“Helga On The Couch” (season four, episode 16): Most cartoons exist with a nebulous sense of time. Characters develop, but their ages and personalities usually stay the same. If there are any major developments, a reset button is never far behind. But after four seasons of Helga struggling through her family issues, bullying instincts, and feelings for Arnold, the series took a sharp left turn by having an adult take her insecurity seriously—in this case, a child psychologist. Much of the episode takes place in her office or in Helga’s flashbacks. While it may seem strange to end a list of essential Hey Arnold! episodes with one that’s Helga-centric, “Helga On The Couch” displays the series’ strengths in several crucial ways. It peels back the layers that the show spent seasons developing, showing how Helga was never simply a playground tyrant. She was a girl whose neglectful family always made her feel invisible, so she adapted. It’s a satisfying look at Helga’s backstory, and it even manages to weave in the reason why Arnold’s empathy is so important to those around him, whether he knows it or not.

I wrote about why you should give “Hey Arnold!” another chance so you should probably read this and do that.

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