Last year, I watched the first season of the Netflix cartoon The Hollow. I just finished the second season. And it is ridiculously better than the first season.
The whole schtick of the first season is that the characters are actually in a video game. And that’s honestly pretty much it. It had nice animation and was a pleasant distraction but it was pure fluff. In fact, since the characters start the game with no memories, there wasn’t even much character development. Everyone but Kai is static.
The twist is the second season, which is actually really easy to see coming, is that the characters in this season are actually digital clones of the characters from the first season, accidentally created by a glitch. But a big part of what makes the story work is not that they aren’t ‘real’ but how they deal with it.
At the start of the first season, the characters start off with no memories. This time, they have all their memories and we actually get to know who the characters are. More than that, we learn that some of them have known each other for years and that includes people on the other team. The opposing team from the first season were cardboard thin at best but actually get developed into meaningful supporting roles this time.
Major spoiler: I knew that this season would be more interesting when a major supporting character dies for real at the end of the fourth episode. It isn’t just game over or only the glitches. Things were now serious.
In other words, we are given characters who can develop and who we can care about and there are actual stakes involved.
While the resolution for ‘are we real?’ dilemma was simplistic, it did remind me of Gilbert K. Chesterton’s Manalive. You don’t ponder the meaning of the universe if someone is shooting at you. Simple but it works.
Afterwards, I told my wife that she might enjoy the second season but she could skip the first one. The first season was fluff I had on for background noise while cooked or such. I actually was interested in this season.
I understand that the series has officially been canceled. Which I think is reasonable. Even with the improved second season, the Hollow is still simply good, not a classic. So, I am just happy the second season exists at all.