'Helluva Boss' Season 1 episodes ranked
With the (very delayed) release of episode 8 of Helluva Boss to YouTube June 24, the first season of the show is now officially over. With eight episodes released, beginning Halloween 2020 (plus a pilot episode released November 25, 2019, which will be part of this ranking even if it's not officially part of this season), the show is the creation of Vivienne "Vivziepop" Medrano, and is produced by SpindleHorse Toons.
Set in a version of Hell, the main cast consists of Brandon Rogers as the titular "boss", imp Blitzø (the "o" is silent), leader of demonic assassination business Immediate Murder Professionals, or I.M.P.; Richard Steven Horvitz and Vivian Nixon as Moxxie and Millie, a married couple of imp employees; Erica Lindbeck as Loona, his hellhound adopted daughter and I.M.P.'s receptionist; and Bryce Pinkham as Stolas, a member of Hell's ruling class who serves as a sort of silent backer for I.M.P. while also becoming romantically entangled with Blitzø.
The show's second season is up to its fourth episode, out of twelve, and a third season has been confirmed. Currently, Helluva Boss is only available on YouTube, though completely for free; there are no rumors or even much desire for a physical media release.
The Show in General
Before we start with the rankings, a more general overview of the show in general might be in order, though I more or less stand with what I've already written in this earlier review. I will add that this seems to be a case of creative starting a show with one premise, almost immediately getting bored with that premise, but still making a decent show using the characters and setting. Originally, the main idea seemed to be episodes based around the various assassination assignments that would send the characters to Earth. However, only three of the episodes actually follow that format. The show very frequently became more about the character's relationships, and none of the four episodes released of season 2 follow that format.
The humor is very bawdy, and the easily offended might be turned off by it. I've heard the criticism that it's humor is basically shouting curse words very loudly, but the truth is it shouts curse words loudly very well. For every scene of Blitzø going off on a loud, foul-mouthed rant, there's usually a cut away to another, likeable character obviously annoyed by it. Of course, on the other hand, the heavy focus on relationships and consequences means there is a definite emotional core at the center, but those here for the loud cursing might find this distracting. You can't win them all.
The animation is nothing short of amazing, and honestly feels like this should not be on YouTube for free. They need to hold one or two of these back, get them into an Oscar-qualifying animation film festival, and get Medrano an Oscar for Best Animated Short. To be clear, that's as much a swipe at the actually pretty boring field of nominees and winners in that category as it is praise of Helluva Boss, but I'm being serious. This is Oscar-calibre animation. Medrano is also the main character designer, and the characters are very obviously the work of someone with a particular vision. They tend be overdesigned, and I usually prefer cleaner, simpler looks, but at least the character's colors usually go together.
The one exception to the "overdesigned" aspect is Loona the hellhound, the one character who most furries are familiar with. Design-wise, she's actually pretty close to the Platonic ideal of generic furry wolf with a light seasoning of Goth for flavor. In general, though technically we're dealing with demons, there are a lot of animal-based character designs in the show. In specific, Loona is probably the most likely of the main characters to not show up an episode, given she has the least important job; she did manage two spotlight episodes. She was seen as underdeveloped for a long time, which I think was unfair, as I think people, even non-furries, just wanted more of her at first. Being the non-imp at I.M.P. made her stand out, and she had a lot of the best lines and moments in the pilot episode. In comparison, though she has more screentime, the imp Millie is probably the least-utilised member of the team from a story vantage, though calling her undeveloped is unfair; she's basically the only cast member who's generally happy with her situation, and therefore hard to arc.
Enough of that, now to the general episodes. Let the bodies hit the floor! [And click the titles if you need to catch up with an episode.]
9. The Pilot
It's a good sign the pilot episode is actually the weakest, because it's all uphill from here. And it's not all bad. This episode is actually one of the best for general "loudly cursing" humor, and is easily one of the funniest episodes. But the characters as depicted in this episode don't really match the performances in later episode. Everybody is much angrier in this episode, and the characters actively dislike each other more than they do in the show. Loona especially is a real word-we-can't-use-in-
My-Little-Pony-Helluva-Boss-reviews. Also, the writing is sloppy. We learn how Blitzø got his hands on Stolas' grimoire (pretty important plot point) in a flashback during the middle of a different flashback ostensibly explaining why Loona is a bad employee. As it is, I still hold by my original recommendation of treating this a bit like a deleted scene rather than a proper episode.
The weakest proper episode of the season. I still like it a lot; both the Western setting, and Norman Reedus' job as the guest villain, in one of the show's first "they got them?" casting coups. I especially like how it uses the tropes of a conspiracy thriller to the point that it seems like Striker's attempted assassination of Stolas is some kind of power play in the politics of Hell, only to have the reveal of who was behind the hit all along come off as a genuine twist that still manages to play fair. This is also the closest Millie gets to a spotlight episode, so good for her. It's not that I dislike this episode; I just like all the rest that much better.
This episode suffers a bit from having to be the series finale, despite it not actually meant to be that. It ends on an emotional cliffhanger that isn't really resolved in what we've so far seen of Season 2, and to be fair, isn't really resolved in episode 8, either. But the main showstopper of a number, which begins as Moxxie's actually pretty simple and actually kind of stupid love song for Millie, turns into the titular demon's song about the sin of Lust, and then finishes as Moxxie's now powerfully simple and sublimely stupid love song once again is pretty amazing. Millie's insistence that Moxxie sing his song for her was a great moment.
In the same way the last episode suffers from being a finale of sorts, this one suffers by starting the season, setting a precedent the show didn't follow through on. The team goes on a mission to Earth to kill a human, shenanigans ensue, surely this is how most of the episodes will go? Well, not exactly. The horror movie tributes are well done, as the demons encounter a version of humanity that is possibly more awful than anything in Hell. The opening, where we think the poor teacher is about to snap because of how cloyingly nice everything is, but instead only snaps when someone does something genuinely terrible to her, is a good encapsulation of the show's themes. Probably best episode title. Perfect for the episode, and the series.
5. Loo Loo Land
It can't be stated enough how important the opening scene and number was to this series. The pilot was the pilot, while the first episode was a fun slasher parody. Then Stolas, who up to this point had been more of a running gag than a character, sings a dark lullaby to his daughter. Suddenly, this show had more to offer than just abrasive humor. The relationship between Stolas and his daughter, Octavia (voiced by Barrett Wilbert Weed) is the highlight of the episode. The b-plot, which introduces a version of important recurring character Fizzaroli (voiced by Alex Brightman) and Blitzø's feud with him, unfortunately, lets the episode down a bit with its conclusion, which is basically a blink and you'll miss it background event.
The only episode to successfully combine the original conceit of the show, with the team going on assignment on Earth and killing people (always nice to see!), and the direction it would more generally take in the future, with heavy reliance on characters' relationships with each other to drive the story. And this time, Loona gets an important role, and we finally really learn what is going on between her and Blitzø. The reveal that Loona was adopted as a much older teenager, rather than as a child, is an example of the often seemingly counter-intuitive, but actually much more interesting and less cliched decision-making in the writing. Points off, however, for this furry reviewer in that in Loona's first major role since the pilot episode, she spends most of her screentime in a flawless human disguise. Boo.
I have a feeling if one choice on this list gets a "what were you thinking?" reaction, it'll probably be ranking "C.H.E.R.U.B." so high, but I honestly think this one is also hurt by where it fell in the season. Coming after two episodes where most of the story was focused on the characters, "C.H.E.R.U.B." feels a bit slight. In fact, this is the last time the show ever even does this kind of episode, with "Murder Family" really the only other pure example. However, I just think this episode is a lot of fun, and furthermore, the idea of that well worn, but beloved old cartoon gag of a Lil' Angel and Lil' Devil arguing blown up to the entire short is pretty funny in and of itself. Bonus points that our sympathy is with the devil, here!
2. Queen Bee
Was it worth the wait? Well, let me say that I'm trying to take the sugar high of its recency into account, or it would probably be number one. Wow, can we talk about Queen Bee-lzebub (voiced by Kesha)? That character design! I mean, I spoke up top about the tendency for overdesigning characters, and she's a busy Bee, that's for sure. Straight up sparkledog territory, I mean, who thinks "Let's make her a lava lamp?" But it works, thanks mostly to good color work. And, you know, the whole "being a fox" thing. Good way to win me over, anyway. The actual character is well done, too. She's the embodiment of the sin of Gluttony, and the episode keeps you guessing as what her true motivations are. But, in another counterintuitive twist, she's actually... nice. Kind of like the show in general. They can make uncomfortable jokes about confetti in inappropriate orifices and be sweet, at the same time!
I don't think I'll get a lot of pushback for picking this episode, which feels pretty much like a consensus favorite for a lot of fans of the show. It had the longest wait between episodes (until the unfortunate finale), and when it came out, it was immediately apparent why. The first half does feature a lot of the emotional storytelling beats and musical numbers that get a lot of the attention, but eventually, as Blitzø puts it, "Okay, I've had one too many emotions for today, guys." What follows is one of the most amazingly violent animated action scenes ever; never mind animated, I don't think there was a better needlessly violent action scene until John Wick picked up a dragon's breath shotgun earlier this year.
Once again, how are they giving this away for free?