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From Hell to High Notes: HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 is Sinfully Entertaining

Charlie stands in front of a bar with happiness in her eyes
Image courtesy of Prime Video

By Sarah Musnicky

People frequently dismiss animation as being for kids or, if targeting adults, lowbrow. Animation can be anything. It can be blasphemous, fanatical, and downright wholesome. In the case of Vivienne Medrano’s HAZBIN HOTEL, it can be all of the above. In HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1, this adult-geared animated series turns into a hellishly dapper musical dissecting religion, sexual abuse, petty rivalries, and more. Produced by A24 and animation studio Bento Box, HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 rewards longtime fans and is guaranteed to convert some newbies into sinners.

HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 starts immediately after where the pilot episode left off. Charlie Morningstar (Erika Henningsen) aims to rehabilitate sinners in the Hazbin Hotel. Coming off the most recent extermination from Heaven, she hopes that her experiment will work to spare her people further suffering. Unfortunately, Adam (Alex Brightman) has other plans. Fueled by bloodlust and disdain for the lesser sinners, he moves up the subsequent extermination of Hell’s residents to happen in six months.

The clock is ticking for Charlie. The odds are stacked against her and her dreams. Aided by her girlfriend, Vaggie (Stephanie Beatriz), the mysteriously eccentric radio demon, Alastor (Amir Talai), and the hotel’s sparse residents, Charlie hopes she can prove to Heaven (and herself) that she can help get sinners to heaven.

HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 expands on the world Medrano crafted. We get glimpses of different Overlords and areas under the Pentagram and peek inside Heaven. Each section feels unique, giving us insight into how each area and its people operate. The Cannibal Town section is arguably a favorite as it dives deep into turn-of-the-century early 1900s aesthetic vibes. This throwback adds to the overall dapper vibe picked up from Hell.

The aesthetic choices of Hell link to a phrase that resurfaces throughout HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 – hell is forever. Hell is forever, and so are the vibes each sinner embraces. Whether it’s Alastor’s Jazz Age era radio vibes to Angel Dust’s (Blake Roman) and Valentino’s (Joel Perez) more ‘70s Mafia-oriented looks, how the characters dress and behave reflects their post-death stasis. It gives us a peek inside the characters without even opening their mouths.

Animated character with a cheshire grin
Image courtesy of Prime Video

That said, the voice cast of HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 is full of incredible vocal talent. From Alex Brightman’s distinctive vocal stylings to Erika Henningsen’s Disney princess-like singing voice to Keith David’s smooth-sounding Husk, no one gets lost in the fold. However, a real standout is Amir Talai’s Alastor. Taking over for Edward Bosco, Talai gives an eerie sensibility to Alastor that radiates offscreen. The transatlantic accent induces nostalgia, while the static radio effects layered over the voice remind us of Alastor’s demonic qualities. I imagine Alastor will be a fan favorite for many due to this.

In general, HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 is not for children. There's cursing, sexy times, and violence, of course. So, parents, keep your younglings away. That said, HAZBIN HOTEL handles its subject matters with nuance and care. Its dissection of the gray areas of morality and how operating in black and white harms more than helps is dealt with in an impactful way. Using musical numbers as the vehicle to parse these subjects, we learn more about the characters and the series’ themes through these catchy bops. There’s another essay here about how musicals are a great way to convey important messages, but that’s for another time.

From a storytelling perspective, HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 does suffer some pacing issues from Adam and Charlie’s meeting in Episode 1 to the six-month mark. It could plausibly be explained away as time in hell moving at a different rate, but there is a whiplash at around Episode 5 when you realize how close to extermination day we are. The finale episode also reads rushed after all the build-up in tension across the season. A slightly longer episode order may have assisted this, but it’s difficult to say.

I advise newcomers to watch the pilot on YouTube before diving into HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1. It introduces the characters and situations that feel otherwise missing from Episode 1. That doesn’t mean Episode 1 doesn’t operate well as a standalone. The pilot helps fill in the missing puzzle piece the series needs to introduce characters better.

All in all, HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 has me hooked. Its characters are addicting, with many undergoing the necessary character growth to accomplish their goals. Those lacking in growth? Well, that’s kind of the point. With the finale episode setting up the stakes for next season, there’s much to keep fans on their toes. Thankfully, these well-written, toe-tapping songs hold us over until we’re weak at the knees with anticipation.

HAZBIN HOTEL Season 1 is streaming exclusively on Prime Video.


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