Hanna season 1 premiere recap: Forest


When Hanna’s mother dies in the chase after she and Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman) steal her from the maternity ward of a secret government project hospital, Erik raises Hanna in a remote forest in Poland. There they hide from government eyes as Erik trains Hanna relentlessly against the day when they will have to fight for their lives, but there’s a lot that Hanna doesn’t know and she’s beginning to strain against the isolation of the forest as she reaches adolescence.

Romania 2003: Erik Heller sneaks into a secret hospital and steals Baby Hanna, who is among several other babies in some kind of maternity ward. He tells her he’s taking her to mommy. He almost makes a clean getaway but is discovered by two security guards. He is clean, brutal, and efficient as he incapacitates them, so clearly he has some very special skills. One of the guards ends up in the incinerator, which seems to shake Erik up a little. The alarms sound and a chase ensue as Erik flees with Baby Hanna and meets Hanna’s mother Johanna on a wooded road with her car. They drive away as heavily armed guards shoot after them.

Erik, Johanna, and Baby Hanna stay at a hotel. Johanna happily cradles Hanna and sings to her as Erik looks on thoughtfully. He tells her they have to get moving again. As Johanna prepares to leave, Erik looks out the window and sees a convoy of armed soldiers led by Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). This is very bad news. Marissa looks calm, but there’s a hint of brutality in her eyes and there’s no doubt she is a force to be reckoned with.

The trio escapes through the hallway window and steals a car, but they are pursued by helicopters that shoot at them from the sky. While Johanna comforts Baby Hanna by saying that Mommy and Daddy are taking her away, it remains uncertain exactly what Johanna and Erik’s relationship is and whether Erik is Hanna’s biological father. They reach a huge clearing in the forest.

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If they can get across to the other side without being shot down, they know they can evade the authorities there. Unfortunately, Marissa’s helicopter appears just before they reach the tree line and shoots at the car, making Erik lose control and crash into a tree, which instantly kills Johanna. As Marissa watches from the helicopter the car explodes, but Erik has already escaped into the dense forest with Hanna.

Biological father or not, Erik raises Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) as his own daughter. They live in complete isolation, hunting for their food and sleeping in what actually looks like a pretty cozy cave. Hanna has incredible survival skills and Erik continues to relentlessly hone and evaluate those skills – which doesn’t make him an unloving father. Erik is also kind and affectionate toward Hanna and fiercely protective.

Hanna knows that there are bad people out there who killed her mother, but not much more than that. As she grows up, though, she begins to chafe against the isolation and wants to know more about why they have to live the way they do. Erik is tight-lipped about the details, promising he’ll tell her when she’s ready.

This disturbingly made me realize how easy it would be to take a child and raise them under an extreme fiction. Suppose they weren’t being pursued by government forces and Erik had simply decided to control Hanna by raising her in isolation with the belief that there were bad people looking for them. She would never know, never having any other experience or reason to doubt him. What a creepy thought.

There is a line of trees that Erik has marked red to indicate the safe limit of their area. Hanna is not to cross that line, but one day she decides to explore beyond them anyway. She meets a Polish boy named Arvo, the son of a logger. He gives her a Snickers bar and he tries to call someone to bring her help. She snatches away his phone and instinctively twists his arm when he tries to grab it back. He takes off on his four-wheeler, leaving her alone. When she returns back to the cave, Erik knows that she’s been beyond the red line, but she lies and said she was only hunting. They have an argument, Erik saying that she needs to tell him the truth. But she makes a good point, asking why she must tell him everything if he never tells her anything.

Hanna goes back to see Arvo. He gives her another Snickers bar and he takes her to watch the stars from a satellite dish. Arvo puts some moves on her, but before they can even kiss they are discovered trespassing by the local authorities. Hanna escapes into the night, but even a small incident like this puts Hanna and Erik at risk. Erik knows that Hanna wants to risk living out in the world, so he shows her a picture of Marissa and tells her that if they leave the forest, they have to find her before she finds them. That’s what Erik has been training Hanna for.

Back in Paris, Marissa sports a much better haircut and enjoys a walk with her boyfriend and his son. She gets a text and meets covertly with a contact in the park, who tells her about the incident with Hanna at the satellite dish. She’s been looking for Erik since he disappeared into the forest with Hanna and now she has a lead.

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In the forest, Hanna wakes during the night and hears helicopters coming their way. She alerts Erik and they rush to flee into the forest. The agents find their cave as Marissa watches remotely from Paris. They are to kill Erik on sight, but Hanna is to be taken alive. Erik and Hanna decide to split up and meet again in Berlin at a prearranged meeting place. Erik escapes into the forest and Hanna plays a helpless victim and allows herself to be taken. They have no idea the kind of trouble they’re in for.

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