Jo Watkins -
David Tyrell –
OTHER HEX SERIES
OTHER DEVILISH SHOWS
Cassie is an outsider at an expensive private school who finds herself with strange new powers and assailed by dreams of a tortured family and a strange man. The man turns out to be Azazeal, a member of the fallen angels who has plans for the McBain family, including Cassie. As well as these supernatural threats, Cassie is trying to fit in at the school and her one friend is now a lesbian ghost.
When HEX first appeared in Sky Television is was marketed as a British BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, an assessment that was unfair to both shows. They both involve a teenage girl trying to deal with school, boys and life in general whilst also having to face up to supernatural threats with extraordinary powers it is true, but whereas BUFFY is an action adventure series, HEX is more of a slow burn mystery thriller.
The core of the show is the relationship between Cassie and Thelma, the lesbian ghost. HEX is certainly a lot more sexually forthright than BUFFY ever was, especially in the dialogue. Sex is all these kids ever seem to think about and it's certainly all they ever talk about. That's the normal background that anchors the more fantastical parts of the plot.
Those fantastical parts come in atmospheric shooting, brooding long shots of mysterious men and a slow build up with a few jumps thrown in for good measure. There are also elements of uncertainty as to how much of what is going on is actually in the mind of the protagonists rather than reality. Cassie's family does have a history of mental illness after all.
Whatever the publicists would have us believe HEX is no BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (in either the action or the sparky dialogue or even big finish stakes), but it does stand in its own right as an intriguing British fantasy show aimed at the teen audience and there aren't too many of those around.Top
Cassie goes to upmarket Medenham College, but she doesn't fit in there. For one thing, she's not a rich spoiled brat. Her best friend is her roomate Thelma, and outrageous lesbian. They get on really well until the day when Cassie stumbles on a strange urn in one of the outhouses of the school whilst having a crafy cigarette. She develops telekinetic powers that she at first can't control, but she also starts to have terrifying visions of a woman who was the first mistress of Medenham and who died a terrible death following madness. There is also a man in her dreams, a man called Azazeal, the name of one of the fallen angels, a man who she has also seen hanging around the outskirts of the school. A chance meeting gives Cassie a chance to be in with the popular crowd, but it's not a real opportunity, forces a wedge between her and Thelma and leads or tragedy. Or was it Azazeal's doing all along.
This double length pilot episode is a slow burn affair that mixes both the ordinary concerns of a young girl on the edge of adulthood with deeper, more supernatural themes. It's an old gothic idea, the mixing of the supernatural and the sexual, but it also works in this updating that cannily plays safe by linking the modern back to a period 300 years in the past, making the gothic more acceptable. It all starts off with small flashes, half-heard voices, momentary flashes of telekinesis, small revelations about the past of Medmenham, but it's a drip feed up to a smashing climax that might all be imagination, but has a shock tragedy at its heart which it then goes and turns on its head in the most surprising way.
The witty script is aided by a number of fine performances from the younger and more mature performers alike. The double act of Cassie and Thelma has to shoulder the burden of the show's centre and Christina Cole does well with the outsider who desperately wants in, but doesn't want to pay the price. She is outshone, however, by Jemima Rooper's storming turn as the not just openly, but aggressively gay Thelma whose banter seems to permanently revolve around sex and whose brash exterior does protect a vulnerable heart. Against these two, the supporting youngsters don't stand out and are sketched in as the bitch kings and queens of any large school for the wealthy. Michael Fassbender is kept in reserve as Azazeal, mainly a brooding presence in the distance, but when he finally makes his entrance he is compellingly slimy and believably evil.
This episode was all about the set up, the atmosphere and the shocks that come late on. There are also some nice jump moments in amongst the slow build, a tactic that isn't overused. There aren't any answers and more than enough questions to ensure that we come back to find out where the show is going to take us.
The set up is intriguing enough for now and it will be interesting to see how the show develops the themes.Written by Julian Jones
Directed by Brian Grant
In the aftermath of Thelma's death, everyone is being overly solicitous of Cassie, which is putting her on edge, not least because Thelma is still there with her in spirit form - the spirit form of a particularly mischeivous lesbian ghost. Cassie is also experimenting with her powers, using them to tackle members of the fallen angels who appear to be haunting the nightclubs of the town. More importantly, though, Troy is finally starting to pay some attention to her, something that she welcomes. Thelma, however, makes a discovery that links Cassie to the McBains, the ancient owners of Medenham Hall.
If this wasn't just the second episode then it would screaming 'filler' at us. Troy starts to like Cassie and...well that's it really. The whole opening sequence of Cassie taking on the apparent fallen angel is ill-fitting with the rest of the show that has gone before it and the story of the ghostly little girl is dropped as soon as Thelma discovers the link between Cassie and the McBain family.
There's also a leery quality that has developed to the show with regards to its young female performers. Not only does this contain the second gratuitous shower sequence in two episodes, but also contains a lesbian dream sequence that is altogether too lingering.
There's also absolutely no cliffhanger ending. The story just, sort of, stops. After the intriguing first episode, this is disappointing. Without the sexually frank banter between Cassie and Thelma then there would be little to recommend it at all.Written by Lucy Watkins
Directed by Brian Grant
Having learned that she is of the McBain line, a doomed family heritage if ever there was one, Cassie goes to see her mentally tortured mother to find out why she ever let her daughter go to that school. Azazeal has been preying on the woman since before Cassie was born and now she gives to Cassie a necklace that will blind her to the fact that Troy is now possessed by Azazeal. Can Thelma figure it out in time to save her?
After a disappointing second episode, HEX returns to its original quality with revelations about Cassie's family and the hold that Azazeal has had over it for years, more of the excellent witty conversation between Cassie and Thelma, a rather repulsive grub in the ear possession moment and a twist in the tail that comes as a complete surprise.
Exactly where this twist leaves the show going is a question indeed.Written by Lucy Watkins
Directed by Brian Grant
Cassie is now possessed by Azazeal's influence, but it doesn't make her obey him. Instead, she turns into a gold-plated cow harsher than any of the other girls in the school. She toys with the affections of Troy and Leon and insults Thelma before turning her attention to Azazeal. He, though, has been playing this game a lot longer than she has. Thelma turns to the drastic measure of electrocuting her friend to free her of the possession.
Christina Cole gets the chance to play the bad girl and has rather a lot of fun with it. The trips to the neon-lighted bondage club get a bit repetitive, but the lighter moments of Thelma trying to electrocute Cassie with varying degrees of effect manage to keep things tripping along and the arrival of a new ghost from the McBain family with information about Azazeal's past is intriguing, but may just turn out to be a distraction.
With only one episode to go we won't have long to wait to find out and hopefully there will be some sort of revelation as to what Azazeal really wants from Cassie.Written by Julian Jones & Lucy Watkins
Directed by Brian Grant
Cassie is pregnant from her one night if possessed passion with Azazeal. Thelma learns that the birth of her son will free all the Nephilim to help Azazeal, but that ending the threat will also end her supernatural afterlife.
To abort or not to abort, that is the question that runs through this final episode and it does give a contemporary spin on the subject, but it's all a bit very low key as a series finale. The big twist ending is clever, but subdued to the point of sneaking out the back door so that nobody would notice.
HEX, though, hasn't been one to follow the road more followed and manages to be intriguing through to the end, though you just can't help wish for something with a bit more oomph to happen for a change.Written by Julian Jones & Lucy Watkins
Directed by Brian Grant
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