I have a Love/Hate relationship with Netflix. They have some of the best, most unique, original content out there today, especially in terms of my beat, animation. But they also leave it entirely up to viewers to discover new content for themselves without much information to go on. Happily, their suggestion metrics were on point when The Hollow, a title I had only briefly become aware of when Netflix announced a long list of new series coming to the platform, popped up at the top of my “Recommended Viewing” queue. Their lack of marketing worked. I clicked, watched the trailer, and never looked back.
The Hollow hails from veteran writer Vito Viscomi (Nerds and Monsters, The Andy Dick Show) with outstanding and unique action-packed animation from his Canadian studio, Slap Happy Cartoons. His collaborators, the directing duo of Josh Mepham and Greg Sullivan, handled the 10-episode first season. The core voice-acting cast of Ashleigh Ball, Connor Parnall, and Adrian Petriw were key to getting you on board with the three main characters, Mira, Kai, and Adam, respectively. Viewers get to follow along as they attempt to solve the mystery that brought them together, restore their erased memories, and escape the dangerous new world they find themselves in. It’s a fantastic (and surprising) binge-watch that rewards viewers with answers by the season finale, and might even tease a second season to come.
Check out a trailer for The Hollow below to get a taste, followed by my review:
Three teens join forces to find a way home after waking up in a strange realm filled with magic portals, perplexing puzzles and vicious beasts.
Taking a page out of the mystery-focused hook-books like The Maze Runner and just about anything J.J. Abrams slaps his name on, The Hollow gets you invested from the get-go by quickly establishing that Mira, Kai, and Adam are strangers who must work together if they want to stay alive. There’s not a lot of time to question anything, meaning that by the time you’ve seen whether or not the trio can cooperate and escape the immediate threat, you’ve likely already become attached to their characters. Adam is the confident, born leader; Mira is the out-of-the-box puzzle-solver; and Kai is the nervous, look-before-you-leap type who has yet to discover his own strengths.
Speaking of strengths, the secondary hook to the mystery element is the fact that each of the teens has special abilities. Adam is the first to discover his superhuman strength and athleticism, but it’s not too long before the others find special skills of their own. So as they figure out their own abilities and try to piece together just what sort of madness dropped them into this situation, they’re also forced to deal with all sorts of terrifying creatures, suspicious characters, and perilous situations. This really keeps the pace moving along at a great clip that makes the 10 episodes just fly by.
In each of those episodes, with titles like “Desert”, “The Lighthouse” and “Ice”, the trio encounters totally different settings that each come with their own mythologies and monstrosities. Audiences will see how they handle threats as disparate as minotaurs, hellhounds, and witches, to malfunctioning spaceships, melting glaciers, and even the impediment of Death itself. They’re constantly solving mini-puzzles while keeping track of the overall mystery, using the clues they gather along the way to keep each other safe and ultimately make their escape.
While The Hollow would have been an entertaining watch in an episodic format, the serialized storytelling structure really takes it to the next level. Mira, Kai, and Adam’s increasingly complex relationships add more drama, comedy, and conflict to the mix as they try to work out their personal demons along with the actual ones that exist in their world. The Hollow could have deepened the character development a bit here since the seeds that they sow throughout early episodes never really bear fruit in a meaningful way; this goes doubly so for additional characters who make an appearance roughly halfway through the season.
But where The Hollow really succeeds is in its reward to viewers who tune in for all 10 episodes to see the mystery finally get solved; no cliffhangers here. Hints are dropped along the way and the ultimate reveal at season’s end may not have as much punch because of it, but the final reveal is very cool; it’s something I don’t think I’ve seen an animated series pull off ever before. For the mystery and the payoff alone, The Hollow is worth a watch.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
The Hollow is streaming on Netflix now.