By Brandon Scott on May 11th, 2022
The Hollow is a decent enough show mired by gimmick issues. The biggest one is its reliance on the “Mystery Box” model. For those unaware, it’s a storytelling method where you reveal tiny bits of information during many episodes to keep people interested. It relies on curiosity more than character or plot to carry a show. It’s also a method that often backfires. You can’t sustain interest if you don’t reveal what’s happening. In a modern, spoiler-ridden landscape, people can internet search for answers if they get frustrated. And it’s very easy to build frustration.
Now, that’s not to say The Hollow does nothing interesting with its premise. The first episode, or rather the first few minutes of the first episode, intrigued me. Though I’m no fan of “characters wake up with amnesia” as a plot point, having them immediately have their names in their pockets is a good choice. It feels like planned amnesia, not a writing trick. It then pairs this with a death trap puzzle to imply some experiment or post-apocalyptic situation.
But from there, the show falls apart in cohesion. It loses any sense of genre or realism. Whatever chance there was to guess the mystery feels shattered. I’d call The Hollow a kitchen sink show, putting every little exciting idea in with what’ll likely be a flimsy justification.
And what’s even worse is they keep hinting at things like there is cohesion. Villains will break character to deliver cryptic lines. I’m sure it’ll make some sense later, but my frustration mounted quickly. When a monster’s about to kill your main character but says, “there’s more after this,” the tension evaporates. Any illusion of threat is falser than it usually is in children’s media.
But, even when this illusion broke, individual moments kept things entertaining. Divorced from danger, creativity is still creativity. I’m not so jaded as to not delight in having the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up in a spaceship junkyard.
It’s just a shame we had to explore all this with an annoying character. Adam (voiced by Adrian Petriw) is fun in a brooding action hero kind of way, and Mira (voiced by Ashleigh Ball) feels like a somewhat generic snarky character but has good dynamics with the other two. But then there’s Kai (voiced by Connor Parnall). He’s an annoying character. I understand that’s the point. It’s still obnoxious. A few dud jokes or complaints are OK if you want to make the character like that, but he has so many breakdowns and makes irrational choices that it made me dislike him. The voice actor gave some strong performances here, but it’s not enough to save the writing. By the time the plot wanted to redeem Kai, I’d written him off. For a story this chaotic, it needed everything else working on all cylinders.
At the very least, though, the show does cool things visually. And with limited resources. The Hollow uses bare-bones animation. Characters snap into running cycles almost comically. Do not watch background characters in group shots. But there’s still a lot of dynamic camera movement during fights. They get across horror, danger, and momentum with artistry. There are too many chase scenes, but they all feel different. Taken for what it is, you can see the skill.
The Hollow is not a terrible show. I know I’ve ragged on the series a lot, but if you like Mystery Box tropes, it’s a solid use of them. I’ve also heard that the show has good LGBTQIA+ representation in season two. If you want dynamic action, witty dialogue, and child-friendly horror moments, it has that. If you like stuff like Kipo or Owl House, this gives me a similar vibe. I just worry whatever science-fiction/fantasy mystery payoffs it has won’t warrant the buildup or take terminally long.
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