I wasn’t a fan of the first season of Netflix’s The Hollow. It started out well -but everything quickly fell apart, especially when the ending twist was finally revealed. It just ruined everything good the show had going for it.
The twist was not well set-up, the characters were underdeveloped, and the medium change from animation to live-action was cringe-worthy and unnecessary. It never works well -especially when it comes to trying to make ultra-stylized clothes and hair styles look natural. They don’t.
It looks so awkward. So when Netflix announced they were having a second season, I was surprised. To say the least. What could they possibly do when we already knew that they were in a game? We couldn’t follow a new team every season.
But since my roommate decided to come back and that means I’m resigned to room a lot while she works so it’s not like I had anything better to do.
However, I managed to finish the whole thing in two days. It was a lot better than the first season; not perfect but it’s a significant improvement in almost every way and has a much better payoff (even if I don’t think it’ll work long term.)
The second season starts off with us meeting Adam, Kai, and Mira in their animated forms. Thankfully, the live-action forms, including the much too old looking Vanessa, seem to be gone for good.
The kids all wake up at their homes -but all quickly notice something is off and like they’re forgetting something.
When they’re each confronted with their biggest fears -they realize that somehow they are still in the game. And they need to figure out why.
Their journey leads them through a version of the Hollow they do not recognize and to make things worse, this time they don’t seem to be competitors/
The trio and their opposing team are forced to work together to survive this strange new world where the stakes are much, much higher than before.
Better Story With Higher Stakes
Because the viewers are aware of the Hollow’s existence and how it works – we’re left with an even bigger mystery when they realize they’re still in the game, but have nearly all their memories. The rules have changed -we’re told- but not how or why.
It’s a much more engaging mystery.
And because the characters have their memories- they can actually interact with each other beyond survival. We get know the characters more than people- Adam and Mira have been friends for ages -something that carried over when they lost their memories and Kai, a new recruit doesn’t have the same dynamic.
That explains a lot, as to how everyone was acting with each other It’s kind of…instinctual. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they knew they had met before. It’s also revealed that the two competing teams have a bit of a history together.
Which also explains why the rivalry was so intense. Much more than you would expect it to be.
Even though they go through the game like players normally do -they do not have a map, nor do they have access to “Weirdy” who can answer their questions. And like before they don’t know the consequences of getting hurt -but they do know that things are much more dangerous than before.
A good portion of the first few episodes are actually spent debating whether they need to play by the same rules they were before and whether they’re willing to take that risk.
And when one of the members of the other team dies, for real they realize they have a much bigger issue to deal with.
Backstory and character interactions
Last season, the characters felt so bland and boring. How was I supposed to care about them when I knew nothing about them or their past? They were just a bunch of randos, none of whom could remember anything. For all I knew they were total strangers.
But it’s hard to closely bond when you can’t remember anything aside from your name. And we get details about their personal lives and family: Adam is explicitly gay with loving parents, Mira and her little brother both appear to be adopted with two caring dads and Kai’s family is rich with his parents nowhere to be seen.
Adam and Mira have also been friends for a long time -and added Kai, a friend of her brother’s, after Reeve, the leader of the other team, had a miscommunication. Which I hate-miscommunication as a reason for separation is overdone and boring in stories like this, Especially because more often than not, it’s because the person doesn’t know the context of the conversation, or they never stayed to finish it.
We’re able to explore their interpersonal issues alongside the mystery.
Adam is a bit temperamental and controlling. Mira is the sane one, who struggles to keep everyone together. And Kai is…naive and an outsider. Which matches with how they acted last season.
The context is good. But what sucks about them interacting with each other and making up for their past mistakes, is that these are just copies of the characters, not the characters themselves. While real kids are safe-they’re probably not going to make up or have these conversations.
And that does kind of ruin any character development they get, because how much does it really count?
Having the characters work together is nice -but their goal, to get to their digital homes, not their real homes and the lack of…any real feeling towards being basically computer code is weird. Like this should really bother them more, I feel.
How do they feel knowing that although they have memories and feelings-their families and everyone else in their world doesn’t? They’re just constructs made from memories.
One issue I had from last season, which was they weren’t thematically consistent and some of the characters didn’t belong. The characters in the game, the NPCs, keep their names, but they change around jobs and remain obstacles.
It kept the game interesting, knowing that you couldn’t know what to expect, even if you did totally keep your memory.
So, there were only two real mysteries at the end of the last season: the glitch and Vanessa’s glowing eye. I had originally assumed that the memory loss was caused in part by the glitch – but as it turns out, it was all Vanessa’s fault.
She had snuck in some high-tech contact lenses that allowed her to keep her memory, so she knew it was a game, and she knew all the distractions. And somehow that caused the game to glitch, even that doesn’t really make much sense.
The lenses were also what made the characters sentient. They were meant to be NPCs in a new game for fans of The Hollow, but somehow the glitch made them sentient. I don’t get it. And I don’t get how they missed her cheating.
There are a lot more questions I have about the company – their ethics in making illegal clones out of their players, and whether they knew the clones were sentient or could become sentient. How much is the company at fault if they thought the characters were just computer simulations?
It’s still weird they can basically recreate a whole world and basically really realistic NPCs. Is there something more to it? If so what? And why did Weirdy suddenly decide to help them when he realized they weren’t just pieces of code.
And why are the kids okay living in a world they know is fake? I get wanting to live, but they know nothing is real and nothing they will do will affect the real world. They don’t even talk about the real world aside from the fact that the real Adam, Skeet, Mira, Reeve…whatever are all safe and sound.
I’m not sure where they can go from here, exactly. It’s made clear that something went wrong, getting the characters safely offline but that doesn’t mean danger necessarily and since they can’t go to the Hollow, they’re not in danger of being erased.
It’s anti-climatic. It doesn’t make me every year for another season, but I will watch it out of curiosity.
Esoteric questions about life.
I’m really stuck on this idea of digital clones because it’s so poorly explored in this show. Black Mirror did it excellently – but here there’s nothing to indicate that the replicas despise their existence.
And there’s no debate that they’re worth saving. That’s good in many ways, but was it worth it for living forever with a fake family in a fake town that won’t change? All of their media seems to bed based on memory, so if you haven’t read a certain book- you never will.
They won’t grow up, go to college, get married, and they won’t see their friends grow and change. Is that really worth it? Because to me that sounds miserable.
How can they live knowing these aren’t their real families and real friends.? Isn’t that something worth exploring?
They all act like this is fine, and to a point I understand that but how happy are they going to be?
There are a lot of questions
And that’s why I’m hoping a third season could explore these themes, but I’m not holding out much hope for that.
But overall, this season is a huge improvement on the first. But I don’t think the writers quite yet have the chops to tackle these big questions. If they can’t or won’t focus on them, it’s okay to leave them out. But you shouldn’t reference a heavy topic like mortality and cloning in a show if you’re not willing or able to tackle it as a major theme.
You can’t introduce them and then do nothing with them.
And that’s the scoop!
Year of Release: 2020
Length: 10 episodes: 23 minutes each
Creators/ Executive producers: Josh Mepham, Kathy Antonsen Rocchio, Greg Sullivan. Vito Viscomi
Directors: Josh Mepham, Greg Sullivan
Producers: Jeff Holloway, Chris Bevacqua
If you liked this review, read: ‘The Kirlian Frequency’ combines some of the best media for a short, creepy, hell of a ride.