Do yourself a favour, if you haven't already seen Hex,
avoid any reviewer who blithely declares that this show is the
"British Buffy". I've heard that expression in regards
to this show so many times now it makes me want to reach through
my computer screen, onto the Internet and strangle the lazy-arse
The truth is, Hex and Buffy
have pretty much nothing in common - in plot, look or feel - besides
a tendency towards the supernatural. Hex has
no vampires, only one semi-monster (and then only briefly, he's
in human form most of the time) who is actually a fallen angel,
and a cast of reasonably interesting, very English characters.
What it does have is a blonde heroine with special powers, mostly
telekinesis but there are some hints of psychic powers as well,
who is subjected to pain and suffering by a good-looking bad guy.
She's a witch from a special lineage, who just happens to come
from a family with a terrible, recurring connection with a dark
Cassie, the latest in a long line of McBain family witches, gains
her powers and immediately becomes the focus of obsession by the
dark, brooding Azazeal. He has a plan, and she's at the centre
of it. First he needs to manifest himself fully on this plane,
for which he needs a willing sacrifice. Enter Thelma, Cassie's
lesbian best friend. The two share a tight, albeit platonic relationship
as outsiders at their posh, oddly art-centred, private boarding
school. In a disturbing scene in the pilot, Thelma becomes the
sacrifice that brings Azazeal forward into the world. Thelma dies
in Cassie's arms having saved her life, but this is no ordinary
death. Almost immediately, Thelma the lesbian ghost appears, and
she's twice the hoot that Thelma was when she was alive.
For those of you still with me, you're probably going to like
this show. It goes for a higher degree of realism in its look
than most American fantasy shows, and it thankfully isn't about
two women saving the world. They're too busy trying to save themselves.
While Cassie does display a few scattered moments of do-gooder
tendencies in episode three, for the most part the show doesn't
concentrate on Cassie using her powers to save innocent people.
The show is darker and more self-centred than that. It deals with
the all-too-human emotions that get tangled in the supernatural
events. How does Thelma feel now that the object of her love is
forever beyond her grasp? How does Cassie deal with her burgeoning
powers and her burgeoning hormones that keep making her lust for
the Troy, the guy who looks alarmingly like Jamie Oliver? (Or
do foppish-haired, British guys with an overbite all look like
Just when we think Cassie might finally be the one to rise above
the family curse, she's betrayed from within, by her mother who
is too insane to know what she's doing. Without giving away too
much, Azazeal manages to trick Cassie into doing the one thing
she would otherwise never do, and then all hell breaks loose.
Considering how slow-moving the first three episodes of this
first series are, I'm actually quite shocked by what they managed
to get through by the end of the sixth and final episode. The
second half of the season is pretty damn cool, and races by at
a frantic pace. The problem is, you need to get to the second
half. I can see this show losing a lot of potential fans in the
pilot, which is slow-moving and often dull. The camera wanders
around this big, old, gothic, supposedly spooky house (that amazingly
serves as a school) as if it too is searching for something better
to do. There's no intensity, no serious atmosphere building. The
first hour and a half is downright flat (and 90 minutes out of
a six hour series is a lot, quite frankly).
It isn't enough anymore for a show to just reveal "woohoo,
she has some powers!" That's where shows such as Buffy
and Charmed really have had an influence.
They've spoiled us. Anyone who has watched those shows expects
there to be some powers, some magic, some supernatural twist.
What really needs to get moving to catch our attention is the
character development. It wasn't really until Thelma's death that
I felt the tugs of interest forming. Before that the backstory
and unveiling of the plot surrounding shy, innocent Cassie was
pretty yawnworthy. (No really, the first thing I'd do if I found
a strange urn is bleed into it!) I was keeping myself
interested by wondering how many cast members the show would have
in common with Sugar Rush.
Around episode four I really started to sit up and take notice.
(OK, the interesting lesbian scene in episode three was kind of
distracting...) While Thelma struggles to convince Cassie that
she really has genuine concerns and isn't just jealous of her
sudden sexual prowess, it digs up real emotional drama. Apart
from the occasional attempt to use the whole lesbian ghost angle
for laughs, this really isn't a show with much comic relief. That's
OK, I actually don't mind fantasy that takes itself seriously.
Hex really needed to be serious in order to have a hope of building
the kind of atmosphere it needs.
The problem is, while the storylines and characters do get more
interesting as the episodes roll by, the direction never really
does. I was also a bit disappointed in the lacklustre Azazeal.
I know he's a smiling bad guy, a smooth talker, but it isn't until
the final episode when he gives his rather chilling speech on
abortion that I sensed any real malice in him. Giving someone
a long coat, calling them a fallen angel and having a few lightweight
scenes in S&M clubs doesn't necessarily make him evil. Like
I said, we're a bit spoiled these days really. You really need
more clues that someone is bad than just having them light up
a cigarette and have bloodied eyeballs.
Thelma the lesbian ghost really is the main drawcard here. Through
her we get most of the story, most of the best acting (the always-appealing
Jemima Rooper) and most of the real emotional connection to the
story as a whole. Without that little gambit to keep things interesting
I think Hex might have died and been buried in obscurity, but
as it is there's enough good writing and interesting twists here
for a few hours of cool, supernatural entertainment. Some people
might even become addicted. It really wouldn't shock me in the
least. If they'd really amped up the suspense and drama another
notch I suspect I would have been one of them.
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