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Impossible Numbers


"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying."

More Blog Posts260

Mar
3rd
2024

Checking in at the Hazbin Hotel (2024) · 10:10pm March 3rd

About a magical princess who teaches friendship, sings a lot, believes in redemption, has an odd domicile on the outskirts of a crazy town, and lives within walking distance of Hell.*

* You think I'm joking, rewatch "It's About Time".

Question is: Which songs rock the hardest? :rainbowdetermined2:


Blog Number 248: "Dawn Chorus Beneath the Morningstar" Edition

Readers who are reading will note I haven't been all that active in the last couple of months. Let's just say a lot ganged up on me all at once: home renovations, extra hours at my job, messy sleeping patterns, "New Year blues", and a couple of TV show/video game obsessions drawing me away from pony somewhat. Don't even get me started on writing: it's taken a heavy dip since November, and my current strategy is to leave it alone till the distractions die down.

However, I do have a chance to blog today, so...


Hazbin Hotel is freaking amazing!

Like, "it fills the pony niche I've been wishing for" freaking amazing. I don't think I've been this enthusiastic about a show in a looooong time.

Using the classic Heaven-Hell dichotomy as a backdrop to questions of friendship, redemption, and turning lives around for the better - themes that might as well have been plucked straight out of Friendship is Magic - it explodes with a smorgasbord of creative and sometimes deranged animated design choices to deliver a great cast lineup who each have their own comedic strengths and dramatic tones, a ton of juicy plot developments*, a world that's both over-the-top horrible and gorgeous to look at**, and enough setting expansion to set up multiple subcultures within Hell. It's a feast on multiple levels.

*Probably too many, to be honest. One of the more frustrating things about the show is its simultaneous cramming and abandoning - to various degrees - of ideas that at best won't see fruition till Season Two.

**And red. Very, very red. You can quickly appreciate Helluva Boss and its ability to traverse the rings of Hell for more colour variety.

Is it flawed? Pfft, yeah, Hell, loads flawed. I don't just mean the frustration of awesomeness withdrawal now we have to wait a few years for the next installment: I mean self-contained flaws that genuinely subtract from the experience here and now. And it earns its mature rating, with profanity, sexual references, and gory violence all over the place. It's not for everyone, not by a long shot.

On the face of it, this is about as far from pony as you can get. But if you're willing to muscle through the superficial trappings, trust me: there's a pony heart beating in there. And a Disney one. And a Broadway one. Quite a few hearts, actually...


Anyway, enough vague generics. Let's get to the meat of the matter: How good-to-great are those songs?

Yeah, this is a musical. That's one of the things that gives me serious "déjà vu en poney" vibes. Remember when early pony had, like, a dozen songs in its early seasons before they were mostly delegated to specific musical episodes, and when many of them were playing around with different genres to suit different contexts?

Well, Hazbin Hotel is carrying on a fine tradition there, so let's do it! Let's look at my personal Top Ten Hazbin Hotel songs.

Note that I'll be describing them in chronological order rather than preference order. There are two reasons for this. One is that I want to delve a little bit into the show with each entry, and that's easier if we follow along than if we jump around haphazardly. Two is that I find it extremely hard to narrow it down for the top spot, as each song hits different moods (so it'd be a chalk-and-cheese comparison) and the competition really is that close.

N.B. I'm including the pilot in the rankings because there's enough canonicity overlap that I figure it counts as part of the show. Since each episode contains two songs (with the exception of the pilot, which has three), that produces a total of nineteen songs. So ten out of nineteen is a little over 50%, making this the top half of the tiers.

Also N.B. that this is all relative. If a song doesn't make it, that isn't because I consider it "bad" so much as I just think other songs hit harder or do more interesting things. With maybe one or two exceptions - one of which is definitely a matter of taste - I don't think there are any genuinely bad songs in the show at all.

So without further ado...

Let's watch the harmonious horror unfold!


Oh wait, one more ado:

SPOILERS!

You've been warned...


First things first, and second things first:

"Inside of Every Demon is a Rainbow" / "Happy Day in Hell"

Yes, we're kicking off with a double feature! The first is the main song from the pilot, wherein Charlie goes for a news interview and tries (and utterly fails) to convince an apathetic, mocking citizenry that her plan to save sinners will work. The second is the first song from the first episode of the TV show proper, wherein Charlie goes for a Hell-to-Heaven meeting and tries (and utterly fails) to convince an apathetic, mocking angel that her plan to save sinners will work.

You can see the overlap. The pilot and the show have an odd relationship, not always to their benefit. They obviously recognized some watchers wouldn't have seen the pilot (incredible to think, given the pilot's popularity explosion) first, so some things had to be restated in the show. Unfortunately, the first episode - "Overture" - in particular suffers from being an obvious second episode shoehorned into the role of first episode. Just compare the time-taking and impactful introductions of the main cast in the pilot against the way the first episode checks the boxes and throws exposition at each one in turn. It's messy.

These songs sharing a basic core is a part of that, but in this case I think it works superbly. Both are peppy, reflecting their focal character (a trait pretty much most of the songs have), and introduce both Hell in all its depravity and our heroine for the evening: Charlie Morningstar ("Magne" in the original draft).

I know everyone loves Alastor, but I'm gonna make a controversial statement: if Alastor wasn't in the show, I think it'd manage fine. That's not because he's a bad character - on the contrary, he's so genius that he elevates the show to a whole other level. We'd seriously miss out if he was gone. But he's a super-bonus. The rest of the cast can hold their own. Even more so, I seriously couldn't imagine this show without Charlie at all.

Charlie can best be described as a misplaced Disney Princess, and both songs dive hard into that angle (the second one especially gives me serious "Belle" flashbacks). That's what makes Charlie such a great central figure to anchor the whole irony of the premise: childish, sheltered, naive, overly positive, energetic, lost in her own fantasies to the point of delusion, and yet stubbornly innocent, she's a complete mismatch to the rest of the show, an underdog and a contradiction all at once. At a stroke, this heightens both the tragic elements of the character (much of the show is basically her struggling to the point of breakdown against the tide) and the admirable (she's constantly swimming against that tide, bless her).

Both songs showcase that perfectly. Maybe the first one scores higher on manic energy and chaotic comedy, whereas the second one scores higher on earnestness and depth of feeling, but both exemplify what Charlie's all about, and it's a little slice of Heaven (in Hell) either way.

No matter how much it sucks, the higher the hurdles, the harder she leaps. It powers the drama and gives the show its true dimension beyond "ha ha, everyone's a sleazy jerk in Hell". I simultaneously find myself laughing at her idiocy and cheering her on. Cynicism and optimism balanced like that (vaguely reminiscent to me of the strongest drama in the Discworld book series) brings out the best in this rehabilitation program. And isn't that ultimately what it's about? :heart:


"Hell is Forever"

Classic storytelling wisdom holds that a great show needs a great villain. Since Alastor is technically on the good side, Hazbin Hotel gifts us Adam. Yep, that Adam, here reimagined as an ascended archangel in charge of controlling Hell's overpopulation problem, i.e. of exterminating their souls once a year.

It's a bold choice guaranteed to enrage biblical literalists, but holy hell does it work. Give us a generic jerkass head honcho, and this role is limited. Make him instead the angelic reincarnation of the First Man and start the series with a feminist retelling of the Adam-Lilith story, and a lot snaps into focus (firstly, the gag of him eating ribs: pining for Eve much? :rainbowlaugh:).

Admittedly, he takes a lot of the nuance down with him. If your answer to the question, "What would a man who wants women to subordinate themselves to him be like?" can be summed up as "Well, obviously he'd be the most insufferable jerkass jock in existence," you've pretty much burned your bridges when it comes to making him complex or likeable.

So just make him effing hilarious.

Controversial as the move is, I think it works in a "crosses the line twice" kind of way. Alex Brightman is clearly having a blast voicing him, he's so over-the-top crass and impulsive that he ends up being a walking parody, and there are plenty of clever touches regarding his design and his backstory that we're at least compensated with plenty of entertainment. For instance, his letterman-style robe to fit into the jock aesthetic, his gold-edged Exorcist mask that blends angelic and demonic elements (and is apparently high-tech enough to let him eat and drink), his pretentious Rapture-esque sadism in watching sinners suffer, and yes, his casual misogyny (see: Lilith and Eve), self-worship (first means best, apparently), and the modern bro-dude attitude (after all, he's not immune to temptation either, given the Fall, so of course Pride is high on his list of sins).

And, of course, his Christian Rock theme. Which brings us to "Hell is Forever", wherein "rock" is shorthand for "hardcore punk" (a trick used in pony for e.g. Rainbow Dash, Gilda the Griffon, and the Dragon Teens). For a song basically ridiculing our heroine, this one is just as entertainingly awesome as it is outrageously despicable. Perfect for this version of Adam, Father of Mankind.

I don't think they'll do it, but wouldn't it be amazing if Season Two had Adam reincarnate as a Sinner? Just to give him another middle finger after what he did to Sir Pentious.


"Stayed Gone"

Speaking of great villains, let's talk about the Vees!

Yeah, this is where Hazbin's tendency to put things on hold also puts a jammer on the fun. For a trio of well-designed wannabe bad guys, the Vees are mostly underused in Season One, little more than teasers. There's a vague promise that they'll take over the channel in Season Two, but that's years away. Of the three, I'd say Valentino gets the better promotion as a genuine threat, but we'll get to him later (whereas Velvette feels the most wasted).

Spoiler alert: Vox is my favourite, hands down.

Firstly, look at the guy. Snappy dresser, blue and metal-grey scheme, wi-fi signal cravat and top hat, sparking and electrocuting all over the place like a true psycho electro, and he has a freaking TV for a head! Complete with the most sharklike grin possible without just being all-teeth. Subtly, it's a great contrast to Alastor, whose head starts morphing into a radio-like form when he's at his most diabolical (hint: dial eyes and fangs that fuse and then glow whenever he's speaking), and the added VCR and game show sound effects that accompany his mood is five-star foil material.

Secondly, his personality is the most fleshed-out. Suave and charming as his plastic smile, secretly has a "surrounded by idiots" attitude to his colleagues, a Big Brother media overlord who literally hypnotizes his viewers with almost-sarcastic adverts (he's introduced delivering the most backhanded selling point about drone products), and more politically savvy and self-controlled than the other two (give or take how smart Velvette turns out to be): he's a well-manufactured take on the Corrupt Corporate Executive trope, smooth and sophisticated even as he's offering up low-earning employees to his partner for target practice.

And then he learns Alastor's back (from whatever plot tease will be revealed in Season Two), and thirdly, his personality gets a super-fun bonus feature: completely and shockingly unrestrained pettiness against his archnemesis.

That's where "Stayed Gone" shines. There's always an element of twist or irony in the best characters: Charlie's child-rated optimism in adult-rated Hell; Adam the First Angel being the entitled scumbag. Here, it's Vox's self-image versus the reality. Any song exemplifying Vox should be smooth and sophisticated - perfection, on brand - except this one shows off the wrinkle that turns into a literal breakdown and reveals him for the unhinged, irrational lunatic he is. Now that's good television! 😈

The tech feud is well-exemplified here too, with Vox jumping from TV program to TV program in rapid succession (love the "bloody rare" pun) before Alastor comes in with one trick (standing and talking) and owns him with it on the first try. Add in the chiasmic parallelism (Vox starts the song, both fight in the middle, Alastor ends it with the literal last laugh) and contrasting colour schemes, it's a visual marathon to go with the rapid-fire patter banter. Jazzy, brass, techno: it's big and bombastic, a visual and audio show-off of a song showing both the overlap and the differences (let's not pretend Alastor's above a little petty trolling himself). In addition, it's just straight-up funny: almost Looney Tunes in the way a Bugs-Bunny-esque Alastor effortlessly outclasses his overaggressive rival.

"Ain't I a stinker?"

Which of course brings us to the King of Radio Himself.

If you've seen the Pilot, you know why Alastor's fantastic. If Charlie's a Disney Princess in the wrong place, Alastor's a Disney Villain on the wrong side. The Lovecraftian horror acting as the cheery old benefactor to the heroes. He has the comedic deal-making of Hades, the classy evil of Maleficent, the sleek sophistication of Jafar, the bombastic flair of Doctor Facilier and Ursula, and basically drinks at the same bar as Bill Cipher. His deer design is secretly clever (as one of the most unexpectedly dangerous American animals), and that radio voice! It's like giving the Flim Flam brothers the juggernaut powers of a King Sombra.

One of the problems with the show is that - if you haven't seen the pilot, which built him up perfectly in the last third and really elevates the whole thing the moment he shows up - it takes a while to grasp why he's such a great character, as character details have to be drip-fed across the show instead. This episode "Radio Killed the Video Star" (the greatest musical reference in the entire show) goes a long way to re-estabilishing his villain cred, not only trouncing Sir Pentious casually in the beginning (one of the better callbacks to the pilot - and even funnier when it's revealed Sir Pentious has failed at this twenty times!), but also explaining who he is by contrasting him against Vox.

The subdued end to "Stayed Gone" plays into that perfectly. Slowly morphing him into his (comics-based) abomination form as he delivers an amused warning, Alastor finally clicks here in the show as the awesome nightmare fuel he is. It's just *mwah* le Chef's kiss to a perfectly served song.

Oh, and as much as people complain the swearing is overdone, profanity can be superb comedy in its own right. I don't think I've laughed harder at this show than when Vox ends the whole song by dropping the pissiest F-bomb possible. :rainbowlaugh:

Five stars! Would recommend this to all my friends! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


"Poison"

A song so sexually intense, I can't actually show you the visuals.

Yeah... no, Disney's got nothin' on this one.

Of all the songs on my list, "Poison" easily goes down as the most shocking. And I don't just mean because it makes clear that one of our main characters is basically a sex slave whose boss rapes him between hardcore porn shoots.

For one thing, Angel Dust wasn't my favourite character in the pilot. There, he had flashes of depth but was mostly played as a cynical jerk who made sex jokes, and his main-series incarnation was only a little better. Before "Addict" came out (which I sadly can't count because it's neither in the show nor part of the pilot), he would easily have ranked at the bottom of my favourites list.

So what changed? Well, recontextualizing his bad behaviour as a tormented reaction to his horrific life will do it. Having Blake Roman voice him so emotionally and passionately will do it. Giving him a strong back-and-forth between Husk and Charlie for the single greatest episode in the lineup will do it. Having him be the on-again-off-again patron of a hotel seeking to rehabilitate those at rock bottom will do it (something initially explored in "Radio Killed the Video Star" before it was abruptly dropped). Basically devoting "Masquerade" to one long psychological study of Angel Dust will do it.

I cannot overstate what a miracle this episode is - it doesn't even need Alastor beyond one quick flashback! That's how shockingly great it is. Had the whole show been operating at this level, I'd be shouting its praises from the rooftops.

For another thing, this song in context is insanely uncomfortable to watch - especially if, like me, you're generally squeamish around the subject of S-E-X. The visuals do NOT mess around, and while the quick-to-the-point-of-cutting-away-at-the-most-discreet-moments montage, brilliant pop acoustics, and catchy singing help the medicine go down, there's a bitter honesty to the song that refuses to shy away from what's happening. It's also garish, lecherous (shots abound of Valentino salivating with lust), and comes across more like a glamorous torture session than - as was initially depicted - a workday film shoot. By the end of it, I just want to whisk Angel out of there, and that's exactly why the song does its job perfectly.

"YOU... SAY...!?" This line always gives me chills.

On the flipside, while he never sings in it, Valentino casts his shadow over the whole performance (sometimes literally). Of the three Vees, he emerges easily as the most despicable - a love-to-hate monster and shockingly realistic physical and emotional abuser behind his moth-inspired campy pimp style. And he's still great to look at, since his creepily gorgeous love symbolism and the "garden of paradise" studio hellhole he presides over are as lavishly designed as the rest of the show.

Yeah, Vox is and likely will remain my all-round favourite of the Vees. He's simply a lot more fun in his evil (even if he's technically in charge of what goes down here, he's too impersonal and distant to personally hate). But he's also swimming out of his depth against Alastor, who treats him as another chump to show up. Whereas, as an antagonistic force, I have to admit it's Valentino who emerges as the most personal and effective villain in Season One, even allowing for his dumber and funnier moments elsewhere. He's Angel's living nightmare.

Thanks to him, you can instantly spot the moment when this episode goes from good to great: "Angel... can I see you in your dressing room for a moment?"

Haunting, dark, unflinching, yet still glamorous and catchy: it's both a reflection of Val's corruptive influence and Angel's suffering. I can't watch, and yet I can't look away.


"Loser, Baby"

How the Hell do you follow up something like "Poison"? Well... you can give Keith David a song. That'll do it.

Not as intense as the first song in this episode ("Masquerade", fourth episode, for those keeping track), "Loser, Baby" nevertheless holds its own as a necessary antidote. Not a complete one: realistically, neither man has escaped his respective trap, and both of them get shot at by shark gangsters* before it's even over. But "goddamn miracle" is asking too much anyway. "Really toe-tappingly great" should be enough for anybody.

*On that note: As someone who's seen Helluva Boss, the other Vivziepop hellaverse animation, can we please shake it up a bit? We've got demons of all sorts, yet there's too many shark gangsters. Couldn't we have had something a bit more appropriate, like dolphin gangsters trying to roofie Angel Dust? Dolphins are sexual monsters in their own right.

"Masquerade" gets most of its power from the Valentino-on-Angel abuse, but if it was just a case of "feel sorry for sex spider", I don't think it'd be as clever as it is. The real genius comes from Angel's unhealthy maladaptations to said abuse, even internalizing Valentino's view of him as a sex toy. Best exemplified, of course, by how Charlie and Husk interact with him.

Funnily enough, for all the talk about Husk and Angel I've seen re: this episode, I don't see a lot of appreciation for Charlie's role in the entire mess. Not just in how her naivety sets off the chain of events that gets Angel punished, but later in how her remorse (subtly) gets through to Husk, setting off the chain of events that gets Angel a much-needed friend.

Or a drink. Or a much-needed friend who serves drinks.

Without her, Husk is an apathetic critic who takes a bad situation and makes it worse. With her, he's at least grudgingly persuaded to chase after a much-enraged Angel and - despite a rough start - properly talk out his problems and sympathize. This episode is a microcosm of Charlie's whole quest: out of her depth, yet ultimately it's her good intentions and willingness to say sorry and correct her mistakes that helps.

While we're on the subject of Husk: of all the voice actor changes between pilot and series, there were really only two I was iffy on, and his was initially one of them. The first (and, in my opinion, worst) was replacing Faye Mata with Brandon Rogers as Katie Killjoy, a random change that I think distracts and detracts too much. The second, of course, was replacing Mick Lauer with Keith David (though Lauer got a bizarre vocal cameo in the first song of the show), and this is entirely a "me" problem because I heard Keith David rather than the character he was playing (though "I ain't no actor! I can't memorize this shit!" was so worth it as a hilariously ironic line). It wasn't until "Masquerade" that I really started to click with his performance.

Not forgetting how many actor allusions his character has now (listed here):

Quite a few. Keith David once again plays a demon with a red and black color palette (Spawn), a cat (Coraline), a winged humanoid creature (Gargoyles), and a man in debt to a Voodoo-themed Friend On The Other Side (The Princess and the Frog).

The Doctor Facilier is strong in this one, specifically when he finally softens up enough to share his backstory with Angel Dust. (And it's one of those "obvious yet unimprovable" backstories that I loved the moment I heard it). Which of course means he switches on the bar's jukebox (metaphorically speaking) and cheers Angel Dust up with this ritzy little number.

What I like about the song is the double-subversion. It's a pep talk song through-and-through, but there's a point in the middle which sounds harshly passive-aggressive instead, and I think that's tripped up a few people who don't get the point of the second half of the song. Husk refuses to mince words (it's both his most admirable trait and his most offensive), so he's not putting a gloss on Angel's life: he calls a broken spade a broken spade. But hey, now Angel's got a friend on the other side... of the bar.

They can start a support group, talk out their frustrations and escapist desires, share a drink. It's far stronger than a shallow happy song would've been, and it showcases the most important theme of the series: taking the damned and giving them something better, in the process making them better and healthier souls. Start in despair, get personal, end triumphantly: just like the song itself.

Also, now we can ship AngelHusk without feeling awkward about personal boundaries.

Come on, someone had to be thinking that.

A cool end to a brutally honest masterpiece of an episode. We don't even really need the shark gangster faceoff (or its sheer Batman: The Animated Series nonsense about our heroes standing in open gunfire), though that's a fine enough postscript to the song. Maybe if more of this eight-episode show had expanded upon the other characters like this, things would've ended up differently.


"Hell's Greatest Dad"

So now we're in the strongest run of the season, we move on to "Dad Beat Dad", in which -

🎇🍎 LUCIFER IS THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME! 🍎 🎇

Sorry, had to get that out there.

Jumping back to "Overture" - the first episode - we're introduced to the "reimagining" of the Fall of Man and the Banishment of Lucifer/Satan/The Devil/Old Scratch to the Pit where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Here, it turns out Lucifer Morningstar was a well-intentioned dreamer (keeping his anti-authoritarian hubris) who accidentally brought evil into the world by aiding and abetting an act of wilful scrumping (no, it's not as dirty as it sounds) to give humanity free will.

I love this Luciferian take on the Abrahamic story, keeping the hubris whilst giving him a more interesting and sympathetic rebellious motive. It calls to mind Mark Twain's thoughtfully back-to-front comment:

“But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian's daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?”

"Clearly, he's not getting enough prayers in his diet! Am I right, folks? HA HA HA!"

Black-and-white morality has its place but isn't especially interesting. As we'll see in later episodes, adding moral ambiguity to either side can spice up a story.

Spicing things up, of course, is Lucifer's specialty. We finally meet him here as Charlie's frustration at the lack of demon ascension leads to her facing up to her daddy issues and roping his awesome power into her scheme, with (initially) mixed results given his jaded skepticism. Of course, his larger-than-life persona and dizzying energy has more than a whiff of "You Ain't Never Had A Dad Like Me" about him, which instantly catapults his song up there as just straight-up fun. Damn satanic goofball!

I swear I've memorized this song's lyrics like no other. Techno swing fits each singing character like a glove, and it always puts a smile on my face. Lucifer being a loveable showoff is something I am 100% behind, and Jeremy Jordan's voice is in God Mode.

Only... Lucifer don't take shit from other demons.

Neither does Alastor, even if the "demon" is a fallen seraphim, and we're next catapulted from "fun" to "damn great fun" when he tries to butt into the song and upstage it. I'm not 100% clear why Alastor feels the need to punch above his weight class - speculation runs from Lucifer getting in the way of his secret grand scheme (note the eye twitch the moment Lucifer enters the hotel) to Alastor's ego hating being upstaged by anyone (Vox would sympathize) - but once you rub the lamp, you can't put the genie back inside.

This would be a great Alastor episode in its own right - from the campfire-story expansion on his overlord-toppling days, to his chance to wreak havoc later, to the jaw-dropping moment when Husk lets slip that there's a man* behind the man, to his classy lifestyle getting a nod. Having him butt heads with Lucifer is the highlight, though, as this time he can't just steamroll over the competition like he did with Vox. Still, his sheer audacity in trolling the parental insecurities of the King of Hell Himself has to be applauded. Goddamn it Alastor, stop being a legend.

*Doubtful, since the two biggest suspects at the moment are either Lilith or Eve, arguably the two most powerful Hellish entities behind Lucifer (give or take Eve's unknown fate). Speculation continues.

I really can't say much beyond that. This is hands-down the most entertaining song in the lineup, featuring two exceptional entertainers trying to outclass each other... and it ends with Vivziepop's biggest prank in having a completely unknown character steal the song's conclusion.

A round of applause please for the King of Hell.

Who? Pick one.


"More Than Anything"

To quote Sir Pentious: "Aw, that was sssssssweet." :fluttercry:

Also from the episode "Dad Beat Dad" yet in a wholly different register, "More Than Anything" is as heartfelt and touching as "Hell's Greatest Dad" was hilarious and toe-tapping. It's a testament to the strength of the cast that great comedy and great tragedy can emerge from the same characters.

Finally working out their respective hesitations and worldviews, Charlie and Lucifer put their hearts on their sleeves here to lovely (and heartwarming) effect, reaching common ground at last (which seems extra poignant to me, seeing as it's obvious to us the audience that they have more in common than they themselves initially thought). Yet think about the misery involved, giving this song a bit of a tragic ache on a rewatch.

This season can be best described as Charlie driving herself insane trying to rescue people from unrepentant deaths, and until the stinger in the very last episode? Her best was already accomplished in the prior episode: "Masquerade". Even that one resulted in Angel and Husk's terrible situations not really being resolved despite their newfound friendship, so combined with her remorse at the bloodshed in the climax, it's accurate to say she's drowning against the tide throughout in a horror-tragedy.

Lucifer, by contrast, has the opposite problem. His standards have fallen so low that his nightmare involves Charlie being surrounded by angelic spears of death (the one part of the song that hit hardest for me); all he wants is for Charlie to stay out of trouble, which ironically means he literally has to do nothing to succeed. Once the next episode comes along, his pessimism turns out to be well-founded. He's not drowning against the tide; he's so terrified of the tide that he simply refuses to go near it.

So basically, this song is dark once you appreciate it in context.

Speaking of dark, I wonder why Lilith's face is obscured in the flashback. Given the final episode, this seems ominous.

In isolation, though? Ignore the cosmic failure, and the lovely personal connection is what stands out. These two shine. Sir Pentious is in tears in the background, Vaggie (and eventually Angel) are touched, and even Alastor has one of his nicer smiles on during one shot. Sweetness abounds: infant Charlie in the flashback is utterly precious, and the duck thing (an animal motif I still don't get: snakes, yes; ducks, no) is brought back in lovely fashion as an illusion turning into a six-winged golden swan, dazzling Charlie into becoming the dreamer she is now. Credit to both Jordan and Erika Henningsen for selling the family drama, bitter and sweet.

For a triumphant stretch of the song, the visuals take a break from red, red, red to evoke a golden circus tent filled with what I guess is raw dusty firmament. There's a general "entertainment media" motif in the Hellaverse, especially a circus one (it's explicitly part of the backstory in Helluva Boss), and Lucifer's white ringmaster getup (complete with prominent red apple cheeks and caramel apple cane) and Charlie's brief "flying trapeze" gesture feeds into that. I'm not sure if it's a roundabout way to invoke a kind of "Divine Comedy" flavour, if it's simple author appeal, or if it fits into Alastor's pilot line about "the world's but a stage, and the stage is but a world of entertainment", but I really dig it on an unorthodox level.

Regardless, this episode exemplifies two sides of the showmanship angle. The previous song did it in an obvious way: both sides were just showing off. This song does it by showing the emotion behind the performance, as washed-up director and aspiring artist. Why perform? Why put your heart out on the line? I'm not sure the song bridges the gap perfectly (if you think about it, nothing that either Charlie or Lucifer say should be all that surprising), but what matters is conveying the duality of their passion: the pain of descending failure, and the euphoria of aspiring success.

It's beautiful, layered, and touching: the one song on the list that reliably makes me tear up. In a series that's done a lot to rekindle and inspire my enthusiasm for creative works, this song is such stuff as dreams are made on. Dreams worth fighting for.


"You Didn't Know"

Rounding off our three-ep burst of greatness is "Welcome to Heaven", the sixth episode before we get to a two-part climax (and also confusingly the title of its first song, which is one of those "good-but-easily-outcompeted" little numbers). So let's talk about Vaggie for a moment.

At this point, some of you might have noticed that I skipped episode three ("Scrambled Eggs") when picking out songs for my list. "Respectless" is a good, catchy song, just another "good-but-easily-outcompeted" number - though Velvette's deliberate "prima donna diva" attitude is made inexplicably better by her rude Cockney accent (we get it, America: Brits are always the bad guys*; you're just feeding our classy, soulless egos, you know! :rainbowwild:).

*See, for example: Scar from The Lion King. Jafar from Aladdin. Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame...

"Whatever It Takes" is also a good song from that episode - on Carmilla Carmine's side. The Alastor subplot with the overlords amounts to a plot teaser, but it's a good plot teaser that legitimately makes you want to learn more about the introduced characters. Carmine gets it best, as her arms dealer business, ballerina-inspired design, Latin theme, protective instincts, badass credibility (she's the first to slay an angel), and ambiguous relationship with fellow overlord Zestial left quite an impact. So it's easy enough to find her debut intriguing.

Unfortunately, this song's also the first point where I have to admit it: Vaggie comes across as the weakest addition to the cast.

Unlike Carmine, who's given enough details to make clear what she's feeling and why she feels this way, Vaggie's song is prompted by three comedy sketches and a vague, work office flaw in trying to keep the residents away from each other's throats, which all of a sudden wants to be a drama about deep, personal failure. It doesn't gel. Suddenly, Vaggie's making cryptic heartfelt statements (in a singing voice that's oddly high-pitched despite Stephanie Beatriz providing the deeper speaking voice too), and even in hindsight I find it a little overblown and melodramatic. It makes half of the song ring hollow as a result.

And in a later episode, there's a whole song boldly telling her to fight for the one thing she's been doing this entire time.

Let me clarify: she's not a bad personality. Her "no-nonsense straight person" to Charlie's "cloudcuckoolander" (and especially to Alastor and Angel Dust's provocations) is always straightforward fun, and the reveals in this current episode "Welcome to Heaven" are great. Vaggie being a former Exorcist betrayed by a glimmer of conscience is, on paper, a great twist on the redemption theme and on how morality can change, so this episode is - in my opinion - the best Vaggie gets.

And... that's really damning with faint praise. I'm not just talking about how the drama's fallout is softball-handled for the finale, where it basically gets simplified to "Vaggie lied (by omission) to me!" trust issues. Vaggie isn't really challenged, isn't ever tempted off her current path, and never expresses any conflicting feelings about Charlie's quest besides exasperation at her more childish moments. Her best material is offscreen, as we never get any insight into the change of heart (no, "she fell in love with Charlie on sight" doesn't count as psychological probing). Even at rock bottom she slavishly devotes herself to fulfilling Charlie's dream. There's a term for this: satellite love interest.

But I'm also talking about her performance in this episode. Having accompanied Charlie to Heaven and been threatened with hefty blackmail, Vaggie proceeds to accomplish nothing until the climax of the song, and that was Adam's doing. It proves to be the straw that broke Charlie's overburdened back.

While it's understandable why she's forced into a corner this time (and I'm more miffed that the followup episodes did nothing much with it despite one of them making it the core conflict - how the Hell do you manage THAT!?), it contributes to Vaggie's overall performance this season looking really uninteresting and passive compared to her co-stars. (It's also why the reprise of "More Than Anything" in the final episode strikes me as the weakest song - possibly also the only bad one - apart from the crime of piggybacking off a great father-daughter song). So while I like "Welcome to Heaven" a lot and especially the fact that it provides Vaggie's high point, her passivity looks really bad here.

Much as I love "Nice Girl" Charlie...

...you cannot contain the awesomeness that is "Great Vengeance and Furious Anger" Charlie.

Especially compared with Emily.

Now that's a Power Couple! :twilightblush: (Apologies for the pun).

A.k.a. the one good angel who turns out to be exactly as nice as advertised, who has a cute rapport with Charlie, whose world comes tumbling down around her in a disillusioning betrayal, and who responds by becoming a righteous rebel alongside the Princess of Hell! Yeah, the season promptly drops that plot point - another frustrating bit of plot teasing - but while it lasts, holy hellfire this girl's on a roll! 😇:scootangel:

Yes! "Welcome to Heaven" makes up for Adam's lack of depth by giving us another bite of the apple. The premise alone is great, evoking the idea of Heaven and Hell being different nations sorting out a refugee immigration scheme by having Charlie take her case to the authorities directly. Naturally, the aim is to fail to convince them that a soul can be redeemed... except the wrinkle is that Angel Dust genuinely has changed, it's just the asylum's run by the lunatics.

Single best thing this episode does? Introducing moral greys and whites in Heaven. Firstly, the gatekeeper St. Peter (whose presence really raises biblical worldbuilding questions that I don't think this show can really answer) graciously rolls out the red carpet despite an initial misunderstanding. Then, once the glories of Heaven are briefly shown to us, with the internal conflict of the trial scene, since we're clued in early that Sera is NOT an impartial judge and the Exorcists are simultaneously attempting to shut down this "kindergarten snowflake bullshit" as prosecution...

What seems like a shaky but fair win for Charlie is quickly undermined, though. Emily kicks off the song "You Didn't Know" when everyone starts poking at the holes in Heaven's divine doctrines (or lack of understanding of the same). And then it goes from bad to worse.

So yeah, finally we can talk about the song!

"You Didn't Know" is a fast-paced, multi-tone song which puts the series' busyness (sometimes dismissed as "rushed", sometimes genuinely rushed) to superlative effect, as the song basically reflects the collapse of both sides' house of cards. Sera and Emily responding to the Extermination conspiracy being exposed, the visuals from the central observation bubble (especially the hellfire in Sera's eyes to show how low she's sunk), the back-and-forth between Emily and Charlie's increasing outrage, Adam and Lute getting more and more aggressive, the triumphant reprise of "Hell is Forever" as Emily and Charlie make clear how eerily similar their visual designs are, and how - right at the point when Charlie has Heaven in uproar - Adam finally drops the bombshell about Vaggie's past, complete with ominous shadow eclipsing Charlie in her moment of triumph.

Excuse us while we adopt...

...a form your modern understanding of biblical angels is more comfortable with.

As much as I've sung Emily's praises as a newcomer who quickly sides with the heroes out of moral commitment, Sera deserves mention as the complicating factor in all this, neither wholly good (because genocide, duh) nor wholly evil (she at least has some legitimate concerns mixed in with the dogmatism). I really like her inclusion in both story and song, sort of like if Princess Celestia had turned out to be 100% behind Nightmare Moon and was now being called out on it. Her aura of serene authority and (in some scenes) motherly concern towards Emily is an excellent counter to Adam's over-the-top crassness, and I wish she too had been brought back to do something in the finale instead of being sidelined.

All in all, it's an exhilarating ride, and the song settles down at last to sombrely and dramatically deliver the bad news (that the trial was a foregone conclusion and none of this changes anything). Adam delivers one last gut punch by vowing to attack the Hazbin Hotel first, which in dramatic narratological speak is as good as signing his own death warrant, even though a show like this can't even guarantee our beloved heroes will get off scot-free either.

Leaving us with the mouth-watering promise that everything's going down in the two-part finale, especially with the short scene of Sera worrying over the chance of Emily becoming a fallen angel. Holy heck, can you imagine if they did that!?

A lot of promise... that I don't think the show fully delivers on, and now we've got to wait for Season Two before we can judge the rest. Still, this massive showstopper remains standing when all else has wobbled or fallen flat on its face.

But there's a lot that we don't know.

🎵 It starts with sorry... 🎵


Before I reach our inevitable climax, a moment while I briefly summarize some of the songs that didn't make the Top Ten:


A.K.A. This is the song that immediately clues you in to Hazbin Hotel being more than an excuse for swears and innuendoes.

"I'm Always Chasing Rainbows"

Starting off with a vaudeville song - "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" - set to an otherwise wordless summary of the central conflict (the Extermination and its aftermath) makes obvious the theatrical - and later Broadway - inspiration for the musical side of the genre mash-up, whilst also grounding the later comedy in a serious cause. Make a fool of herself though Charlie shall, the opening clarifies why she's pushing against the popular tide on this, and pre-emptively shoots down the idea that Hazbin is here to make you laugh and nothing else.

Rewatching this after seeing the show, it's funny how you can simultaneously recognize the parade of characters in the early montage and immediately notice the wild differences in design (case in point: Carmine's overlarge hands and Velvette's crazier facial expressions). There's also a Samurai Jack level of random background characters, including some truly surreal designs (I think the show toned these down to generally more anthropomorphic forms).

It's probably a bit too dour to earn high marks, and feels oddly out of place compared to the zaniness that follows, but rest assured it's a good'un.


Incidentally, I love how this psychedelic colour scheme came back for "Hell's Greatest Dad".

"Inside of Every Demon is a Lost Cause"

Nothing wrong with this one really, beyond a more distracting voice change than the one between Edward Bosco and Amir Talai. Singing voice, in fact, is THE BlackGryph0n. Yes, THAT BlackGryph0n. It's a good song, right up Alastor's street, a complement (if not a complimentary one) to Charlie's "Inside of Every Demon is a Rainbow".

And yet I keep forgetting it exists, so I guess it just doesn't grab me as much as other songs do. "Welcome to Heaven" is in the same boat, funnily enough. Oh well. Dress 'em up for now.


I wish all snakes were this lovable. 🐍:heart:

"It Starts With Sorry"

Let me be clear here that I freaking love Sir Pentious. How the hell they took a series about corrupt everyday sinners and arrived at the idea of a Victorian steampunk supervillain who's as hammy as the Robot Devil (sounds a bit like him too, I thought) and about as effective as Dr Drakken on a bad day, I'll never know. Also, he's a snappy dresser, got a fantastic-even-by-this-show's-standards cobra hood design, and proves to be a major dork. Apparently, he was originally supposed to die in the pilot as a starter villain, but I'm incredibly glad they kept him around, because he's just too much fun.

That said, his portrayal in the series proper feels a tad "retconny" in some respects. They translate some elements well: his rivalry with Alastor, as already mentioned, and his bumbling inability to go a day without making a fool of himself.

Others come out of left field: his random crush on Cherri Bomb could've worked in a Foe Romantic Subtext sort of way, except his pilot self never expresses anything like that, so it just seems like they couldn't think of anything for the two archrivals to do (come to that, Cherri returning just for a night out before the finale feels like a downplaying of her anarchic fighting talents: she literally does more in the "Addict" music video).

And his steampunk "take over Pentagram City" angle sits oddly with his sudden motivation to impress the Vees. I can't see Vox wanting to associate his VoxTek brand with wholesale destruction.

The saddest part? His only song is poorly timed. "Radio Killed the Video Star" is a great episode up until the last five minutes, when the villain buildup and the comedic shenanigans (admittedly the "crackhead play" was a highlight) suddenly have to morph into Sir Pentious's dramatic character arc, and this is one of those times when "rushed" feels like a legitimate criticism.

I really feel bad about not feeling much for this song - schmaltzy it may be, but in the right place at the right time even schmaltz can work *cough*The Cutie Mark Chronicles*cough* - because Charlie and Sir Pentious getting along so well and her coming to his rescue should prove to be an emotional catharsis. Instead, it all happens so fast and too soon (this ep is one of two that would've benefitted from being turned into a two-parter) that it comes across as a naive, overhyped, and contrived cliffnotes version of what should have been either side's emotional conflicts.

Sir Precious - I mean, Sir Pentious - deserves better.


"Out for Love"

How weird is it that Carmilla Carmine gets or shares three songs this season? Even the likes of Angel Dust and Husk don't get that many, and they're main characters.

Anyway, it speaks to the quality of the songs that all three of these can be considered mid-tier, because they're still pretty strong. "Out for Love", in fact, is so good that you can ignore that it really just reiterates what we already know about Vaggie, and the only crucial information is how to kill an angel (also, how dumb is it that Vaggie was maimed by angelic weapons as a backstory and still never figured out that angels could be killed!?).

The two problems with Carmilla Carmine's subplot are thus (though admittedly personal rather than objective): one is that, having watched Helluva Boss where angelic technology is explicitly a game-changing big deal, this feels a tad like recycling plot points. The reveal was so obvious, in fact, that I thought it had to be just a piece of a bigger puzzle, like Carmine was secretly amassing weapons for an uprising (maybe organized by Lilith or Eve), and the Exorcist murder was her hand being forced too early, risking exposure of the conspiracy*. But no, it really was just as simple as "angels can be killed by angelic weaponry". I agree with Adam: "WEAK, DUDE!"

*On that note, the flashback stupidly messes up by pointlessly showing her being attacked by five Exorcists. Why? You could've just had her fight one alone, and now we're distracted and wondering where the other four disappeared off to: it's not like their bodies were left behind, nor was there any reason to leave one body if you had time to drag off four.

Two is that, while there is an air of menace and moral ambiguity in the weapons dealer having a motherly mentor side, her sideplot is subordinated to Vaggie's less compelling arc of 'fessing up. In the early going, it got so confusing that I wasn't surprised people started speculating that Vaggie was Carmine's daughter, and other fan theories.

Oh OK, one more thing that bugs me:

I mean, you've got a weapons dealer (who, also thanks to Helluva Boss, we know sells her wares to monstrous scumbags) who also has family values. That's got to cause some cognitive dissonance, right? I mean, how many families have been torn apart by her angelic weaponry?

And while we're on the subject, why on Earth are angels leaving their weapons behind in the first place? I guess it's supposed to be a smug complacency thing, but even then they have no reason to just abandon said weapons rather than keep them in hand. It's not like they're leaving behind disposable bullets; these are spears and knives, and their enemies literally can't do anything to fight back. Besides, doesn't the quartermaster give them hell if they go back empty-handed or something?

Get past the shaky context, and this song is good. Not enough to stand out in this lineup, but still... good.


I think this speaks for itself.

Also, Rosie is Best Character for making that "ace in the hole" pun.

"Ready For This"

I really wanted to include this one in the Top Ten lineup. It's awfully close. Although my opinion of the episode is overall low (or, more accurately, "not high"), Alastor proves the following rule true:

Any episode is automatically improved by having Alastor in it.

If it's a great episode, he'll make it greater. If it's a good episode, he'll make it great. If it's a meh episode, he'll largely redeem it. And there's this one, where an episode which (I think) seriously dropped the ball picks it up again and runs with it. Thank G- Thank goodn- Thank SOMEONE for Alastor!

Having mishandled the fallout of the previous episode's bombshell with a timeskip and most of the cast being indifferent to it, "Hello Rosie!" recovers by having Alastor - in a very Discord-antagonizing-Twilight kind of way - use the opportunity for intrigue and manipulation whilst still technically helping the hotel as per his promise*.

*On that note, is it just me or is Charlie slightly more gullible in the series than in the pilot? There, a big deal was made of her spotting Alastor for the sketchy deal-maker that he was, and she only accepts him because her principles demanded a sporting chance. Here, she seems a little too willing to believe him at times, even with the concession that she refuses to harm anyone for him and explicitly knows he's just hanging around to watch them fail on their own.

It's badly timed because - by this point in the tight series - we've got enough drama to chew on without throwing more meat into the pot, but once you get past that, the introduction of affably evil Rosie and her "proudly weird" Cannibal Town is straight out of the Tim Burton rulebook: you could easily imagine her among the cast of Corpse Bride. And the main selling point is the chance to eat angels rather than any noble notions of homeland defence. Delicious.

So I really can't explain why I don't rate this song higher, which echoes the wartime propaganda feel of something like "Our Town" (with inverted tones: "Our Town" is a happy song hiding a dark secret, whereas "Ready For This" is an openly cannibal-encouraging song for cheerfully taking a stand against an enemy).

It might just be the misfortune of being associated with an episode I'm not gung-ho about to begin with, or the exposure effect of having heard it in the trailers already. Again, there's nothing wrong with the song. It's funny, but "Stayed Gone" was hilarious. It's cheerful, but "Hell's Greatest Dad" was a joyfest. It's playfully ironic, but so was "Inside of Every Demon is a Rainbow" and "Happy Day in Hell". It's emotional for Charlie, but so was "More Than Anything". Um... it's got Alastor in it, but so did oh wait I already did those ones.

At the end of the day, I think it's just another backhanded compliment to the show's quality that a song as good as this one can be considered relatively average in context. I dunno.

So for this one time, you listen to it and decide if I'm just skewed in my tastes. It's a bit of a cheat (a sort of honorary eleventh), but I do feel bad for leaving it out, so here:


And now! The moment you've all been waiting for! Let's give it up for...

FINALE: "The Show Must Go On"

Of all the songs, this one is the most borderline. As a partial reprise of "Happy Day in Hell", it earns its spot better than "More Than Anything (Reprise)" did, and nearly everyone in the cast gets a moment to shine. So I'm not gonna lie: Lucifer, the Vees, and Alastor were the deciding factors for me here.

Since we're here, let me briefly cover the finale.


Good, borderline great, could've been better, could've been worse.*

*There's a weird "Star Trek movie curse" thing going on with my overall opinions of the show. All even-numbered episodes are generally in the top half of my rankings; all odd-numbered episodes are generally in the bottom half. The only exception is episode five - "Dad Beat Dad" - which supplants this episode for the top half. Weird.

If you throw in the pilot, I'd treat "0" as an even number. Mathematicians, forgive me, for I have sined.

Many of the established story elements were dropped to simplify this to a Hotel versus Exorcist battle. The Vees simply sit and watch. The Overlords are nowhere to be seen until the epilogue-esque finish. Sera and Emily have no influence on either side. And while Angel Dust and Husk are really the only hotel characters to get committed development, they're pretty much just faces in the crowd here, leaving Sir Pentious (whose only focus episode was rushed), Cherri Bomb (who barely had a focus episode), and Niffty (who... is a joke character*) to pick up the slack.

*That sounds more judgemental than I intended. If you're tickled pink by the idea of Izzy Moonbow loudly saying BDSM things, well, this show's got you covered. "YAY PAIN!" is a special highlight.

Maretime Bay would've been fucked if she'd turned up.

So the climax has had too many complications stripped away. Which is unfortunately just as well, as HOLY HELL SLOW DOWN ALREADY is a common problem throughout, making this the second episode that would've benefitted from becoming a two-parter. I don't think I've had to stop and rewind any other episode nearly as many times, and it robs Sir Pentious' last stand of its dramatic rights. The ending recovers it somewhat by assuring us via montages that this stuff hasn't been forgotten and might pay off in Season Two, but I feel like this didn't have to be a mutually exclusive thing. I mean, if Vox had secretly tried to sabotage Alastor's fight against Adam, that would have been something.

Get past those admittedly hefty hurdles, and the climax rocks at what it does. Adam - despite stating in the first episode that he doesn't come down personally - comes down personally and proves to be a formidable final boss.

Not only does he turn around his team's embarrassing first wave with a Megaton Punch (and is in full raging manchild mode from the moment Lute makes a Captain Obvious observation), but he in quick succession:

  • hands Alastor a well-managed yet dramatic curb-stomp,
  • ends up being the ironic catalyst to Sir Pentious' finest achievement,
  • forces Charlie to stop holding back (admittedly in a very "You Go Girl" kind of fight that unfortunately ends with her needing her dad to bail her out),
  • reduces the hotel to rubble,
  • and gets a great sendoff at the hands of Lucifer totally Discord-trolling him, Charlie activating the "Final Mode Sneak Peek" (Nephilim?) super mode, his mask breaking - revealing what an ordinary guy he ultimately is under the dark glamour - and getting a comedic yet slightly pitiful finisher.

So yeah, traditional "bad guy dies" ending.

I'd probably feel bad for them if they weren't the two vilest characters in the show.

After a very backhanded exposition news bulletin half-heartedly celebrates this (love the insane crawls at the bottom of every broadcast), Charlie and the others pick through the ruins of the iconic Hazbin Hotel, and at this point the song waves us goodbye till four, three years from now.

What do I think?

For a bittersweet ending, most of the song I think leans a little too far to the "sweet" side of the scale. Yeah, the Extermination (somehow) has been called off, and Adam's (probably) not coming back from that, but what's overall changed?

Heaven aren't likely to look kindly on a retaliatory uprising - if anything, you'd expect Sera to treat this as her worst fear come true if not go all Sunk Costs Fallacy on it. Certainly Lute isn't the sort of bloodthirsty maniac you can trust to stay away. Emily proved incapable of preventing the Exorcists, suggesting that Sera still holds ultimate authority here, and Adam proves that long-range attacks (light beams) are possible for angels that can also open sky portals over Hell at will. That suggests a very ugly future on the horizon.

I say "suggests", but this look is more along the lines of "death-pact promises with a bloody vengeance".

Beyond that, what did the Hotel accomplish here? Exchanging a massacre for a war is still a long way away from Charlie's protective, rehabilitative goals. Sure, we know Sir Pentious (wonderfully) vindicates Charlie's beliefs, but she doesn't know that, and even if she did, taking six months to redeem one soul likely isn't going to impress an "overpopulation-obsessed" Sera. All she's otherwise got is a 50% reduction on patrons and the sore memory of Angel Dust being rejected by a council of seraphim, who correctly pointed out that none of his good actions resulted in him ascending there and then. And presumably he has to die to get there, which seems way too big an ask when no one actually knows which specific rule saved Sir Pentious (although we can safely guess).

Worse, Hell is still a hellhole with a hugely awkward slavery system to boot (just ask Husk) - which raises the question of whether owning someone's soul is a complicating factor - they don't know that sinners can be redeemed into Heaven yet, and now all of Hell's denizens are aware of angelic technology's capabilities against angels themselves.

Remember that Lucifer, Charlie, and Vaggie all count as angels. Whether or not the older overlords have any interest in reshaping the political landscape, the Vees sure as hell won't be slow to catch on. Heck, we can't even rule out Alastor filing this information away for later use.

Granted, being able to fight back rather than being forced to endure another purge is a major advantage, and Charlie can still claim the Hotel is a safe space for souls who want a more hospitable environment than the rest of Hell can offer, especially with Lucifer backing her now. Still, this seems precariously not much better overall than where she was at the beginning of the series.

Long story short, Heaven and the rest of Hell are still capable of causing major grief, and Charlie's scheme (as far as she knows) got no further than making Angel Dust et al good drinking buddies. Protection's shaky and rehabilitation uncertain.

Yeah, but the battle was pretty epic, right?


So...

...other than that?

I think it goes without saying that the main reasons I like the song are because they acknowledge these complications. Charlie starts off despairing, Lucifer has to acknowledge the wreckage before boldly dropping the song title, the Vees gleefully (if prematurely) dance about Alastor's failure and all-but-promise to make Season Two interesting -


Speaking of the Vees, their inclusion in the song is the second saving grace of their overall inclusion in the finale (the first is their hilarious reactions to the drama unfolding, especially Vox's out-of-control manchild tantrums). I mean, any excuse to hear Christian Borle as Vox singing, though Joel Perez gets to join in and make me wish Valentino had his own song too. Velvette's still "just there"*, though she gets an oddly nice moment of her filming the other two like an indulgent big sister watching over her brothers after they win the Super Bowl.

*I also like how she has a different hairdo and costume every time we see her. Drives home the fashion angle. She's like an unholy cross between Rarity and Vignette Valencia, but without the pretentious charm.

Politics is one of the unexpected pleasures of Hazbin Hotel, not just because we're gradually introduced to the overlord system and who's who in it (and the colourful range of characters involved), but because that's where the simultaneously capable yet overconfident Vees come into their own. Alastor is almost Vetinari-esque in his ability to commandeer situations to his advantage (and his unexpected affinity for powerful women - Rosie is the Lady Margolotta in this comparison), so the Vees spotting any advantage over him in turn is always a promising development.

Plus, villains being cheerful has a whole different register to heroes being cheerful, so their part of the final song comes across as much more gripping and real than the part where the cast happily rebuild the hotel like it's nothing. Points to the Vees.


...and remember what I said before about the Alastor Rule?

"Sorry to disappoint"? Oh Alastor, you never disappoint.

It's only a short section of song, but good grief: this must be one of the best Alastor moments in the entire show. The implications are crazy.

It's dark, brooding, and contrasts with his usual ironic cheeriness to make his perma-smile even more unsettling. It's the sort of villainous outpouring of emotion that's both classy and abominable, and it's alarming to hear Alastor on the verge of a breakdown whilst still holding on to his sanity. The twisted part? He's alarmed by his own altruistic moment. Someone like him refuses to cave in, and instead he promises to double down on his evil.

Alastor's dark epiphany marks a strong contrast with Sir Pentious. Both of them threw themselves into battle, both of them held their own quarters surprisingly well given the opposition, but what separates them is their attitude to the ultimate push-comes-to-shove test. The instant Alastor realizes he's on the losing side, he bails, apparently not even prepared to reach for angelic weaponry. Meanwhile, Sir Pentious dimly seems aware that he's not coming back from his kamikaze stunt, so he takes one last moment to finish business* before going all in and making sure he dies with (attempted) style.

*As much as I love him finally plucking up the nerve to confess to Cherri, might I ruin the moment by wondering what if Cherri still wasn't interested in him?

How ironic is it, therefore, that Alastor's refusal to weaken himself leaves him vulnerable to the Vees (who weren't slow to notice his wounds), whereas Sir Pentious' futile death ends up granting him a historical achievement and more power than any other sinner has possessed? For all his awesome talents, Alastor is betrayed by his own need to remain on top and in control; Sir Pentious was a nobody in Hell's circles and got killed anticlimactically, and yet his move not only supported Charlie in life (because she finally gets angry enough to unleash her full power against Adam, which leads to Lucifer joining the fight), but supported her in death (proving her quest was worthwhile after all). And while not completely safe, Sir Pentious has willing and able allies in both Heaven and Hell; Alastor is surrounded by enemies.

Classic villain stuff, and Alastor didn't even need to be killed off to make it work. He's still around, ready to continue being entertaining and awesome for Season Two. It's a much-needed vulnerable glimpse behind the curtain in between his grand performances.

Oh, and...

God help us all.


Lastly, for all the bittersweet balancing, the finale's final song is a big ol' number to go out on (the Sir Pentious stinger being the right final note; the Lilith stinger I'm less certain about), and it fits the show's big ol' musical personality to a tee. Well done, Hazbin Hotel. The ride was rickety and I could have done with a bit less speeding over certain scenic parts, but you stuck the landing. Well done indeed.

Christ, waiting for Season Two is gonna be sooo haaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. :raritydespair:


So there you go! Hazbin Hotel as seen through its incredible song numbers, specifically the cream of the crop ("And that's the tea!"). Far from a flawless show by any means - and not minor flaws either - I concur that its massively impressive strengths outweigh even its deepest weaknesses, and I definitely hope Season Two either keeps up the standard or elevates it to a whole new level. Or at least pays off the plot teasers and slows down a tad.

One of the things that really stuck out to me from Day One - back when the unexpectedly nuclear bomb of the pilot was all we had to go on - is the way this is secretly a torch-bearer for the "New Optimism" of Friendship is Magic. Not just the diverse cast with their own problems (though higher-grade mature problems than anything you'd catch e.g. Rarity, Applejack, or Fluttershy dealing with), nor the Disney Princess vibe, but the overall feeling of something big and new and unexpected being done with it. It reminds me of how pony early on caught my imagination and spurred my writing on to new heights. Especially now that pony somewhat palls for me beyond nostalgic revisits, it's wonderful having some fresh, exciting content to spark the old brain cells again.

Whether or not the bump up to sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll is a deal-breaker, I'd heartily recommend at least checking out the series. Preferably from the pilot onwards if you can, as so much pays off better that way (shouldn't have to say that, and that is another flaw of the series, but so it goes).

And as indicated here, whatever else happens, we got ourselves a jukebox of devilishly delightful song numbers for all tones and tastes. Few things echo the early experimentalism of the show more than the parade of Bridleway-style musical magic, which takes a good show and pushes it into great territory as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I've listened to some of these songs repeatedly.

That's probably all for now. I've been bursting to talk about this show for a while, but only on this Sunday have I found the chance to just gush over it (and get out my less-uncritical thoughts). Hopefully, this is a chance to get 2024 blogs kicked off properly. For now, I hope you enjoy this particular chart's greatest hits, and always keep chasing that rainbow. 🌈

"Stay tuned!" :raritystarry::raritywink:


OK, that's all for now! Impossible Numbers, out.

Comments ( 11 )

I mean, if we're talking purely about rock...

Then Hell Is Forever has to take the top spot.

My general top five, though? In a vaguely defined order, because they swap places a lot:

1. Finale
2. Stayed Gone
3. You Didn't Know
4. Ready For This
5. Poison

Now those are generally my favorites in terms of jamming to. Honorable mention towards Hell Is Forever (it would probably be #6 in my ranking), Loser Baby, and Hell's Greatest Dad.

From a sentimental, emotional standpoint though, Whatever It Takes and More Than Anything (Reprise) are my undisputeds. Charlie and Vaggy remind my girlfriend and I so much of ourselves.

5770728

I mean, if we're talking purely about rock...

Then Hell Is Forever has to take the top spot.

:moustache: OK, I walked into that one. :trollestia:

The sum total of my thoughts on this show is that Keith David calling someone a "One star review-ster" was Broadway-worthy and he has the perfect singing voice for doing it.

It felt rushed fr me despite it taking years fr these eps

Keith David was an awesome choice, at times I could hear Goliath n Facilier when he spoke

Fav songs:
Stayed Gone
Poison
Repectless
Inside of Every Demon is a Lost Cause
Ready For This

Since I don't:

Venture very far out onto the internet, this is the first discussion of this show that I've seen. I've been quite enjoying it and fervantly hope that the writers won't take the usual and easy way out when it comes to Heaven. They've already established quite strongly that the angels aren't in charge there and that they don't really have any contact with whoever is in charge. So let's see God as a character in the show with a musical number: that's what I wanna see! :pinkiehappy:

Mike

5770853

The sum total of my thoughts on this show is that Keith David calling someone a "One star review-ster" was Broadway-worthy and he has the perfect singing voice for doing it.

...and...

5770873

Keith David was an awesome choice, at times I could hear Goliath n Facilier when he spoke

Ha! Yeah, loved how Keith David was basically singing for one verse about how much of a loser the other guy is. And from his character Husk's perspective: much as the song turns out to be quite friendly, there had to be a bit of schadenfreude there for all the nonsense he's gotten off Angel Dust.

Needs more songs, definitely. "Loser, Baby" was golden.

It felt rushed fr me despite it taking years fr these eps

It's a problem in the first half of the pilot as well; some of those transitions were brutal.

Funny thing is that I see this "rushed" criticism frequently, and while it's not wrong per se, I think it's a bit too imprecise. My own take is that it's a bit too much of a catch-all for specific episode problems (or sometimes that an episode is "busy" rather than "rushed", to its benefit). So in specifics:

  • A lot of the first ep's problems could be fixed simply by making the pilot the official Episode One, meaning "Overture" can cut e.g. the character roll-call checklist exposition dump at the start and properly focus on the Exorcist arc. If that wasn't an option, then remake the pilot as a proper first ep and proceed from there.
  • The second episode is mostly fine, but it drops Angel's arc and crams Sir Pentious' into the last few minutes, which is why I felt it needed to be a two-parter to accommodate both (also because then it could be a proper character study of Sir Pentious and bridge the gap between his pilot and canon selves properly).
  • The third ep I think is fine pacing-wise; it just has the misfortune of making its B-plot leagues more intriguing than its A-plot.
  • Episodes four through to six I think are pretty much perfect as-is.
  • The seventh felt misdirected and needed an overhaul from the ground up, or else Rosie needed to be introduced in a separate episode much earlier.
  • The eighth episode, though, is genuinely too fast from start-to-finish and easily the worst offender. Badly needed to be a two-parter.

Another problem I agree with is that the core "friendship group" don't get enough development beyond Angel Dust and Husk's friendship. A reviewer once suggested that more eps were needed in the middle to properly flesh them out so that the impact of the final run (from "Dad Beat Dad" onward) hit more deeply, and I find myself in complete agreement (not just because more character study eps like "Masquerade" would have been awesome).

So potentially a more anime-esque twelve or thirteen? I don't know how feasible that would've been in the time allocated, though I note Helluva Boss is planned to have twelve eps in its second season, but again, no idea what backstage is like in that YouTube context versus this professional one...


5770878

this is the first discussion of this show that I've seen

I've seen a few, but generally they were either brief or didn't really capture what made the show click for me.

They've already established quite strongly that the angels aren't in charge there and that they don't really have any contact with whoever is in charge. So let's see God as a character in the show with a musical number: that's what I wanna see! :pinkiehappy:

I really find it hard to believe they'll go in that direction, partly because of the audience uproar that would ensue. It seems more likely to me they'll go the Good Omens route and lean hard on a comedic "ineffability" angle:

God moves in extremely mysterious, not to say, circuitous ways. God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players*, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

5770728
5770878
5770853
5770873

While we're discussing songs, any thoughts on "Addict"?

I'd be tempted to put it in my Top Ten, though I think "Poison" beats it hands down for sheer impact ("Addict" merely hints at what "Poison" brutally exposes). On the other hand, Cherri Bomb definitely needs her own song (preferably with the Aussie accent), and this is the closest we got at the moment.

5770911

It seems more likely to me they'll go the Good Omens route and lean hard on a comedic "ineffability" angle

I agree:

That's likely what they'll do. But it'd be oh, so nice if they didn't... :scootangel:

Mike

5770913 ADDICT is definitely on my fave Hazbin songs list, heard a version of it with the Vees

5770911 wish to have Keith do another song, maybe a solo song
Most series would have 12-24 eps a season, branch out things ya know n build em up giving more to the characters

I haven't got much time to watch just about anything as of late, but I have seen the pilot along with a few videos, and it is indeed very good and full of potential. I loved Addict the most, but that's probably because I didn't begin to watch the official episodes. I like Charlie's first pilot song, too, but a little too chaotic for my taste. I've heard that this show and Helluva Boss has an all-star team working behind it so I'm not at all surprised by its good reviews. Hopefully I can get to it sooner. And I would like so sing some of those songs. The best songs work the best in a performance.

By the way, this reminds me of a creator I followed on another platform who works on an Hazbin Hotel and MLP crossover redesign. So far they're looking really cool and have a bunch of great character behind it. (yeah it's in a different language and this website doesn't work well on cellphones but the creator's not American and the website's compatibility isn't the best. I hope I can translate it someday for people to see.)
【【小马宝莉/MLP】小马利亚客栈人物简介【一】-哔哩哔哩】 https://b23.tv/iAdlOJK
【【小马宝莉/MLP】小马利亚客栈人物简介【二】-哔哩哔哩】 https://b23.tv/ZytOoRh
Looks cool doesn't it? (Hopefully I'm not off-topic and that the links work, I just like these ideas quite a bit and thought this may be somewhat relevant:twilightblush:)

Really, back about songs, canon stuff is good but I usually listen to the fans' creation in whatever fandom I am in. I tend to overthink about canon material and songs like those distracts me more from work.

5771396

【【小马宝莉/MLP】小马利亚客栈人物简介【一】-哔哩哔哩】 https://b23.tv/iAdlOJK
【【小马宝莉/MLP】小马利亚客栈人物简介【二】-哔哩哔哩】 https://b23.tv/ZytOoRh

Damn, that does look great. Favourites have got to be Pinkie's Velvette-esque design, Hellhound Applejack, Celestia "Lucifer", and Imp Sunset.

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