In episode 5 Hanna wrestles with the real-not real game that is life at the Meadows. As she grows closer to the other trainees, the feelings about Erik’s death that she’s held back for months resurface. Marissa works to escape from solitary confinement, while Mannion seeks a way to help her and Hanna.
After her failed escape attempt in episode 4, Hanna resigns herself to life at the Meadows for the moment. But she hasn’t been brainwashed into thinking this is a good or normal life, the way the other trainees have. The photos and memorabilia from her fake life are continuous reminders of the life with Erik that’s gone.
Both of her parents sacrificed themselves so that she could live. She doesn’t need to pretend that she was loved, the way the other trainees do. There’s no way she would betray her parents by replacing their memories. If Utrax wants to succeed with her, they should present the new identity as a cover story, not as an erasure of her past.
Marissa is taken from her cell to the interrogation room, where Carmichael wants to talk about Mia. Marissa tells him, “Her name is Hanna.”
Mannion is in his car outside the facility. He’s lost the signal from the lipstick tracker and doesn’t know why Marissa brought him here or what type of facility this is. He checks in with someone by phone, then sets out to investigate the Meadows on foot.
Hanna is alone and looking defeated when Leo takes her to meet Terri. Terri explains her role in creating identities and monitoring social media at the Meadows. Hanna tells her that she already has an identity and doesn’t need a new one. Leo says Marissa is gone and the Meadows is her home now.
Carmichael begins an official interrogation, but Marissa jumps in and asks about Hanna. He refuses to answer.
Terri puts the template for Mia’s identity up on a big screen. Leo leaves them to work on it. Hanna isn’t interested. Terri says they can take their time.
Carmichael says they’ve accessed Marissa’s phone records and they know she lied to them before coming to the Meadows. They know she was working with Hanna, hoping to move her to Canada to stay with Marissa’s former professor. He asks where Hanna’s fake Canadian passport is now. Marissa denies knowledge of anything he says.
He shows her that they’ve found the tracker in the lipstick and asks about the bug that went missing in her Paris apartment. “Who’s helping you?” “Did you hope someone would find you, Marissa?”
Marissa doesn’t answer. He tells the guard to lock her up. Marissa asks what will happen to Hanna and to herself. Carmichael tells her that Mia will stay at the Meadows, “where she belongs.” He’s ridiculously smug.
He thinks he’s beaten her. She doesn’t seem beaten. And yes, someone has come to help her.
Mannion finds the perimeter fence and looks over what he can see of the grounds. Some of the trainees are engaged in target practice.
Terri reads what she has so far for Mia’s story: age 18, born in Dresden, now lives in Vermont, outdoorsy, adaptable, has a dog named Buttons. Hanna objects to the name. Terri replaces it with Chester. She continues, filling in the profile with a brother named Nico and parents. When Hanna gets tired of the questions, she makes up her own profile, telling Terri she’s pretended to be someone else before. It’s not hard for her.
Terri says they’re not asking her to pretend to be someone else. Hanna wants to know what they’re asking. Terri’s answer shows how much she’s lying to herself while also gaslighting the trainees.
Terri: “I understand your anger. You’re not like the others. You’ve seen the world. But let me say something very simple to you. If you want to live in that world, I’m your best chance of doing so. Hanna Petrescu will be hunted all her life. Mia Wolff will be safe and loved and happy. It’s your choice.”
She sends Hanna off to think about it. Hanna gives her a halfhearted fake smile as she leaves.
Terri doesn’t remotely understand Hanna’s anger. Her family is alive and no one is asking her to deny their existence for the rest of her life. She’s creating fantasy families that fulfill her own fantasies about growing up in different circumstances. In some ways, she’s as caught up in the fantasy as the trainees.
Mia and the other trainees are meant to become professional assassins, not adorable college students. They will be wanted international criminals and will likely be killed by Utrax when their “period of service” is over. They aren’t and will never be loved, safe and happy if they follow the path Terri is suggesting. That’s part of the lie.
Hanna is the only trainee who’s seen how soldiers and assassins are treated by Utrax and the world. She’s watching Marissa’s treatment as the season plays out. She saw what happened to Erik’s special ops crew over time. Dieter was the only one who was living a normal life and even he had black market dealings. She knows Erik was in hiding for his own safety as much as for hers. And she knows her original cohort of infants was murdered. Terri’s going to have to do better than this to convince her a Utrax identity will save her.
Hanna makes her way to the cafeteria next, where Sandy calls her over to their table. Hanna asks about Clara, who’s at training. Sandy continues to encourage her to join them, so she gives in and sits next to Jules. Sandy begs Hanna to forgive Clemency for thwarting her escape, then asks to see her Mia Wolff profile. Clemency arrives while everyone is looking over the file. She gets something to eat before going to the table, giving herself a minute to prepare for confronting Hanna. Sandy, Helen and Jules talk about the profile, breaking into several different languages at one point.
Hanna sits silently until she realizes through her super senses that Clara is behind her. Then she jumps up and they stand face to face, both looking vulnerable, but neither speaking. Sandy breaks the silence by greeting Clemency as if nothing is wrong. Clemency sits down next to Hanna and asks to look at her profile. She tells Hanna it fits her.
This is all very normal for the trainees. Between peer pressure and isolation from the rest of the world, Utrax is hoping that Hanna will give in to her new reality soon. It’s like they don’t know that they bred super soldiers. Then again, the rest of the trainees were purposely emotionally and socially stunted, so Utrax doesn’t understand how they actually work or what they’re capable of in those areas. It just knows how to control them as children and assumes they will stay malleable because they are female. Terri even put “adaptable”, a slightly nicer version of the word, in Hanna’s profile.
Marissa is taken back to her cell. She looks over the facility and the guards’ accessories as she walks by them, noting what they carry and where.
Later that afternoon, the core group of trainees sit outside and go over Hanna’s “first memory”, as written in her profile, a camping trip in the south of France with her fake Dad. The memory is described poetically, like a dream. The rest of the trainees love the idea of it. Jules, Sandy and Helen haven’t experienced anything like it. Hanna showed Clara what that life could be like.
For Hanna, it’s a perversion of her actual childhood with the adoptive father who gave up everything to raise her in the safety and seclusion of the forest. We’re shown her first memory repeatedly in flashback in this episode and over the course of the season- the car crash, then Erik running away from Marissa in the forest, holding baby Hanna. Her enhanced brain allows her to remember being an infant, plus Erik probably told her the story many times.
Clara says it took her a while to own her story, too. Sandy confirms that “Clemency” believes it now. Jules notes that Sandy totally believed her story from the start. Clara says that it’s natural to fight it.
Hanna: “You don’t think it’s weird?”
To expect them to accept these stories as the truth and forget their own pasts? Yes, that’s weird. Hold onto reality, Hanna.
Clara: “Everything’s weird. The world is weird.”
Having been raised in a bubble and on drugs, the trainees have no sense of normalcy, of what the world really is or should be. They have no foundation or roots to their psyche to ground them. That’s the difference between them and Hanna. Hanna started to help Clara build her own foundation, the way Sophie (and her family) helped Hanna learn to navigate the world, but what Clara and the others need is too much for one teenager to do for another teenager.
Jules: “I read this philosopher. He said the whole world was pure illusion. Like shadows dancing on a cave wall. None of it real. So maybe we’re no different to anyone else. Maybe it’s all a dream.”
Shadows on a Cave Wall
Jules is talking about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The trainees are currently trapped in the cave and misinterpreting the world outside as the shadows on the wall of the cave. That’s certainly the way Utrax is training them to think of it. They’re literally showing the trainees films on the walls of dark rooms to teach them about the world, rather than taking them on field trips out into the surrounding cities so they can experience it for themselves.
In the Utrax version of the allegory, Carmichael, Leo, Terri and the rest of the handlers who watch the surveillance cameras are the invisible puppet masters creating the shadows. The trainees are shown a version of them, their shadows, but never see the real person or any unfiltered version of the world. They can’t understand this, since they’ve never seen an unfiltered version to compare their version to.
Except for Hanna and Clara, who have been outside the cave and returned to it. Carmichael assumes Hanna can be imprisoned, drugged and gaslighted into following orders, despite all evidence to the contrary. He’s watching a few shadows himself.
Hanna brings a little reality into the trainees’ dream world, mentioning her fake parents, who are supposedly alive and happy together. Sandy gushes over the sweet story.
Hanna: “My mother died trying to save my life. Her head was crushed by a car. And my father, the man who raised me, was killed by Utrax guards. I buried his body next to my mother in a Romanian grave. And we never ate marshmallows.”
Jules, Helen and Sandy are shocked by her words. Probably especially because they remember meeting Erik when he and Hanna invaded the other Utrax facility.
She walks away. On the way to her room she passes through a classroom, where the trainees are watching a propaganda film telling them the world is unsafe and unstable. The world’s leaders need the trainees to support and protect them. The images are infused with stars and stripes.
Hanna rips the decorations off her walls. Clara follows her into the room and stops her, trying to get her to calm down. Hanna yells that she can’t stand the lies. Her mother and father are dead and they aren’t coming back. Clara tells her Erik wasn’t her father.
Utrax and Family: Yes, Erik Was Hanna’s Father
Denying that Erik was a father to Hanna is a running theme this season- every time his name comes up, someone will mention it, as if adoption doesn’t exist in Europe. Making words, concepts and emotions meaningless is part of Utrax’s systematic destruction of the trainees’ sense of reality. Hanna had no emotional connection to her biological father. She had no biological connection to the father who raised her. So Utrax tries to convince her that a fictional creation can also be a father to her, as long as she believes she has a connection to the fiction. Look at how well it works for Sandy!
But that’s not reality, that’s mental illness. That’s what stalkers and rapists believe about the people they’re obsessed with, that their belief in a fake relationship makes it real. Or real enough to count and give them privileges based on their one-sided emotions, obsessions, impulses.
Hanna and Erik loved each other as parent and child and had years of mutual interactions that proved the depth of their bond. Hanna’s biological father was documented in season 1, based on the brief relationship he had with Hanna’s mother. Hanna met him, but we were shown that biological parenthood doesn’t create an instant bond on either side. Hanna’s inability to instantly connect with fake people on the other side of a computer screen is normal.
This is where we can see that the trainees are being taught to act like stalkers and assassins, not mentally healthy young people. They are being taught to watch other people from a distance and feel that it’s okay to act based on what they observe or are told about those people- to feel as though they know those people well enough to decide whether they deserve to live or die and to see this as normal behavior.
Clara says that her mother is dead and gone, too. She still doesn’t get the difference between a fantasy parent and one who was there for you. While Clara feels the real loss of a parent she never knew, it’s not the same as Hanna’s loss of the only companion she had for 17 years. Clara tries to convince Hanna that they need Utrax and the life it offers. Hanna reminds her that she only came there for Clara, and now Clara has betrayed her.
Clara says she hasn’t changed, but Hanna doesn’t believe her. In reality, Clara betrayed Hanna to go in search of her mother, then return to Utrax in the first episode of the season. I think Hanna forgives Clara for abandoning her in the forest because she equates it with the times she crossed Erik’s boundaries to explore the wider world. There are similarities, but ultimately, Hanna was much more innocent when she wandered a few extra miles into the forest. Clara knew what Utrax was and had seen what they’re capable of. She didn’t take the threat seriously then, just like she’s not taking it seriously now.
Later, the trainees are dressed in tactical gear and sorted into groups of four for a training exercise. Hanna has to be rounded up and escorted to the class. They’re given fake assault rifles and told they need to capture the flag. Joanne shows Hanna how to use the rifle, but Hanna tells her she’s used a real one before. She doesn’t need instruction.
When the exercise starts, Hanna runs in a different direction from the rest of her team, Jules, Sandy and Clara. She stands in a deserted section of woods and takes in her surroundings for a moment, then shoots a nearby trainee. The rest of her team function as a unit, but aren’t very effective. They blame it on Hanna, but they never come up with a strategy or move with confidence. Sandy and Jules are taken out early.
Hanna is a one woman army, impressing Leo and Terri as they watch on the surveillance cameras. She runs near the fence and sees Mannion. He shows her that he has a photo of her on his phone so that she knows he’s Marissa’s contact. Then he melts back into the trees when Clara runs over to say she’s found the truck with the flag.
They pause to purposefully set off a tripwire, which creates an explosion in the truck. Hanna has to stop for a minute while she has flashbacks again. Then she joins Clara at the truck. Another trainee approaches as they reach for the metal case with the flag. Clara gets shot. Hanna jumps out of the way, then engages in hand to hand combat until she can shoot the other trainee. She waves the flag to show she’s won.
Marissa hears the explosions and pounds on her cell door, demanding to be told what’s going on.
In the cafeteria, Hanna’s team enthusiastically present her with the flag as a trophy. She doesn’t want it and tells them to keep it, then walks out. She goes back to her room and lies in the fetal position. Terri watches her and worries.
At dawn the next morning, Mannion secretly takes out a few guards. Sandy practices the piano.
Carmichael speaks with a superior about Marissa, then meets with Terri about Hanna. Terri explains that Hanna’s bond with Erik is holding her back from accepting life at the Meadows, even though she’s otherwise interested in the program. Carmichael makes the obligatory statement that Erik wasn’t her father, then proves he’s an idiot by noting that Terri had no trouble helping the other trainees settle in. Terri points out the obvious, that they weren’t replacing family memories that the others already had. She feels they “need to acknowledge what’s already there, in order to move on from it.”
Hanna examines a large bruise on her shoulder. Clara pops in and jokes about her being a hero. She offers to help put salve on the bruise. She says she’s glad Hanna is there and she knows if Hanna really wanted to leave she’d escape. She thought Hanna looked at home when she was fighting. Hanna’s not impressed with the school’s woods. Clara thinks it feels real sometimes, though.
That’s the difference between them.
Jules knocks on the door, then brings them to Sandy’s room. Sandy’s fake little sister has just gone into surgery and the prognosis isn’t good. The girls all wait with her.
When Terri sends the next message, Clara offers to read it for Sandy. She tells them that the doctors tried their best. Jules hugs Sandy. Hanna tries to leave, but Sandy stops her, explaining that her sister was as real to her as “anyone is to anyone. And now she’s gone.”
Hanna walks down the hall a ways, then stops and turns back. She asks Sandy and the others to come with her. They gather flowers and place them under a big old tree to honor Sandy’s sister. Jules and Hanna suggest that Sandy say a few words about her. When she’s done, Jules and Clara hug her. Hanna tears up and her mother’s lullaby plays. They go back inside. Clara thanks her and they hug goodnight.
For Sandy, Jules and Clara, this was more like a favorite TV character dying than the loss of someone they knew in real life. Sandy didn’t have a relationship with her sister, not even online. She’s received messages for a few months from Terri about a character who she was encouraged to think of as her sister.
The exercise seems to have helped Hanna confront her emotions about her parents. And to remind her and Clara that they see each other as sisters, potentially all the family either has left (other than Hanna’s bio father, who she will likely leave in peace for the foreseeable future).
In the early morning hours, Mannion takes out another guard.
Carmichael gets a call with instructions about Marissa. He visits her cell to tell her she’s leaving and show her a photo of Hanna and Clara hugging as proof that Hanna has accepted her life at the Meadows. Marissa smiles at him like he’s an idiot and tells him Hanna won’t stay there for long. Marissa asks why he doesn’t just kill her. He says his superiors wouldn’t let him, then gives her the photo.
Hanna can’t sleep. She flips through her Mia Wolff scrap book. As “Dad”, Terri messages her and asks if she wants to talk. Tears slowly falling, Hanna types that she feels alone. Terri replies that everyone feels alone sometimes, even her, but Mia is doing well and she/”Dad” is proud of her. And misses and loves her.
Hanna stares at the empty responses and considers replying in kind, but can’t bring herself to do it. She knows how a conversation with a loving parent goes and this isn’t it. There’s nothing personal about Terri’s responses because she’s a stranger who’s not allowed to address the real Hanna or her actual issues. The “I love you” took it over the top.
Marissa stares at the photo, then asks the guard for water before she leaves. When the guard passes the water through the slot in the door, she pulls on his lanyard to hit his head on the door, knocking him out. Before she drops him, she grabs his pass key and unlocks the door through the slot. Once she’s out, she takes his gun and heads out to find Hanna.
Marissa tries the pass key at Terri’s office, but the guard must not have had a high enough clearance level to access the room. She knocks on the door instead. Terri lets her in, since Marissa points the gun at her. Marissa realizes that the cameras in the girls’ bedrooms are on all night, even though the trainees think they aren’t being watched after curfew. Terri says it’s her job to watch them.
Marissa asks if she wants children. Terri isn’t sure. Marissa chose work over children when she was younger and doesn’t regret it. She guesses that Terri would do anything to protect the trainees, just like she would. Then she knocks Terri out.
She calls Hanna using Terri’s computer and tells her it’s time to go, before the guards figure out where she is. She asks for Hanna’s location. Hanna says she doesn’t know, which Marissa doesn’t buy. Hanna tells her she wants to stay at the Meadows. She hangs up and covers the camera.
Her time with Sophie in S1 is coming back to her.
Marissa looks over the layout of the facility and the room number that’s visible in the photo Carmichael gave her. She sneaks across the grounds and into the dorm. Hanna tries to raise Terri on the computer, but “Mom” is still unconscious. Mannion impersonates a guard and paces outside, waiting for Marissa to show up.
When Marissa gets to Hanna’s room, she sits just inside the door and tells Hanna that she’s not safe at the Meadows and Utrax is not on her side. Hanna is just tired of running. Marissa understands. She reiterates that they don’t have long to meet her contact and escape. Hanna turns back toward her computer.
Marissa: “That’s not your father, Hanna. That’s a computer program. It’s curated by a very smart young female operative. You’ve probably met her. They want you to feel like you can be loved here. But that’s not true. You’re a weapon to them and that’s all that you are. Erik’s gone, honey. And this is not going to replace him.”
Let’s pause to appreciate the irony of Marissa being the only person who will speak the truth to Hanna in season 2, after Erik spent Hanna’s childhood drilling into her that Marissa always lies. She mixed lies with the truth in season 1 and has told lies for Utrax in season 2, but I don’t think she’s lied to Hanna this season. Marissa’s motivations changed when she got to know Hanna and discovered that Utrax had restarted the program but shut her out.
The guards discover that Marissa escaped and follow her trail to Terri’s office. When she’s not there, they put the facility on high alert and call the trainees to the main hall for roll call. As the trainees leave their bedrooms, Clara hesitates. She can guess what this is about.
Marissa tells Hanna that Utrax isn’t her family. Hanna asks where she belongs, then? Marissa offers to take care of Hanna if she’ll give her the chance. That convinces Hanna to go with her. She didn’t want to leave with Marissa but be sent alone to Canada. At least at the Meadows she has Clara.
They run outside and catch up with Mannion, but then split up again. Mannion leaves to get his car, while Marissa and Hanna get the passports. Hanna sees Clara’s passport and refuses to leave without her. Marissa tries to convince Hanna that Clara wants to stay, so they can’t wait for her.
The roll call in the main hall reveals that Clara and Hanna are missing. Carmichael takes a gun and leads the guards’ search. He authorizes the use of full force.
While Marissa tries again to convince Hanna to leave, Clara comes up from behind and disarms her. She points the gun in Marissa’s face and tells her she won’t let her take Hanna away. Hanna steps between them as they argue over where Hanna belongs. Marissa says that Utrax made her lie about Clara’s mother. She could be alive. Marissa offers to help find her.
Hanna pulls Clara’s arm so that the gun is pointed straight up into the air. All three wrestle over it until it goes off. Marissa is shot in the arm. Hanna ends up holding the gun. Carmichael and his men follow the sound to find them. Realizing they’ll be caught, Mannion escapes.
When Carmichael finds them, Clara tells him that Marissa was trying to make Hanna leave with her, so Hanna shot her. The guards take Marissa away. She stays silent and doesn’t fight them.
Carmichael turns to Hanna, who is devastated: “It’s okay, Mia, you’re with us now.”
She doesn’t seem comforted.
Clara is starting to come into her own. Though I don’t agree with all of her actions in this episode, she showed more confidence and initiative than she has in the past, except for when she escaped with Hanna at the end of season 1 and then went back to Utrax in the beginning of this season. She also actively chose Hanna, as opposed to just going along with how much Hanna cares about her.
As if to emphasize how fake Sandy’s sister is, no one says her name or shows a photo of her during the episode. She doesn’t matter as a person- she’s only important as someone for Sandy to emote over.
“That’s not your father, Hanna. That’s a computer program. It’s curated by a very smart young female operative.”– I’ve been wondering how Terri could possibly keep up with all of the social media contacts for every trainee. Having responses be generated by an app that’s been given a profile for each character makes much more sense. Terri can personalize the conversations as she sees fit, maybe choosing from a few options offered by the app. That also explains why her responses are so bland and cliche.
The hallucinogen shipment was forgotten after Hanna and Marissa failed to stop it, but in episode 4 the show made sure we know that the trainees are still being drugged. Hanna has flashbacks throughout this episode that are similar to, but milder than the ones she had during the drug trial. The trainees are given a particularly violent, aggressive capture the flag course, with live explosives. And the Utrax trainees all act more assertively than they have before, starting with the way they cornered Hanna in her room at the end of episode 4.
This makes me wonder if Carmichael is testing low doses of the hallucinogen in their capsules and used capture the flag as a field test. Maybe allowing them to get drunk was meant to cover the effects of starting a microdose of hallucinogens. Between the vodka, capture the flag and the death of Sandy’s sister, the core group has been kept off kilter for a couple of days.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.