Hazbin Hotel: Revolutionary animated show, or just another has been?

WARNING: this review contains mentions of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape.


My one-sided beef with Vivienne Medrano goes way back. I followed her on DeviantArt, and me and my artist friends adored her quirky and unique, cartoony art style that captured an air of whimsy I hadn’t seen from many cartoonists. She mainly published short animations until she released the 30-minute pilot of Hazbin Hotel in 2019. I despised it. The overcomplicated characters, complex animation that must have been a pain to animate for a small indie team, the cringe dialogue, and the eye pain inducing color scheme left little else to desire. Despite the criticism, she continued to independently publish the sister show Helluva Boss

A still from the pilot. This was so edgy it gave me blunt force trauma

A24 eventually picked it up as a test for their animation department. Despite loving almost everything A24 puts out (personal favorites being Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Disaster Artist), I remained skeptical. Vivienne had garnered a less than stellar reputation due to her encouragement of harassing people on Twitter, and her angry rants whenever someone criticized the pilot. After 4+ years, the show finally released on Amazon Prime with much fanfare. Despite my initial reluctance, my friends hit me with the famous phrase: “you can’t criticize the show if you haven’t actually seen it.” I relented. They gave me some snacks and we watched the show together. After some time absorbing, I reached my final verdict:


Hazbin Hotel is a pizza cutter: all edge and no point.


Let’s talk about the good before the bad. Some of the music was catchy and fun, my personal favorite being Hell Is Forever. One of the guys from The Living Tombstone (best known for this song) created most of the soundtrack, which pleasantly surprised me. If you like Broadway showtunes, electro swing, and a bit of pop, you’ll like the music. The voice acting was fantastic aside from one instance. Good Broadway talent goes a long way for a musical TV show. The animation was decent for the most part, with it being much more fluid and restrained than the pilot. 


To start with the best of the worst: Vaggie, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, was a letdown. I’m not sure who gave Beatriz direction, but most of her lines felt flat and emotionless when I knew they weren’t supposed to be. Her fallen angel reveal was interesting, but the execution was so poorly done. It made no sense why Vaggie wanted to hide that, considering her girlfriend is the physical embodiment of “everyone can be redeemed”. This is Charlie’s core ideology for her entire life even before the events of the show, so it isn’t like Vaggie is afraid Charlie is lying. The whole conflict in episode 6 thus feels contrived; just there to create unnecessary conflict. Not to mention her whole relationship with Charlie felt extremely one-sided. Her entire character revolved around making Charlie happy and that was it. I could excuse this if they acted like a couple, but they didn’t refer to themselves as girlfriends until episode 5, and didn’t kiss until episode 8. For a series that prides itself on how raunchy and adult it is, having the one WLW (women-loving women) couple be as chaste and hand hold-y as they are doesn’t sit well. Not to mention that Vaggie, the only lesbian character, is just named after Vagina. As a bisexual woman, you’d think Vivienne would know better.


Charlie wasn’t a great main character. Ironically, this is the big criticism my friends warned about before going in. Despite being the princess of hell and supposedly one of the most powerful characters within the main cast, she is constantly pushed aside, treated as a joke, and more times than not, needs either Alastor or her father Lucifer to swoop in and save her. Half the time I was screaming at her to exert her power in some way, and even then, she didn’t do that until the very last episode. Despite Vivienne claiming that this is a “woman led series”, the women in this show take the backseat to men multiple times.


The character designs have been contentious, to say the least. Someone much funnier than me described the show as “Onceler’s all the way down”, and I have to agree. The entire show is 90% some kind of reddish color palette, which isn’t cohesive, it’s eyeball burning. Group scenes with 5+ characters had me struggling to figure out where they began and where the background ended. It’s no surprise that upon looking up art online, a decent amount is of people redesigning the characters.  Demons can look like almost anything! Why are almost all of them twigs with tophats and shark teeth? I want to see eldritch horrors and chubby/muscular body types and even more animalistic demons that walk on all fours. It becomes monotonous and boring; less uniting the characters to have one theme and more showing how uncreative the designers are. 

Hey, did you know the whitewashed onceler on the left is supposed to be the almighty lucifer? From the bible? Giving credit where credit is due: The golden fiddle was a nice little easter egg if you listened to The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels.

Despite the show being named Hazbin Hotel, the hotel is the most under-utilized thing in the show! Only two actual guests stay at the hotel (one of them joined in the pilot, which unfortunately requires viewing if you want to get the whole story) which is baffling. Not to mention the lackluster strategies for redemption that get shown off for five minutes before the real plot of the episode kicks in. This is the perfect setup for a “sinner of the week” type of show, where Vivienne can show off all her weird and wacky designs and it will feel like the plot actually moved along! 


The overarching plot of the show is less “we have to redeem sinners” and more “Angels are actually the bad guys,” complete with an unnecessary 6-month time limit to light a fire under the main character’s ass. With only 2.5 hours of show so far (not including the 30-minute pilot), the atrocious pacing and vague timeline leaves little room for character development. And with that comes the unfortunate side effect that none of the characters are all that developed. We don’t really know why many of the characters are in hell in the first place, how sinners vs hellborn work, what makes them different, etc. For the sinners we do know about, it’s clear that none of them are deserving of redemption anyway (ironically Alastor points this out too)! Most of them are murderers/possess volatile tendencies (Angel Dust, Nifty, Cherri Bomb, etc.), and/or are horrible, crass people who have little redeeming qualities other than a few funny quips or a sad backstory (Alastor, Husk, Carmilla, etc.). If they wanted to go for a corrupt heaven storyline, the show should have focused on sinners who tried to do good in life but failed for petty reasons. Not the worst of the worst! The show does a poor job of convincing me to root for any of these people, and even their “character development” is lackluster and way too fast. 


The worst part of the show is the hypocrisy surrounding sexual assault. This may be strange, despite praises for episode four, the Angel Dust focused episode where we learn about his abusive “relationship” with Valentino. In episode Six, part of the hotel crew goes to a club. Near the end of the episode is a scene where Sir Pentious is dragged away by two background characters into a sex room, without his consent. There is no deeper meaning. No deep insight into how damaging sexual assault is. You’re supposed to laugh at the implication that a character gets gang raped off screen. Sir Pentious gets no dramatic pop musical number or any grace. It’s an event that happened. This double standard, where the favorite character gets a whole episode dedicated to how traumatized he is from his sexual assault, but another character’s similar experience is played for laughs ruins any sort of pro survivor message it’s trying to put out. It’s not fair to the survivors who felt episode four spoke to them. It’s not fair to people who have been in Pentious’ position, with the implication that their experience “isn’t as bad” as Angel Dust’s.  It’s the worst part of the show because it ruins the one, positive thing that might have come out of it. 

I think I made Vox’s exact expression 20 times while watching. Also did you know that Valentino is supposed to be a moth? I didn’t until right before the show’s release.

We are in a renaissance of adult animated shows that take the audience seriously. Shows like Bojack Horseman, Arcane, Love, Death, and Robots, and The Midnight Gospel all strive to give complexity, even with only 9-12 episodes per season. Hazbin feels more like a show aimed at teenagers who still laugh when people say the word “dick”. One of my friends said that the show feels stuck in the past; made for the Halcyon days when DeviantArt ruled the creative side of the internet. I truly believe there is something special underneath the mess. I wanted a show that challenged my ideals about morality, love, religion, and redemption. The only challenge Hazbin Hotel gave me was the one to keep the TV on until the end.

Jenna Stolzberg

She/Her. Lover of video games, screenwriting, and screaming at the television. Though I hate, I am free