“Hanna” never really needed a big conspiracy. The pursuit of answers at the top of a global espionage food chain might have been a spark that lit the flame of both versions of the story, the 2011 film and the Prime Video series wrapping up with Season 3 this week. What has set Amazon’s TV version apart is its ability to sit with what happens to everyone who gets caught in a thorny thicket of high-level assassins.
Even at the show’s outset, when Hanna (Esmé Creed-Miles) was deep into the training that swallowed her entire childhood, the goal was more than survival. Season 2 of “Hanna” was the show’s greatest magic trick, giving Hanna the high school experience she never had at the secluded facility The Meadows, even if her classmates were all elite killers-in-the-making like she was.
Season 3 aims for a similar kind of subversion as Hanna and fellow rogue Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos) try to protect the targets on a secret list of potential subversives. With the Utrax program still operational (despite the dent the two managed to put into it at the close of Season 2), the collective power harnessed and fostered at The Meadows is still capable of ending many lives and ruining many more.
In that rush to save Gen Z dissidents (one is a Thunberg type, others are dotted across academic and intellectual objectives), “Hanna” gets a boost. The show has always worked best when it grows its world outward rather than trying to grasp at who answers to whom. If power abhors a vacuum, the more compelling question the show faces is what happens to young operatives caught up in that dangerous tussle for control.
Christopher Raphael/ Amazon Prime Video
So with six episodes of runway until the series’ ending, it’s a little deflating when “Hanna” sets its sights on what amounts to the show’s Final Boss, a gruff signal-caller dubbed The Chairman (Ray Liotta), who might just be the guy who set the whole off-the-books assassin project in motion. The hunt for answers behind The Chairman’s motives threatens to distract from Hanna and Marissa’s globe-hopping, death-faking campaign. The more it becomes clear that dealing with the top of the Utrax organizational chart is the season’s main objective, the more it feels like “Hanna” is looping back around to where it started.
Even going back to familiar territory, “Hanna” shines when it shows just how good its title character is at her trade. It comes in Hanna walking up to a complete stranger and striking up an information-gathering conversation, picking up the logistical layout of a location seconds after arriving, or spotting the details that’ll be the difference between her escape or her capture. That complements the supreme sense of on-screen confidence from both Creed-Miles and Enos, who each find a surprising amount of expressiveness in roles that rest on emotional restraint. (The faintest hint of a smile from Marissa at a pivotal moment later in the season might be Enos’ best moment of the series.)
The Hanna/Marissa duo, a pairing very far removed from their relationship at the outset of the series, has become the show’s foundation. There’s a distinct thrill in seeing both of them outwit and outmaneuver hordes of tactical teams and agents sent with kill orders. Using their intuition, memory, combat skills, and some simple innovation, they are the “Hanna” special effect that leaves the biggest impression.
“Hanna” doesn’t completely abandon the former students of The Meadows, the small troop of young women who, like Hanna, were designed to become a compliant, elite force of extrajudicial killers. As Sandy (Áine Rose Daly) and Jules (Gianna Kiehl) ready their own places out in the field, there’s at least a glancing look at how those besides Hanna are dealing with the psychological burden they’ve been forced to shoulder. Still, they’re almost lost in the shuffle of double-crosses and red herrings along the hunt for The Chairman.
Christopher Raphael/Amazon Prime Video
Liotta brings a certain command and authority, but his role is robbed of the enigmatic charm that helped make Dermot Mulroney’s Carmichael a chief Season 2 concern. With the Utrax program facing a giant setback, Carmichael is caught between allegiances, making him an interesting person to bring back as the show’s endgame coalesces. In contrast, The Chairman’s purpose is to sternly deliver orders and be sinister in conversation. Despite the season’s efforts to add some emotional resonance to his involvement in the show’s overall tale, he’s mostly a means to an ending’s end.
David Farr, who wrote the original film and is the creator/lead writer on the series, still has some tricks up his sleeve, though. He and the writing team are deft at creating situations where two people are having what seems on the surface like an honest conversation, but the viewer knows for a fact they’re both lying. After three seasons, “Hanna” effectively trains you to think like these operatives, even if the show stays a step or two ahead.
And the show remains a visual treat. A trio of directors this season — Sacha Polak, Weronika Tofilska, and Anca Miruna Lăzărescu — have a sharp eye for staging these confrontations. There’s an attention to physicality and movement that emphasizes the true toll that all this work takes on Hanna, Marissa, and everyone else trying to stay alive. It wouldn’t be a “Hanna” sendoff season without a few meetups and standoffs in interiors drenched in striking reds. From its source material through the Amazon reimagining, that primary concern with mood (helped along by another season of hypnotic work from composers Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow, and Yann McCullough) has helped make a feast for the senses.
So “Hanna” isn’t as much a runaway train hurtling to the finish as a sports car power sliding toward a bittersweet ending. It’s a combination of messiness and grace that has suited the show over its three seasons, resulting in a final bow that sorts out enough and lets the rest fade into uncertainty. For a show about a young killer brought up to leave nothing to chance, it might be the perfect place to leave it.
“Hanna” Season 3 is now available to stream on Prime Video.