hex

2004
Producer: Johnny Capps/Julian Murphy

Review based on season 1.
Before the awesome Sugar Rush, Johnny Capps did this little British fantasy show. Avoid any reviewer who blithely declares that this show is the "British Buffy". I've heard that so many times now it makes me want to reach through my computer screen, onto the Internet and strangle the lazy-arse reviewers inside.

It isn't true, on any level, besides a tendency towards supernatural storylines. Hex has no vampires, only one semi-monster who is actually a fallen angel, 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 power.

Cassie, the latest in a long line of McBain family witches, gains her powers and becomes the focus of obsession by the dark, brooding Azazeal. He has a plan, but 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 private boarding school. Thelma becomes the sacrifice that brings Azazeal forward into the world, 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, 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 powers and her burgeoning hormones that keep making her lust for Troy, the guy who looks alarmingly like Jamie Oliver? (Or do British guys with an overbite all look like that?)

Just when we think Cassie might finally be the one to rise above the family curse, she's betrayed from within. Azazeal manages to trick Cassie into doing the one thing she would otherwise never do, and then all hell breaks loose.

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 house as if it too is searching for something better to do. 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 some series character development with their magic. 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. 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.

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 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.

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.

possession

possession

everything relative

everything relative