Picture a halfway house for demons and the damned, a purgatory with room service, and a bartender skilled in serving drinks and tough love. This is Hazbin Hotel, the brainchild of hell’s princess, Charlie Morningstar (Erika Henningsen). With infectious enthusiasm, Charlie, adorned in a red tuxedo, pitches rehabilitation over annihilation to sinners and angels alike.
In this tale, heaven’s angels invade hell to eliminate its denizens, preventing overcrowding and securing the golden gates. Charlie believes in redemption for the damned, hoping to change hearts and minds to allow them to ascend. Creator Vivienne Medrano, known online as VivziePop, paved the way for this Prime Video series through a crowd-funded YouTube pilot, webcomics, and a sultry music video, creating a devoted fandom. However, the initial three episodes of Hazbin Hotel may not captivate newcomers as much as those already enamored with hell’s eccentric characters.
The first episode delves into exposition, explaining Charlie’s story and Medrano’s reimagined Christian lore. The second episode builds rivalries among demons involved in propaganda, prostitution, and drugs. While jaunty songs like “Happy Day in Hell” establish the bizarre world of temptation and decadence, they lean more towards Broadway than badass.
The dialogue, rich in curse words, feels out of place, especially against an animation style reminiscent of Disney XD. Hazbin Hotel could easily fit into shows like Gravity Falls, Amphibia, The Owl House, or Star vs. The Forces of Evil, with the only clash being its minimalist red/black/pink color scheme. Despite the unexpected mix of Disney vibes and explicit language, it lacks satisfying subversion. Kids’ shows exploring colonization, family secrets, and queer characters feel more thrilling.
However, episode 4, titled “Masquerade,” marks a potential turning point. The hotel’s rowdy residents, including surly Vaggie (Stephanie Beatriz), kinky maid Niffty (Kimiko Glenn), and the Radio Demon (Amir Talai), shine, but it’s Angel Dust (Blake Roman) and bartender Husk (Keith David) who steal the spotlight. In “Poison,” Angel, trapped in a toxic relationship, reveals his pain through a scorching pop banger, challenging expectations. A subsequent duet with Husk explores unexpected comfort in a character-driven narrative, transcending the series’ cutesy meets crass aesthetic.
As the focus shifts to Charlie, the series’ most childish character, doubts arise about its potential emotional depth. The following episode, “Daddy Issues,” introduces more characters but lacks depth. Over its first season’s nine episodes, Hazbin Hotel may overcome growing pains to establish a unique chord rather than a reaction to previous hyperactive heroines. Presently, Medrano’s expansion from online works appears flashy but thin.