as high school students, they become slightly less formal, but it’s mostly an act. They’re still conforming to the orders they’ve been given, just like before, rather than thinking for themselves.

As Jules and Sandy walk the perimeter of the school grounds, we’re shown that the exits and perimeter wall have armed guards stationed at frequent intervals. This is normal for the trainees, so they take no notice.

It’s not surprising that there are armed guards and security cameras everywhere that are never turned off. These girls are trademarked corporate products with no human rights. They were bred for one form of human trafficking, to be designer soldiers, so it’s natural that they would be slotted into the other forms as well. At some point, I’m going to need this show to address the fact that there are adults watching these naive teenage girls when they think they have privacy, and how wrong that is.

These adults have an overwhelming amount of control and power over girls who are psychologically children but physically adults. They are corporate property, but are too sheltered to understand what that means for them and the possibilities for their lives that they’re missing. That’s one of the reasons for raising them in an isolated environment and brainwashing them. Utrax hopes their wolf DNA will keep them loyal and they won’t develop the capacity to question their situations once they’re exposed to the wider world.

We see how well that worked with Hanna and Clara.

Images courtesy of Prime Video.

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