Does it get any more intriguing than waking up in a locked room? With no memory of who you are or how you got there. That’s the dilemma that faces teenagers Adam, Mira, and Kai in the opening moments of The Hollow. And it’s only the first of many mysteries in this children’s animated series that plays like LOST meets The Maze Runner.
The Hollow is a Canadian animation mystery created by Vito Viscomi. Series one debuted on Netflix back in June 2018 and series two aired in May 2020. Mystery is certainly the operative word. Aside from the memory wipe there are other factors at play. Our amnesiac protagonists all wake up in a windowless room with only a typewriter left as a clue, yet it becomes clear from the method of escape and the inexplicable superpowers they learn they possess that there are layers of questions that need answering.
There is plenty of fun to be had in watching the cast discover their powers. Adam possesses super strength and agility, Mira can communicate with animals (which may be needed when biologically altered devil dogs attack), and Kai…well, it takes a life or death scenario for him to stumble across what he can do. The three core cast bond well with different strong personality types (impatient and bossy, conciliatory and uncertain, insecure and prone to inappropriate comedy) as they scrabble to work out what is happening to them.
The mystery unfolds for both cast and viewer at equal pace: we are never given clues ahead of the cast so each slow hint is presented and mulled over in ‘real time’. Who is ‘Weirdy’, the flamboyant guy who appears when ‘help, please!’ is shouted, only to hint that he can’t be relied on? The show bounces around different colorful locations each episode; be it an abandoned laboratory, a floating temple full of warrior monks, an underground cavern filled with suspiciously friendly housewives, or a forest with a huge magic talking tree. As each episode clangs with a cliffhanger, you never know where you are going to end up next.
Here follows a ‘get off my lawn’ lament. Why is every animated show these days created using Flash? Whilst I appreciate it is a cheaper format than traditional or other CGI based techniques, Flash has distinctive drawbacks that are present in The Hollow as well.
Throughout the show the characters and backgrounds appear to operate on two different planes. The running animation in particular bears little resemblance to realistic body movement, with all character’s feet barely hitting the ground with any weight. Sure, Flash allows all sorts of creative and imaginative vistas to be realised with ease and the show’s reliance on superpowers can mask such deficiencies, but when basic movement can look so jerky then this reviewer harrumph’s at the screen.
As a large part of the show is the mystery then I can’t dig into the big reveal at the end of series 1. As more characters (with more powers) are introduced the hints stack up, but even so the last episode rug pull is still satisfying. Even more so is how, despite this, the show manages to continue for a second series. I can’t talk about how this is done, except to say that the characters are just as baffled as the viewer as to how apparently waking up in their own homes is possible.
Much of the tension second time around comes from the return of the characters Reeve, Skeet, and Vanessa. Reeve and Adam’s mutual antagonism injects some drama as clearly both of these guys put the other into hot blooded mode. The show’s target age demographic is more prominent here as arguments fly around for long enough to most likely outstay their welcome, although underneath the aggression there is thankfully a further reveal which keeps the pace popping along. And if all that is boring you, well then how about a giant evil snail? The shows constantly shifting threats and scenarios can enjoyably override any issue you may have with the melodrama.
The Hollow is an excellently crafted show. It’s so rare to see such a mystery format in a children’s show, and such a good mystery at that. Get your notebook out, pack your satchel with useful items, and strike out into the blank areas of the map.
Words by Mike Record