Judge Brett Cullum wonders why people never rip off Cop Rock.
Thelma Bates: You've had a rough deal, Cassie McBain. Your dad's disappeared,
your mother's a nutter…
I've been hearing things about this Hex show from the BBC—exclamations including "Oh! It's the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "If you're a fan of all things Joss Wheedon you're going to love this one!" I certainly miss Buffy and Angel, but those were unique shows with a huge legacy and cult following. It seems wholly unfair to pin these sole comparisons on Hex, because I was sure it was its own brand of "supernatural teen takes on other worldly demonic figures with her lesbian best friend" show. Oh Lord! That does sound a lot like Buffy, doesn't it? Hex: The Complete First Season marks the first time the show is available in America on DVD, and they've done surprising things with the show and its expected extras.
Facts of the Case
Blonde high school student Cassie Hughes (Christina Cole) likes bad boys, but she never thought she'd end up longing after a fallen angel (Michael Fassbender, 300) with a demonic side named Azazeal. What happened was this: She found ancient voodoo ritual artifacts in a secret compartment while taking a smoke break at her posh English boarding school. Those found objects transformed and awakened a latent power within her. Soon things got spooky as her gay best friend (Jemima Rooper, The Black Dahlia) was sacrificed to an evil being thousands of years old. She's got to find out why she has these powers, and how to control them before the world becomes a hell of a lot darker. Is she the chosen one that's supposed to fight this battle?
Despite easy Buffy the Vampire Slayer connections, Hex weaves its own heady spell from the start. Perhaps we can see it as an estranged UK relative to the Wheedon series, because it certainly has a similar tone and gravity. The show creates a world that is rich, deep, and ripe with possibilities. It's willing to explore the depths of the lead characters, and is never afraid to shake things up in unexpected ways. At its core is a cautionary tale about sexual awakenings in teenage girls, and the arc featured in Hex: The Complete First Season brings the expected drama and bad choices girls in the 11th grade can provide. All of this is filmed at a scenic school in the English countryside with no shortage of achingly beautiful green lawns or fog-filled evenings to create the right mood.
The cast for Hex includes very good young actors and support from solid adult thespians. Cassie (Christina Cole) gets saddled with the heaviest bits, and does a good job of dourly soldiering on despite what her past says about her future. Easily the standout is sarcastic and sweet Thelma (Jemima Rooper) who appears throughout as the spectral lesbian best friend of Cassie. Her performance is honest and heartbreaking with the right amount of humor to keep it from becoming tragic. Her character gets all the quotable lines and her comic timing is spot on. Azazeal (Michael Fassbender) makes pouty evil and brooding look sexy, and his "fallen angel in love with a teenager" routine hits the right notes to keep it creepy as well as romantic. Later we're introduced to Ella (Laura Pyper), who projects an easy physical confidence which will be more crucial in the episodes to come in the second season set.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Only eighteen episodes of the show were produced without plans to produce more. Despite the set being named Hex: The Complete First Season, it includes a handful of episodes from the second season. Sony has put together the first ten episodes of the series, and that only leaves eight more to follow. The first few chapters for Hex start off slowly. The show takes its sweet time to get the action cranking, and we spend a great deal of time with the setup of main characters. Hex is a slow burn, and sometimes the mythology isn't as clear as it should be. The series creates rich portraits of its players, but the rules and legends around the events are not as clear. Since Sony decided to release a full ten episodes rather than the first season's original six installments (the pilot was two hours but split here into two segments), we get to see the transition the show takes heading into the second season. The plot makes a brave twist which introduces new characters, but reveals an unhappiness with the original lead actress Christina Cole. Her role as Cassie was one she started to not like as she felt exploited by the production, especially in regards to revealing shots of her body in the final cut of the aired episodes. You'll witness her presence dwindling as the series heads into the second volume.
Visually the show is stunning and the series featured great music, so the DVD treatment matters a lot. The transfers are merely okay, with solid black levels and a hearty surround soundtrack. Yet now and then the transfers get murky, and there are glaring sequences of edge enhancement. Sound effects and scoring are nicely balanced throughout the speakers to maximize the mood. Extras for the US release are different than what was delivered in other regions of the world. On the first disc is a "Making Of" featurette which mainly concentrates on the second season of the show for some odd reason. We get carefully prepared interviews with the cast and a few observations from director Brian Grant. A handful of deleted scenes includes some silly, fun bits featuring Thelma. Missing in action is any form of commentary found on other region releases which makes the US version less complete than imported sets.
Hex takes the plot and religious mythology more seriously than Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever did. That's how the show differs from serialized, supernatural, teen thrillers in America as it offers a British, stiff-upper-lipped take on the genre. The show is definitely compelling and dramatic, but lacks a sly sense of humor about the material that eventually led to fan dissatisfaction with the dark turns in the final episodes of Season Two. Hex may have fallen out of favor with its viewers by the end of the run, but it remains a sexy, hip show with a lot to offer. Sony offers an American release of the show on DVD, and the crucial thing is that the episodes are unedited. When the program ran on BBC America several snips were made to nudity and violence for a basic cable presentation. Despite some technical gaffes and a lack of extras such as the commentaries, this is the best way to see the show on an American DVD player. This one's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of teens with supernatural powers out to save the world from demons.
Guilty of being a bewitching series about girls in private school fighting fallen angels.
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