The magical world of Hilda, available as a graphic novel, and as an excellent animated series on Netflix, is a pure delight. The excellent first season introduces a world imbued with magical life and possibilities, where a complex web of mythical creatures reside side-by-side with our heroine, Hilda, and her mother and friends. The second season seems to up the ante by showing Hilda’s more mature growth into the young adult she is quickly becoming. Her relationship with her mother strains as Hilda hides her death-defying adventures through little, white lies, and Hilda bucks against the limitations that society, and her mother, have placed upon her. Hilda, during her daring adventures, also bucks against the limitations of the mythological reality of her universe. In both cases, there are consequences for her brash and overzealous charge ahead into the unknown. But, on the whole, it feels very much like part of a larger narrative that is building up to a great showdown between the trolls gathering in the mountains, and the citizens of Trollburg, huddled behind their great wall.
Reviewing something so well-done as Hilda quickly becomes a great balancing act between praising its narrative choices, and risking revealing them, to the detriment of the narrative. I am going to briefly mention three wonderful things about the new season, who are related to three wonderful new characters. The safety patrol of the city introduces us to a new, buffoonish figure, determined to have a showdown with the trolls for his own, personal glory, to live up to the greatness of his ancestor. He is in charge of the safety patrol, and seems to be the worst person to be in charge of anything, most of the time, as he is too eager to solve the complex problems of his world with brutish force. Hilda actually communicates and considers the needs of the creatures she encounters, before assuming their monstrousness must be stamped out, and is more successful solving the problems of her community as a result. The excellent time travel episode reveals a vision of the magical universe where consequences are profound, and Hilda’s efforts to overcome those consequences are directly responsible for her death, right in front of her. She realizes her crotchety, lonely, old neighbor, once fell in love with a woman, but failed to follow through. Follow through is not Hilda’s problem, at all. In fact, she is someone who over-commits! The friendly, old witch that is, in fact, that lost beloved, is exactly the sort of witch that probably secretly runs the universe, and any moment she is present on screen is a delight. The third thing that is also a person that is wonderful is the way Hilda’s relationship with her mother grows and changes, and, in a way, they become new people right before each others’ eyes. Where once they were best friends, isolated in the wilderness, with only each other to lean on and talk to, in the city, they are forced to discover that neither one of them truly can be everything to this person they love. It’s a maturing of their relationship that most live-action dramas would struggle to present well, but Hilda carries it off so casually.
In this day and age, when our future has been so unknown for so long, the hero we need is someone who knows how to face that unknown, how to embrace it, observe, celebrate, and change things for the better without violence or rage or haughtiness. That she is also allowed to be such a well-rounded human in her adventures only makes her more interesting to observe.
Categories: TV shows