helluva-boss-episode-1-first-impressions

So Vivziepop finally came out with the much anticipated second episode of Helluva Boss, whereupon all of Tumblr began slobbering at her heels. But my salivary glands had no change in output because I know how these kinds of shows seem to work. Does anyone remember Star vs the Forces of Evil? That was another show that was stuffed full of as much hype as its trousers would permit, but when it was let out of the gates it tripped on the starting line, and power bombed into the dirt so hard that the taste of soil replaced the memory of its mother’s cooking.

With this in mind, I was apprehensive, but Vivziepop also made Hazbin Hotel, which suffers from a few pacing issues, but at least accomplishes what it sets out to do. More importantly, however, it’s not shit. With such conflicting precedents, I was ready to be either thrown into bed with the show while we tear at each other’s clothes, or be finished after two wheezing thrusts, and forced to sleep on the wet patch. So which is it? A bit in the middle, honestly. I was finished after 5 minutes, but the show at least gave me money for an Uber home. 

I don’t know why I can’t muster much enthusiasm for this, it’s a cartoon, I liked Hazbin Hotel, and it’s about murders, so why am I still not diving to unbutton its jeans? Eventually I think I’ve pinned it down. Helluva Boss sets itself up as a straight comedy in the mold of The Office, or Disney channel TV shows before they became shit. The main problem is that they tried to have a conflict that could be taken somewhat seriously.

I was prepared for a Phineas and Ferb-esque show. Episodes that had a very mild plot, but were held together by good comedy, and amusing characters. They didn’t need motivation that could be taken seriously because no one else seemed to do that. Nothing would change the next time you arrived, and even the “Main Villain” seemed moderately self aware of his own immortality. That’s what I wanted to happen because it would fit the format the pilot had set up. But that’s not what happened here. 

The plot of Helluva Boss is, business in hell has a portal to Earth, and has to kill whoever they’re hired to. So we’re off, on a cross country journey in 1st gear the whole way. I found myself unable to hold interest in what the show was offering because it didn’t seem to have any faith in its concepts. It tried for a mix of devil may care humour alongside serious dramatic moments without enough commitment to either.

A comedy show that doesn’t make me laugh is like taking all the sandwich filling out, because if comedy is what the show is based around, and it doesn’t land, then there’s nothing else it has to offer. I’m not so much hard-pressed to remember a joke in this episode that made me laugh, so much as I’m hard-pressed to remember a joke at all, and that’s not a good sign for review purposes.

That theme does continue, however, because it seems as though the show can’t remember what it’s trying to do. It’s trying to be a drama/comedy, but failed to commit enough resources to make either of them land.

The main plot of this episode specifically is that a teacher on Earth killed her husband for cheating, but the girl who he was cheating with survived, even though the teacher dies. Said teacher wants the job finished, and so she hires IMP, the Immediate Murder Professionals. A name that definitely was imagined after the acronym.

Conflict arises, however, as one of the imps working at IMP, ironically named Moxie, doesn’t feel right about ruining a family. Not sure why he signed up to work there since that’s kind of their whole thing, but whatever. Moxie sabotages the murder, but it turns out the family’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and they chase after them with shotguns. 

I think we were supposed to root for the Imps because they’re the main character, but they opened the hostilities, so the messaging feels sort of muddled. The scene then moves at a pretty breakneck pace, and drags us through an action scene. The other two members of the team, Blitzo, and Mollie are captured by the human, and about to be killed by the wife cuckler, but then Moxie kills her, thus redeeming himself, and actually does his job. Do you see what I mean by breakneck pace? It almost felt like giving a massive project to an Alzheimer’s patient, like electing Joe Biden as president.

There’s also a third plot I almost forgot to mention about how Blitzo is at risk of losing access to the human world unless he meets a list of demands, but the demands were so completely weak it hardly matters. All he had to do was agree to fuck someone once a week, or once a month, I honestly can’t remember, and it’s resolved in about 2 minutes. So that plot point was about as impactful as my teeth would be on the hull of an aircraft carrier. 

All of this isn’t bad stuff, quite deep even, but it’s all conveyed over the course of about 15 minutes. This is the kind of thing I’d want to stagger out of 3, or 4 episodes much less a quarter of an hour. It was then that I realised what had happened, Vivziepop was rushed.

Halloween rolled around, and you felt like you needed to release something regardless of how all over the place the script was. I can’t say this for certain, but let’s just say that this bears a suspicious resemblance to something that wasn’t released because the creator felt it was ready, but because they felt they had to, out of obligation.

Something rather worrying is starting to emerge. I’ve been following Hazbin and Helluva Boss since they came out, and I enjoyed the Pilots very much. It was very clear though that Hazbin was going to be the more story-focused experience, and Helluva Boss, the episodical, wacky comedy.

Just looking at how thinly spread this episode is, it feels like they’re trying to put an overarching story into this too. Please don’t do that Vivziepop. We’ve got our deep story, please just focus on the comedy here. this is an amazing concept and I’d hate to see the potential flushed away. (That’s not a reference, shut up).

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