Review: ‘The Hardy Boys’ lets loose in season two

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Ryan H

Based on the popular book series of the same name, season two of “The Hardy Boys” delves in to the mystical as the boys and their friends look to solve a greater mystery than ever before. That being said, the show may have gone too far with it this time.

by Nicholas Neikon Ebadat, Staff Writer

The popular long running mystery book series, “The Hardy Boys,” has a Hulu exclusive television series that just released its second season. The show takes a step further into the fictional elements of the first season to muddy up what makes the show special: its young characters putting clues together to do the right thing when no one else will.

As the brothers Frank and Joe Hardy, played by Rohan Cambell and Alexander Elliot, have become a little more adjusted to living with their aunt in a new town, a local boy’s disappearance prompts the boys and their friends to dive into another case.

The first season set the show’s expectations to be faithful to the books in tone, while simultaneously diverging from some of the details of the books to make a necessary switch to today’s standards of storytelling.

For example, the books detail a stay-at-home mother who is only slightly concerned for her children and world-class detective husband as they are constantly getting into trouble. The show solves this concern in a way that makes sense and moves the story forward.

In addition, the show makes creative choices that feel related to the audience it was made for. Joe Hardy is made much younger in the show as he is 12 years old rather than the book’s 17-year-old version of the character. Frank is made 16 instead of the book’s 18-year-old version. The time period of the show is also set forward from the books to the ‘90s; a time with no smartphones, flatscreens or social media.

An overarching story in the first season centers around a MacGuffin the Hardy boys need to keep out of the wrong hands. Conveniently for the writers, this brings all the trouble you could imagine showing up at their doorstep. The item also introduces mystical elements to the show that albeit gives a reason for why two children and their friends are the most competent people in an entire town, but cheaply creates solutions to the pair’s most pressing questions.

Something that the show does extremely well, however, is the characterization of the core characters and dynamic between the detective group. Despite Joe being so young, he’s the type of kid to be wise beyond his years and has trouble interacting with others his age. This causes really fun interactions between making friends and, in this recent season, a love interest. The group is split in half between friends of Frank and friends of Joe, making for plenty funny moments of generational strife.

As an occasional reader of the books back in grade school, certain scenes feel directly pulled from them. Feelings of empathetic anxiety when the boys have close calls came rushing back at least once in both seasons, reminding why the books held a specific place in the back of my head after all these years.

For much of the second season, the MacGuffin remained and drove everything that the characters did so it brought advantages and disadvantages that the audience could live with. However, in the middle of the new season another mystical item was introduced that makes the viewer want to throw their hands up in disbelief. As you spend the show trying to treat it as a traditional detective story and try to guess whodunit, the writers change the rules of the world making the circumstances and motivations of the crime as ridiculous as anyone could dream.

*Spoilers* 

The brothers are supposed to be amateur detectives that are thrown into dangerous situations, but a secret organization that controls every political action with a rock that tells them how to get what they want is a little much, especially for detectives. Not to mention their familial relation to the ringleader and the late addition of a crystal that can download people’s consciousness and leave empty husks; it is safe to say the story goes off the rails.

The overdependence of MacGuffins is the root of the show’s inconsistency and could easily set the show up for a convoluted future, but the entertaining characters are enough of a reason to watch (even though the season cliffhanger hints at more wacky plot turns). As an encompassing rating for the first two seasons, “The Hardy Boys” gets a 7/10.