Netflix's Hilda Season 2 Weaves A Fascinating Mythology into a Well Constructed World

Image Courtesy of Netflix

When I was younger, I spent hours learning about myths. I read dozens of stories out of Greek and Roman mythology, read The Odyssey over and over, and sought out any book, film, or show that had even a vague mythology woven into it. These stories were so captivating to me, I realized years later, because they always speak to some aspect of the human experience. They are how our ancestors made sense of the world when they were just starting to form communities and live together. These myths and stories continue to seep into our entertainment today, and the way we understand the world around us.

The Netflix original series Hilda, based on the graphic novel series of the same name written and illustrated by Luke Pearson, weaves mythology throughout its worldbuilding. The world that I came to thoroughly enjoy in the first season was greatly expanded in the second season that recently aired. The adventures that were so carefree in season one take on a more sinister nature in season two, where the show makes it clear that the danger Hilda faces is life threatening. This danger constantly puts Hilda in conflict with the magical world around them, the authorities, and her mother as Hilda’s adventures head to new heights.

Hilda and her mother Johanna are at odds with each other throughout the second season. While Hilda’s mother allowed her a lot of freedom in the first season, when Hilda starts getting into larger adventures and more trouble, her mother starts to take notice. When a kraken raises out of the lake Hilda just happened to be visiting, Johanna tries to protect Hilda, while Hilda cannot understand why her mother is getting so upset. The arc of Hilda and Johanna’s fights jumps around a lot, much like how real families fight. One minute you are coming to a new understanding of your parent or relative, and the next you are at each other’s throats again. Although Johanna tries to keep Hilda out of danger, she always seems to find her way back to it.

Hilda’s adventures bring her into conflict with the safety patrol as well when Erik Ahlberg, head of safety patrol and descendent of Trollberg founder and Troll Slayer Edmund Ahlberg, starts making changes to the security measures protecting the town. The safety patrol first appeared at the end of the first season when they were searching for the Black Hound that was terrorizing the city. Erik Ahlberg’s actions begin to threaten the town, as his lack of magical understanding throws off the balance in the magic world. Their aggressive tactics that they label as safety measures draw the ire of the magical creatures living around Trollberg unseen by the citizens. Several episodes center around havoc caused when Erik starts ringing the bells around the city every hour on the hour to ward off creatures.

Image Courtesy of Gizmodo Australia   

 These episodes seem to harp on a theme from the first season where humans, in our desire to control the world around us, squeeze the magic out of it at the same time. Desire for strict control of the natural world puts us in danger, as we have seen with the destruction of our ecosystems, and puts the residents of Trollberg in danger, as the ringing of the Trollberg bells draw in more trolls seeking to stop the ringing. This theme was first highlighted by the character Victoria Van Gale in season one who captures weather spirits to try and control the weather. She returns in season two with a new plan to control magic for her own ends. This show critiques the perspective that our world is one of endless resources that we can exploit without consequence.

The worldbuilding that made this show jump out at me from the start was expanded upon greatly in the second season. Hilda encounters more magical creatures, monsters, and spirits in this season, and starts to put her knowledge to good use. Tonte, the Nissa spirit who lives in Hilda’s house, starts helping out by storing items in his nowhere space, an extra room created by all the spare space that we take for granted (ie. Space behind bookshelves, frames, and cracks in the walls).

No expansion was quite so large as the world of witchcraft that we encountered in the middle of season one. Kaisa, the librarian witch that helps Hilda with magic throughout the first season becomes a link to the establishment of sorceresses and witches Hilda and her friends discover in the second season. Several episodes center around Hilda, Frida and David having to clean up spells gone wrong. The tide mice that Hilda enchants in the first season pop up again and cause a huge boom in business for a snack food company in Trollberg, forcing Hilda to find some way to fix the issue.

The focus on mythology that originally drew me to the show is best summarized by The Wood Man, who tells Hilda that “Truth can be found in myths and stories.” One of my favorite lines in the new season, I think it is spot on. We spend a lot of time searching for concreate, verified and unquestionably true answers. Hilda gives us the message that while those are valid ways to learning about the world, we need to provide space for the world to surprise us. We need to leave room for myths and magic, and although these truths may be more elusive, we need to pay attention to what we can learn from the stories we tell each other and ourselves.

Such an epic season requires an equally epic ending, and the final episode of the season did not disappoint. It was by far the longest episode of both seasons at over forty minutes, and spans a long distance and time period. It was also the most resonant episode, bringing the conflicts that have been simmering in the background to full light. I cannot recommend both seasons of this show enough. While the first season set up a fascinating and magical world, the second season took the worldbuilding to such a high level that I cannot wait to see what the third season will produce.

-Patrick Bernas