What you probably want is escape. Given the time of year and the air of gloom that comes with it, escape to a visually strong thriller series, plus some visits to beautiful and fascinating places, are alluring. There are two tickets to that kind of escape ready for you.
Hanna (season three now streams on Amazon Prime Video) is back and as tense and gripping as ever, anchored by some superb acting. This is a series that has gotten stronger and this is the final season of six episodes. So, starting from the beginning, if it’s new to you, is a good idea.
Adapted from the cult-favourite movie of the same title, and lavishly made, it follows an unknowable but lethally strong teenage girl, Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles), in one of the oddest coming of age tales. Raised by her dad in the remote woods somewhere in Eastern Europe, Hanna was trained to survive danger and to kill. The reason, he tells her, is that a certain woman killed her mother and is, inevitably, going to come looking for her. That’s the rogue CIA agent Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos). At a certain point, Marissa switched sides and is now Hanna’s ally.
The plot has an intriguing, trashy-pulp premise. Hanna became part of a group of elite young women killers. Their mission, put in motion by a mysterious right-wing figure (Ray Liotta plays the role in this final batch of episodes) is to locate young people around the world who are activists and progressives. The idea is that “these young people” will eventually thwart U.S. interests and need to be killed before they become adults and truly powerful. Imagine, say, a Greta Thunberg figure as the typical candidate.
Hanna, the character, is now working to save these targets; fake their deaths and keep them safe, with help from Marissa. She’s an empowerment icon, this highly-trained assassin but also a young woman remote from mundane life who can be spellbound and distracted by romance. The series relies heavily on Esme Creed-Miles, who is wonderful, whether as a touchingly naive teen or an expert on espionage and assassination. The series flits around Europe, from Vienna to Paris, Berlin and Barcelona, adding some extra enchantment to it.
Write Around The World (streams CBC Gem) is a new and amiable addition to the travel TV genre. The concept is concise: Actor Richard E. Grant travels to the places that have inspired literature, setting out to experience the authors’ and their characters’ worlds. “Part of the joy of following in a writer’s footsteps is that it leads to you places where tourists wouldn’t go,” Grant says in the first episode.
In that, he traipses around Naples in Italy, reading passages from Elena Ferrante’s novel series. He’s searching for the texture of her work in the streets, alleyways and cafes, and it does make for a different kind of perspective. He’s an amiable guide, often joined by experts on a writer’s life and work.
Grant is as enthusiastic about the books as he is about the places. After Naples he goes to Matera and talks about Carlo Levi’s 1945 memoir, Christ Stopped at Eboli. What gives the series extra vitality is Grant’s often unscripted reactions to places he has only read about. Sometimes he’s horrified and sometimes aglow with wonder. In the three-part series he also visits France and Spain, always with a book in his hand.
Also airing/streaming this weekend – One Last Time: An Evening With Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett (Sunday, CBS 8 p.m.) is one part of a series of events anchored in Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s two special concerts at New York’s Radio City Music Hall to launch their joint album Love For Sale. It also acted as an exit from performance by the 95-year-old Bennett.
Lady Gaga sings the jazz standards, solo, then Bennett sings a few of his signature songs, followed by a set of duets.
The National Dog Show (Sunday, NBC 8 p.m.) has now become a Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S. and is immensely popular. Hosted by actor John O’Hurley, it’s a parade of pedigreed pooches. (A longer versions of the special airs Sunday on NBC from 12 noon.)
Finally, don’t forget the charming Magic Shadows: Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies (Saturday TV Ontario 8 p.m. and any time on TVO.org after that). It’s a loving and important tribute to Yost’s life and career, and about the impact of the genial host of Saturday Night at the Movies for so many years, and his impact on how the audience enjoys, learns about and understands film.
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