The Rook is a new series from the premium cable network Starz, home of Outlander and the recently cancelled Counterpart. It’s loosely based on the 2 book series of the same name by Daniel O’Malley, about a woman who wakes up with amnesia and secret powers, surrounded by bodies, then discovers she works for a secret government spy agency in London. Myfanwy (rhymes with “Tiffany”) has unknown enemies who continue to hunt her, and probably have supernatural abilities of their own. It’s not the most original concept in today’s TV landscape, but I’m always up to try another dark, gritty scifi series with female leads, so let’s check it out.
The TV series is veering away from the books, so for the most part, I’m going to write about The Rook as its own separate entity. Before I do that, though, let me say that this show is crying out for a Greek chorus or narrator to provide 1940s noir style sardonic commentary. Myfanwy’s inner voice provided that point of view in the book, and you can feel the loss all through the pilot. (I haven’t even read the book, I could just tell something was missing and went looking. Check out the difference in the Amazon book sample.) Hopefully she’ll find her voice again in the show, because otherwise, the characters’ intense seriousness could start to drag the show past darkness and into dullness before long.
“The road is my home; my home, the road.”- Hedwig Robinson.
Episode 7 of Hanna, Road, brings Erik and Hanna back together for a nostalgia filled road trip. They each visit a birth parent and discover that the road is their home now and they are each other’s family. To be together, they must be on the run, but that’s likely Hanna’s fate no matter what, now that they know what she looks like.
Marissa also continues to confront truths about herself, the road and family. She has a reunion with Erik at the hotel where he and Johanna brought Hanna when she was an infant. Marissa proves once again that she’s meant to do more than work 9 to 5 and be a Parisian housewife.
While I’ve enjoyed the Sophie interludes, Hanna is at its best when its 3 leads are together in some combination. This episode might be the best episode of the season for overall character development. So many secret truths are revealed and so much of Erik, Marissa and Johanna’s pasts are explored. Hanna learns more about herself than she has all season, both factually and genetically. All three leads face moments of truth that will define them from here on. Hanna has been renewed for season 2, so that’s a more meaningful statement than it would have been a week ago.
Episode 6, Mother, reunites Hanna and Erik. But first, Erik is held prisoner by Sawyer and tortured, while Hanna has a fight with Sophie, then agrees to leave quietly with Marissa as her daughter/prisoner. There are some good character moments and fun action scenes, plus a major reveal. But the main reasons for this episode are to give Marissa and Hanna a chance to meet face to face at last and to move everyone toward their place for the final two episodes.
The episode opens on Sawyer visiting Erik in the basement dungeon where he’s keeping Erik nearly naked, on the floor, with an air conditioner blowing on him. The torture is made worse by throwing buckets of cold water on him at frequent intervals.
Sawyer wants to know where Hanna is. So does Erik. “I don’t know where she is because she didn’t tell me. She’s smarter than all of us. Don’t look so surprised. You made her that way.”
Sawyer is really nothing more than a glorified flunky with an out of control ego. Definitely not part of the team that made Hanna. Probably hasn’t even bothered to read the file. He’s gotten lucky so far. Marissa is the smart one, and I don’t think that Hanna actually is smarter than her. That makes me wonder, again, if Marissa is an early prototype for the Utrax project.
In episode 5, Hanna has made it to London and is hiding out in Sophie’s garage, sleeping in the family’s camper van. She’s thrown head first into the deep end of normal teenage social life in this episode, which she does her best to navigate. Between her sheltered upbringing and her heightened responses due to her manipulated DNA, she has a tougher time than most girls her age. As always, Hanna’s common sense and abilities also come in handy when she needs to read people or defend herself.
Both Hanna and Erik struggle to deal with the consequences of Hanna’s discoveries about her background. Erik is seriously wounded, which stops him from searching for Hanna, leaving him in despair. Hanna is depressed, grieving the relationship she thought she had with Erik.
Sawyer and Marissa develop a power struggle over the case. Sawyer continues to use heavy-handed methods and takes Marissa off the case, despite the depth of her experience with Erik. As usual, Marissa takes matters into her own hands.
Episode 4 finally brings Erik and Marissa (Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos) together for an extended confrontation. While Erik holds Marissa hostage and they reflect on their shared history and the ramifications of Erik’s decision to rescue Hanna as an infant, Dieter brings Hanna home to stay with his family. She’s exposed to another version of a typical family, this one functional and happy, with a very involved, kind-hearted father.
She’s also exposed to a range attitudes about her father, including the skewed information Marissa has fed the public. Hanna begins to question who Erik is to her and who she wants him to be.
After rescuing her from the chaos of the fighting, Dieter brings Hanna to his family home to stay with him for a couple of days, until things settle down. He introduces her to his sons, Armin and Bijan. The police search the area around the hotel, looking for Erik and his gang. Jacobs and his main henchman, Costigan, return to their hotel room, where they find the story is all over the news, with Erik Heller given as the suspect in the murder of Lukas Taylor.
As befits an episode called “City”, episode 3 of Hanna picks up the storytelling pace and keeps the characters in motion. Hanna and Erik are reunited and must work together against their nemesis, Marissa, who finally gets enough screen time in this episode for character building and to reveal her backstory with Erik. The episode also has some parallels with episode 2, as Hanna is thrown into another established, troubled family. In this episode they work with Erik’s old Army gang, where she’s again relegated to the role of child, even though she’s much more than that.
Hanna’s train pulls into Berlin, as Jacobs visits Sophie’s family to question them about her. He falsely claims that Hanna’s mother is alive and has asked him to find her daughter, because Hanna’s father, who she’s been staying with, is dangerous and unstable. Then he shows the family a photo of the two guards Erik killed on the Polish-German border.
Since the family don’t know they’re in an action-suspense series and this sort of thing is to be expected, it’s very upsetting for them. Jacobs and the family all keep pushing Sophie for any information she might be holding back, out of loyalty to Hanna.
I knew episode 2 would be very different from episode 1, Forest, since Hanna’s previous life has been broken beyond repair. But after waiting a month and a half for the next installment, the image that was stuck in my mind from the first episode was the tall, forbidding forest and dark, imposing cave Hanna was raised in. I expected episode 2 to show her escape and the beginning of her education in the wider world.
And it does. It’s a splash of immersion into the life of a typical 21st century teenage girl, which only serves to highlight how out of touch Hanna is with not only her peers, but everything in our busy, urban, mechanized world. You know from the moment you see Hanna’s future friend, Sophie, covered by a dog filter app, that there’s no way Erik Heller could prepare Hanna for this. She’s on her own in the modern world, and will have to sink or swim based on how quickly she can adapt.
Sophie looks like she’ll be an excellent wing-girl to Hanna as she adjusts.