Hello g33ks, m33ks, and the other descendents of the mutant that crawled out of the primordial ooze. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m about to review one of the most absurd mini-series in television history; Adult Swim’s, ‘The Heart, She Holler’. From the minds behind Wonder Showzen (a show I could never get behind) and Delocated (a show I kind of love), PFFR. this genre defying series is definitely one of the most mesmerizing ever aired during Cartoon Network’s overnight block. There are a few things I should note: 1) I did not watch The Heart, She Holler as a mini-series over six nights. I watched it all in a row in one sitting. 2) As someone who loves plot this is a difficult series for me because it feels like plot rests firmly behind bizarre imagery as priority for this show. 3) The Heart, She Holler is either the biggest hodgepodge of a mess ever or its genius. Not saying its a kind thoughtful benevolent genius… this show is spinning in a high backed chair, cackling wildly, stroking a cat while a slow moving lazer inches closer and closer to slicing a secret agent in half genius. That is… if it is genius at all. It could just be stupid comedy and gruesome horror juxtaposed inside a southern gothic 80s soap opera. Let’s see if we can work it out.
The premise of The Heart, She Holler (which if nothing else is an excellent phrase to say in a southern accent) is a surprisingly simple one. Boss Hoss Heartshe has passed away leaving the town owned by his family in the hands of his heir. At the screening of his, exceedingly detailed, video will Hoss passes over his two daughters Hurshe and Hambrosia for his secret son Hurlan. What follows is a feud between the remaining members of the Heartshe family for control of the family business but most importantly the town of Heartshe Holler. This could be an ABC Sunday Night soap opera replacing Desperate Housewives but for the copious amounts of absurdist gross out humor and so much gratuitous violence American Horror Story invited it over for coffee and offal.
Hurlan Heartshe (Patton Oswalt) has been kept by Hoss inside a secret alcove in his office wall for the last 40 years. He is obviously learning disabled, due to the level of inbreeding of the Heartshe family and decades of solitary confinement. He was given control of the Holler by Hoss as part of a a much larger plot to somehow stay in power even from beyond the grave. Hoss tells him in his video will that Hurlan’s job is to protect the Holler’s secrets and end the mysterious curse on the town.
Hurshe Heartshe (Kristen Schaal) is the town tramp and the more vindictive of Hoss’ daughters. Like Hurlan she also shows obvious signs of indbreeding in her features and she is overt in her incestuous relationship with Hoss. She felt that she had earned his favor by sleeping with him for so many years and considers it a personal slight that Hoss passed her over. She was certain she would take over the company, town and fortune, so she has set her sights on eliminating Hurlan and Hambrosia any way she can. She displays almost super human strength in fights with men.
Hambrosia Hearshe (Heather Lawless) is a paranoid schizophrenic and powerful telepath/telekinetic. Married to the town’s sheriff she does not physically appear to be inbred but her mental powers seem to be a Heartshe family trait. She is easily the most powerful but it appears Hurlan and Hurshe can at least communicate telepathically. Not all of the voices in her head are evil but the majority are and they want control of the Holler. Her good voice is often at war with the others but is vastly outnumbered.
Hoss Heartshe (Jonathan Hadaray) was the previous head of Heartshe Holler until his death. Although dead he manages to maintain day to day operational control of the Heartshe family through the unbelievably extensive video will he left behind. Numbering at least several thousand tapes and covering nearly every possible issue that Hurlan, Hurshe or Hambrosia could face; Hoss is shepherding his children into unknowingly fulfilling his master plan.
There are other characters involved in this story but the discussion of them involves major plot points so be warned.
— Spoilers Ahead —
The final member of the Heartshe Clan is:
Mee Maw (Judith Roberts) grandmother to Hurlan, Hambrosia and Hurshe. Mee Maw according to Hoss is the answer to ending the Holler’s curse. When Hurlan goes to see her for information about the curse she begs him to end her life. He says she can’t help him if she’s dead but she explains to him that her death is part of ending the curse. The secret it turns out is Mee Maww is immortal and cannot be killed. She seems to have powers like Hambrosia’s and appears weaker due to age or the fact that she’s cursed. This may not be true as sometime later she shows a great deal more power than her granddaughter.
The most important plot throughline for this series is that all the Heartshe’s want to be in charge except for Mee Maw who just wants to pass on. Hoss included. His original reason for naming Hurlan the new boss was to have his preserved brain swapped with his son’s. When this plan falls apart Hoss sets in motion his contingency plan which involves killing Mee Maw, creating the White Dwarf – the most powerfully inbred Heartshe ever, and finally resurrecting himself. In the last two episodes he loses the White Dwarf but seems to succeed in killing Mee Maw and getting himself resurrected. Mee Maw’s curse looks to pass on to Hambrosia or Mee Maw herself possesses her granddaughter and Hurlan returns to his alcove trying to run away from his responsibilities running the town.
— Spoilers End —
The thing about this show is its insane and irreverent and completely absurd. I don’t quite know how I feel about the things that happen on this show but I could say the same thing about Delocated. They use any excuse to splatter the cast in blood or to pull gooey entrails out of something but after a while those become commonplace and almost expected. There’s something refreshing and funny about being so willing to be over the top violent. Its one of the things I love about American Horror Story (which I think is currently the best show on tv). Basically, do I love this show? No… Is it sort of hypnotic and engrossing anyway? Yes…
Between Kristen Schaal completely selling out for the role as Hurshe and watching Patton Oswalt chew the scenery as a Faulkneresque man-child. I recommend giving it a shot on adultswim.com as they have all of the episodes up on their Gold video service. Its strange and weird and disturbed but that’s why you should check it out.
Let me know in comments if you actually made it through to the end. Or how far you got before you had to stop. Do you think Adult Swim should send this to full production?
– Mr. Khon