REVIEW: Hazbin Hotel Finale Goes For Love & War

Hazbin Hotel wraps up Season 1 with a satisfying and stellar conclusion to a build-up that has been in the works since the series made landfall.

Created and directed by Vivienne Medrano, Hazbin Hotel is the co-production of animation studios SpindleHorse Toons and Bento Box in association with A24 and Amazon Studios.

The main cast includes Erika Henningsen as Princess Charlotte “Charlie” Morningstar, Stephanie Beatriz as Vaggie, Blake Roman as Angel Dust, and Amir Talai as Alastor the Radio Demon, with Alex Brightman playing both Sir Pentious and the angel Adam, Jeremy Jordan as Lucifer Morningstar, and Keith David as Husk. Hazbin Hotel is a smash hit adult cartoon that, unlike its contemporaries, is really more of a workplace drama set in the Biblical Hell.

The titular Hazbin Hotel is a hotel where Hell’s denizens are rehabilitated in the hopes of making them worthy of moving from eternal damnation to Heaven.

Every religious culture around the world has a version of the underworld where damned souls go to suffer the consequences of their sinful lives on Earth.

The current and most popular concept of Hell is taken from Christianity. Specifically, it’s based on a combination of the New Testament’s depictions and the church’s later interpretations.

Hell is popularly portrayed as a land drowning in eternal fire, torture, and debauchery that the Catholic Church considers a world excommunicated from God’s kingdom and love.

But the most imaginatively terrifying depiction did not come from any religious institution, but rather from the pen of the 13th Century Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, whose Divine Comedy (most notably Dante’s Inferno) gave a graphic description of the Nine Circles of Hell.

Standing in opposition to Heaven, the netherworld gets a bad reputation. But is there really no hope for its denizens to redeem themselves for their past? Hazbin Hotel has been asking that same exact question throughout its extravagant musical numbers and surprisingly deep character study. The final episodes hammered this point home, as the hotel and its management incurred the wrath of Heaven through no fault of their own.

As the last two episodes (Episode 7 “Hello Rosie!” and Episode 8 “The Show Must Go On”) dropped together, the final chapter of Hazbin Hotel’s debut season delved into a desperate attempt to give sinners a second chance at redemption. But to the dismay of the ever-hardworking Charlie, Heaven is not ready to hear any of it, leaving Adam and his bloodthirsty angelic army to go on with their slated extermination of Hell.

This feeling of losing from all sides without even being given an honest chance to prove herself forms the crux of Charlie’s tribulations. The episodes have significantly contrasting pacing. One would focus on building up the tension with introspective moments punctuating the story, and the other showcase an all-out war that widens the divide between Heaven and Hell.

The frenetic energy of Hazbin Hotel’s animation style comes as a boon for the storytelling. The animation’s bonkers tone perfectly mirrors the up-and-down trajectory of the story, serving heart-wrenching drama, shocking betrayals, and the tragedy of war all at once. Hazbin Hotel started with the simple assumption that the nature of people is hard to change, especially in a literal hellscape that encourages bad behavior. But as the characters changed themselves, they changed the audience’s presumption of them, and that was by no means a small feat.

Hazbin Hotel’s penultimate episode showed the aftermath of Heaven’s decision to let the extermination proceed as planned after they refused to validate Charlie’s efforts to elevate the position of her people. This left her in a dump, and made her easy prey for Alastor’s plans. However, both characters saw it as an opportunity to use one another.

Charlie made the first inroads into taking up the mantle of Hell’s throne. Before Hazbin Hotel lunged into its final episode, it tied up all its loose ends. From closing the book on Vaggie’s past and reaffirming her love for Charlie, to revealing the truth behind the weapons that can become Hell’s salvation, there was a lot that happened in Hazbin Hotel Season 1’s final hour. While comedy might be the farthest thing in everybody’s mind at this point, director Vivienne Medrano still found a place for fun and jokes.

She sometimes even made them the highlight of scenes inadvertently through her impeccable sense of narrative rhythm. The latter also came out in the musical numbers, which never broke the storytelling but elevated them and furthered the plot, making them an integral part of the characters’ being and expression. With the finale reaching a pulsating climactic battle, Charlie found people beside her who finally saw her not only as a co-worker or friend, but as a leader for the first time.

Hazin Hotel Put Its Characters’ Emotions at the Forefront

At its denouement, Hazbin Hotel found its leads in an emotional wreck. While the unjust treatment of Heaven was to blame, it served more as a setting than a reason. Hazbin Hotel’s character-driven nature has so far guided fans through the challenges faced by each Hazbin resident trying to justify their existence in a cruel world.

Since the beginning, they found it hard to express themselves, with Charlie trying her utmost to help them open up, stumbling, falling, and ultimately making some surprising breakthroughs. One of the characters who was out of the limelight, for the most part, was Vaggie, and her proactive hiding of her angelic past comes back to haunt her in the finale.

Buried under responsibility and betrayal, Charlie found herself at a juncture where the fate of the world now rested on her choices. It took time for the lovebirds to come out of their woodwork, but it was all the more satisfying to see them reconcile and be ready for the war ahead. Even more gratifying was seeing Charlie’s friends fight beside her, which was a huge payoff for all her troubles and sacrifices thus far.

Erika Henningsen, as Charlie, did an exemplary job of voicing a person cheery by nature but brought down by the massive weight of responsibilities on her shoulder.

As she walked a tightrope between duty and anxiety, her voice broke in fear and pain. But when she broke out into her songs, Charlie let go of all her reservations and radiated so brightly that even the most vicious demons stopped to listen to her, enamored by the honesty in her voice. And when war broke out, Henningsen portrayed Charlie as a general who knew the stakes in play.

Stephanie Beatriz played Vaggie with a strong sense of duty and responsibility. But it was her vulnerability before Charlie, how softly her voice registers around her, and the 180-degree turn when she stood before a great host, letting out battle cries, that showed Beatriz’s completeness as an actor.

But if it was vocal range one was after, that crown goes to Alex Brightman, who plays two polar opposite characters. His performance as Sir Pentious was the breakout star of Hazbin Hotel’s first season finale, not only as a character, but also as a mascot of Hazbin Hotel’s positive influence. As always, Amir Talai’s voice acting as Alastor sent a shiver down the spine. Although not uncharacteristic of a demon to do so, Talai’s voice, together with Alastor’s ever-plastered smile, leaves a haunting impression.

What started as a pilot on YouTube three years ago received new life through Bento Box’s madcap animated furor. Vivienne Medrano’s character designs may be cute and bubbly with rounded shapes and wide eyes, but they hide their pain and anguish well under their busybody movements. Nobody expected the final battle between Heaven and Hell to go as hard as it does in Hazbin Hotel Season 1’s finale, with both angelic and demonic blood spilling everywhere on the screen.

From Sir Pentious going to war in his new Manowar to Vaggie’s personal battle against the angel Lute spilling into the plot, the fights were absolutely brutal to watch. The tug of war between the characters and their struggle to give in to their instincts played an underlying role in the bouts, animated carefully through their demeanor and facial expressions to pay respect to their individual arcs.

Despite the overt presence of a crimson palette everywhere, the bright glare of explosions and the breakneck flurry of attacks from both ends provided enough color and contrast for the action to jump out of the screen.

The Hazbin Hotel remains at the center of the incessant bloodshed and, like Rome, its fall is inevitable in the grand scheme of things. But it is only a symbolic downfall, allegorically implying the need to wash away a tragic past to make way for new beginnings.

From the start, Hazbin Hotel has been about Charlie’s need to fill the void inside her, picking up broken people like herself and fixing them in lieu of herself in a way to find salvation. It took some time, but her process came to fruition.

Charlie finally has a group of demons she can call family. The Hazbin Hotel finale brought hope to Hell. As surprising as this was, it foreshadowed more family drama in the near future, ending the current run on the theme of rebuilding.

Hazin Hotel Season 1 is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

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