To belong is something so many strive for, to feel like this is where you are meant to be, what you are meant to be doing. Some never find it, lost in the woods and hoping it will one day find them. Some go in search of it, despite the odds.
Hanna, the new Amazon Prime Video series, finds its pilot episode, “Forest,” a mixture of both. The world outside is always waiting for Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) and her father Erik (Joel Kinnaman), whether they want it to or not. Hanna is more willing to test those boundaries and what lies beyond, but in her father, it’s nothing more than a reminder of the pain others can cause.
There is a strong sense of isolation throughout the episode, from the sparse woods and the claustrophobic cave the Hellers call home. It’s in each character, Erik in his terror of keeping Hanna from the outside world, and Hanna herself with her strong need for what she cannot see.
The pilot drills down to the characters, creating a father/daughter dynamic of dependency and reliability, where they both function as a team of constant training, hunting, and openness. But Hanna’s age and curiosity is a massive factor testing of these bonds, to see where the limits can take her to satisfy a need to know more, to see more.
In this, it’s mostly successful. Some moments end up a little forced and sudden in the moment, but when considered in a broader way, become much more believable. Hanna’s desires come in constantly being quizzed on pop culture (though some examples are dated, at least the American classic films examples are Casablanca, The Godfather, and Jaws) and statistics, and so naturally a desire to see these things for herself becomes a potential outcome.
The episode creates tension in short bursts, combining its minimalist score with grounded camera work where it makes sure to hold on its characters when they are no longer in their element. Its opening is a sudden drop into an ongoing operation, letting it be known up front what kind of show is ahead. Its brutal nature is a harsh beginning, one which promises a ruthlessness in the enemy.
Esme Creed-Miles plays a wonderful Hanna, a curious and cunning force who wants something so simple, but so impossible. Creed-Miles provides things normally taken for granted a wonder in how she portrays some of Hanna’s firsts, from eating a chocolate bar to seeing the world in a larger view.
Joel Kinnaman’s Erik is a quiet, angry presence, his piercing eyes and on edge body language giving his character a constant state of worry. It goes to Erik’s core, because Hanna is that core, the thing he values more than anything.
It’s difficult to go without comparing the events of the pilot with the 2011 Hanna film it’s based on. The pilot burns through a sizable chunk of the film, and in doing so, still doesn’t quite measure up to the motivations of Hanna in some small instances. But with much more to come, this can be rectified quickly in future episodes by providing context. While similar, it’s a different beast with a different structure, and so can fill in blanks in ways the movie was already moving away from at this point in the story.
Hanna is a marvelous start to the series, an action show about someone taken out of their environment and while looked upon as inferior, becoming an unstoppable threat. We know what Hanna is capable of, and now it’s time for the world to know, too.
Hanna’s first episode was available for 24 hours. The pilot, along with the rest of the season, will arrive on Amazon’s Prime Video in March.