Reader Request/Netflix Review – The Hollow (Seasons 1 & 2): It’s How You Play

Netflix brings us an interesting show about three strangers trapped in a strange land.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Adam (Adrian Petriw), Mira (Ashleigh Ball), and Kai (Connor Parnall) all wake up in a room together with no memory of how they got there… or of much in general. They only remember their names because they found pieces of paper in their pockets. They manage to escape, discovering that they are in a strange world filled with devil dogs, minotaurs, and a “Weird Guy” (Mark Hildreth), who appears to enjoy tormenting them whenever they call for help. The trio starts to suspect that they’re in some sort of game, and that there are three other people on a “team” against them: Vanessa, Reeve, and Skeet (Diana Kaarina, Alex Barima, Jesse Moss). The three of them must fight to find a way to regain their memories and get home. In Season 2, they find themselves back in the strange world, stuck trying to find their way out all over again, but this time things might not be what they seem.

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Kai’s the one who makes jokes no one laughs at but him.

END SUMMARY

I’ll start off by saying that this is a kids’ show, although I didn’t know that when it was requested. However, it has a lot of fairly dark themes throughout it, so I wouldn’t recommend it to extremely young kids unless you’re willing to talk with them about what happens in it. Now, on with the actual review.

I appreciate when shows take a risk and starting a show where neither the characters nor the audience understand what’s going on is often a risk. Some shows have used it extremely well, like The Good Place, and some shows have not, like The I-Land. This show comes down somewhere in the middle, but I think it’s more on the side of capitalizing well on the premise. The characters aren’t idiots, and their attempts to figure out what is going on are mostly based on reasonable assumptions and tests. Naturally, they still debate whether it’s actually a game or some sort of purgatory, which becomes more interesting in the second season when they find themselves back in the same world despite seemingly having escaped. I also think they do a good job of keeping the different sub-worlds interesting, usually by having some sort of puzzle or riddle that needs to be solved, often with some outside-the-box thinking. 

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Any story that starts with everyone in an empty, locked room is likely to go well.

The show also does a good job of developing the characters in realistic ways, with them often being scared or confused and lashing out at each other, but naturally finding that they work better together than apart. The supporting characters are all weird, but in interesting and even charming ways, as you’d expect from a scenario that could be either a VR game or the afterlife. For example, the Grim Reaper is more akin to his incarnation from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld than from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

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Also a magic guy who shows up in his underwear. 

Overall, I thought it was pretty fun. Nothing mind-blowing, but it was very compelling and entertaining. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – The Dragon Prince: Book 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Comedy. Action-Adventure. Child-friendly. Dramatic. Long ago, the four animation show types lived separately. Then, everything changed when Nickelodeon ordered a new series. Only Avatar: The Last Airbender, master of all four styles, could revive their animation department, but when the network needed it most, the show ended, gloriously. A sequel series followed a new Avatar, a waterbender named Korra. And although a lot of the elements were there, it never quite lived up to its predecessor. But I believe the team can strike gold again.

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Shut up, I spent like 5 minutes on that, that’s more effort than I usually spend on one of these jokes.

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Asshole. Anyway, Netflix hired Aaron Ehasz, who was the head-writer (but not creator) from Avatar: The Last Airbender and also a Futurama writer (including “Future Stock”, one of my favorite episodes). He and Justin Richmond (director of Uncharted 3) created this show. So, is it as good as you’d hope? Well, not quite yet.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

A long time ago, there were six elements (this feels f*cking familiar): Moon, Sun, Stars, Earth, Sea, and Sky. These were the sources of magic, which were used by the humans, the elves, the dragons, and whatever else populates this world. Then, a human created Dark Magic which apparently causes nothing but destruction. Angered by this, the elves and dragons banished the humans, dividing the continent in two. The humans live to the West in their kingdom of Katolis, the magic creatures live in the East in Xadia, and the border is watched-over by the Dragon King. Then, the humans killed it and smashed its egg. This meant war.

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Exactly HOW they took the Dragon King down is not yet explained. Because damn.

The show opens with a group of elves, including Rayla (Paula Burrows), trying to assassinate the human king for the death of the Dragon King. She is tasked with also killing his young son Ezran (Sasha Rojen), who is accompanied by his artist step-brother Callum (Jack “I’m Sokka” De Sena). The trio discover that the King’s advisor, Viren (Jason Simpson), had not actually killed the Dragon Prince, but had stolen his egg and kept it. Realizing that this means there is a chance for peace between the peoples, the three join forces to return the Dragon Prince’s egg to its mother, the Dragon Queen.

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Mage, Assassin, Kid with backpack. Perfect adventuring party.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, let’s pro-con this thing.

Pro: The writing’s pretty great, the characters are interesting, the world has enough rules to feel internally logical but not too many to eliminate crazy surprises, and the designs are excellent.

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The magic system seems well-planned.

Con: The animation is 3-D but is cel shaded and uses a reduced frame rate to make it feel more like a traditionally animated show. It threw me off a bit. The show also starts a little slow and doesn’t even really get going during this season, which, to be fair, is only 9 episodes. There are some pacing problems, though, to be sure. Oh, and a LOT of it is going to make you think “this feels like Avatar.”

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A few of the gags take too long, too.

Okay, it seems like I wrote more in the Con column, but that’s not really true. The things that this show have going for it are that it’s already demonstrated it can balance dark and adult themes with having children as main characters, something that many shows can’t handle. The creature designs range from adorable to horrifying. We don’t know too much about dark magic yet, but the implications are unnerving and I want to see them played through. Mortal danger is pretty constant for the protagonists, as is suffering and loss.

One particular stand-out in the show is General Amaya, the boys’ aunt, who is both an unparalleled warrior and also deaf. There aren’t a lot of deaf characters who are depicted as both fighters and leaders, so I was pretty happy about it. She also has the best lines, even if they’re actually spoken by her Commander, Gren (Adrian Petriw).

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Oh, and she fights with a giant shield, because she’s amazing and my new hero.

Given the way that the seasons of the show are being named, it’s implied that this season is only one-sixth of the total story. It hasn’t really gotten going yet, but it’s got enough set up to build pretty rapidly from here. Here’s hoping it does.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.