Binge or Purge?: The Hollow.
Netflix’s new animated show, The Hollow, mashes together themes and styles aplenty. Your enjoyment is going to hinge on how many of the component parts suit your tastes.
The Hollow is one of those Netflix shows that doesn’t get any hype. For some reason, the streaming service didn’t seem to be tooting its own horn in June, letting most of their new series sink or swim on their own. Even digging up a trailer for The Hollow was harder than most other new arrivals on Netflix. As such, I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into. After having watched the requisite three episodes, I can honestly say I still don’t know.
The Hollow is many extremes, all of which feel in competition rather than synergy with each other. Elements of horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery all butt heads regularly. The tone can vary from silly kid’s fare to seriously dark on a whim. The series doesn’t lack for ideas…but those ideas all feel locked in a battle for control of the story.
The Hollow (Netflix, June 8th 2018)
Adam, Mira and Kai are three teens who awaken inside a featureless concrete bunker. They have no memory of their past or each other, and only know their names because somebody planted slips of paper in their pockets. As they work on a way to escape their confinement, they learn that they have odd abilities and powers they certainly don’t recall having had in the normal world. In fact, nothing about their new situation feels normal at all…
Episode 1: The Room.
The three teens awaken in a cell with only an old typewriter and three slips of paper with names on them. Suspicious of each other and the situation, they are forced to work together to escape…but the world outside the room is just as dangerous and odd.
The first episode really exemplifies the strengths and weaknesses of The Hollow. The premise is fascinating and foreboding: it feels like a marriage of the show LOST and the horror film Cube. There’s even a bit of a SAW vibe going on with the traps and nature of their confinement. All of this gives you a surprisingly adult and intriguing story. The drawback is that the characters are one-sided and hard to like. Kai in particular is a chicken-hearted, whiny little shit. The overall feel is that the flat characters of a Cartoon Network show got dropped into a horror movie, and we’re seeing what comes of it.
Episode 2: The Desert.
Having escaped the abandoned facility that held them, Kai, Mira and Adam are teleported to a strange wasteland by a sinister stranger. Once there, they’re immediately captured by an army of Minotaur who want to make them into lunch for their leader.
So…now we’ve switched from horror to fantasy. The whole thing is starting to remind me of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (the books, not the disappointing movie) where each new destination is based upon some book or fable. The characters are starting to get fleshed out a touch more, but Kai is still a shit. The tone is still adult, but has more light elements that you would expect just based on the animation style. Its schizophrenic nature is starting to whipsaw my attention span.
Episode 3: Apocalypse.
The three have escaped from the labyrinth, as well as a trio of 1960’s suburban witches. Each kid is starting to get a feel for their abilities, even though they don’t know the source or extent of their power. They’re going to need it, seeing as they’re abducted by the four horsemen of the apocalypse who are looking for somebody to heal Death’s dying horse.
Alright now. This episode is really over-correcting the tone from the darker episodes to poor effect. Death is such a knucklehead, he feels plucked from The Grimm Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Kai is…still a shit, but at least he’s finally discovered a talent worth having. The setting of the story is a fascinating derelict graveyard for spaceships, but the overall episode is too kitschy to make it compelling. They’re also already recycling characters and places from the first episode.
Binge or Purge?
This is a tough one. My gut says purge: there is just too much tonal dissonance, unlikable characters, and J.J. Abrams style puzzle boxes. That being said…I still really want to know what is going on and how it’s going to play out. The Hollow has a real knack for setting and atmosphere, and it is drawing from some really fertile archetypes. It just doesn’t seem to know what to do with them beyond presenting them as thought experiments. It’s trying something really interesting, but lackluster execution is hampering it. I guess I’m going to have to thread the needle between Binging or Purging: The Hollow is one of those shows you just feel compelled to keep watching despite the repeated missteps, at least for a few more episodes.