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Review: Netflix's 'Hilda' Will Fill The 'Adventure Time'-Shaped Hole In Your Heart

By Kristy Puchko | Streaming | October 22, 2018 |

By Kristy Puchko | Streaming | October 22, 2018 |


In these troubling times, the form of escapism I cuddle up in like a warm blanket is children’s cartoon shows. I relish adventure stories that blend sci-fi, fantasy, and feelings, and so have binged Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, Star vs. The Forces of Evil and, of course, Adventure Time. So, it’s little surprise that Netflix’s algorithm popped Hilda into my suggested viewing. Here’s a little heroine raring for adventure! And her 13-episode first season is delightful, full of mythical beasts, exciting quests, and a dizzying blend of weirdness and whimsy.

Based on Luke Pearson’s graphic novel series of the same name, Hilda follows its titular protagonist during a trying time in her young life: moving to the big city. The first two episodes begin with Hilda and her mum living in a cabin the middle of a mighty wilderness, with the young girl spending her days hiking with her pet deer-fox and sketching the incredible creatures that are her neighbors. But a tricky tangle with the Hidden People and the Midnight Giant forces a reluctant Hilda to move to Trollburg, a metropolis surrounded by a tall fortress wall meant to keep the trolls at bay. Good news for this creature-loving adventurer: there are plenty of other fascinating critters living within the city’s limits, including book-loving ghosts, menacing Maras who spin nightmares, a massive black hound, a mess of reclusive Nisses, and a rat king. Yes, that rat king.

While much of the creatures that Hilda confronts and befriends are figures of age-old legends, Hilda also folds in the urban legend of a rat colony whose tails get twisted together to make it one snarling mass of tooth, fur, and nightmares. While I was enchanted by season one’s early tales of lonely giants and paperwork-obsessed elves, it was when Hilda and her new friends went searching for the Rat King that I knew I was hooked. That finding that hissing creep of a critter isn’t even the weirdest part of that episode had me deranged with joy.

Plus, there’s a gleeful rebellion to Hilda as its blue-haired heroine refuses to judge a book by its cover, or more precisely a monster by its intimidating appearance. Hilda finds beauty in things others might dismiss as strange or scary, and light where others are determined to find only darkness. She’s always striving to understand the curious creatures who fall into her path, rather than assuming they are her enemies. And time and time again, the show delights in her revelations as she discovers a treasure, a culture, a secret, or a new friend that enriches her life and grows her community. Hilda is a defiant little girl who questions the status quo and demands more inclusion and understanding with each journey forth in her big stomping boots! She resists the othering propaganda that’s proffered by those in charge. She won’t run from a fight. And she won’t be silenced! In short, she’s a pretty fantastic heroine to offer big-hearted kiddos right now.

On top of all this, the series created by Luke Pearson, Kurt Mueller, and Stephanie Simpson is absolutely beautiful. Its color palette is vibrant, even when overcast with blues for its many night scenes. Its designs are full of soft lines and curves, presenting even its scariest beasties with a bit of cuddliness. (Yes, even the Rat King!) Its soundtrack is occasionally peppered with tracks that seem ripped from early ’00s college radio, which was/is deeply my jam. And the voice work is full of life.


Ameerah Falzon-Ojo and Oliver Nelson lend their voices as Hilda’s best (human) friends, Frida and David, one a no-nonsense overachiever the other a fearful but ever-friendly little boy who has a distinctly Peanuts vibe in look and attitude. Daisy Haggard brings an earnest warmth to Hilda’s mum. But it’s young Bella Ramsey who shoulders the show by giving Hilda a voice that’s enthusiastic and determined, with an edge of mischievousness. And if her voice sounds familiar, that’s probably because we know Ramsey best as the biggest little badass on Games of Thrones, Lyanna Mormont.

All in all, Hilda is an enchanting fantasy series perfect for kiddos who could use a hero right now or grown-ups who need a bit of an escape.

Hilda, rated TV-Y7, is now on Netflix.

Kristy Puchko is the film editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

Header Image Source: Netflix