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During its first season run in the UK Hex was promoted as ‘The British Buffy’ and is currently being dubbed Buffy with ‘Hex Appeal’ as it airs in Australia. Whomever came up with the idea of promoting the show this way is ultimately doing a major disservice to this supernatural ‘dramedy’. With Buffy fans insanely devoted to the Slayer and her Scoobies, the immediate reaction from these fans and anyone who has ever watched an episode of Buffy in passing is to avoid Hex like the plague.

Hex: The Complete First Season
Feature
Hex takes place at a picturesque English boarding school called Medenham Hall. Cassie (Christina Cole) and Thelma (Jemima Rooper) are two outcast students at the school. Dyke is shining armour Thelma is reasonably comfortable with her ‘outsider’ status, but pretty Cassie yearns to be part of the popular crowd. She has a crush on the school hunk Troy and often gazes at him and his popular friends dreamily in class and in the school corridors. But Cassie quickly discovers she is not destined to be popular, but instead her future is rooted in the dark past of the school and her family tree. Cassie is the sixth and last of the McBain witches. Her ancestor Rachel McBain, who resided at Medenham Hall in the ‘1700s, experimented with voodoo, the religion of the servants. As her obsession drove her insane she awakened Azazeal by sacrificing a servant girl. Azazeal is the leader of the Nephelim, a group of fallen angels who were banished from heaven into exile by God because they had descended to earth enchanted by the beauty of mortal women, taking them as lovers. Being a direct relative of Rachel, Cassie has arrived at Mendenlam Hall supposedly on a scholarship and as she soon discovers, her future will be determined by her past.

Cassie’s strange journey begins when she ventures into the run-down servant’s quarters of Mendenham for a cigarette between classes. There she discovers a strange clay jug. Accidentally cutting herself on the jug and letting her blood drop into it, Cassie unknowingly summons the fallen angel Azazeal who has been waiting for Cassie, the last of the McBain witches, to be ready for him. As Cassie struggles with her wish to be popular and fit in with the cool kids at the school, while also keeping the unrequited feelings of Thelma at bay, she also must cope with the sudden ominous presence of Azazeal.

Hex: The Complete First Season
I really wanted to like Hex and looking at short snippets of episodes made the series look very interesting with a nice mixture of romance, horror and action. Unfortunately, this show appears a lot better than it really is when it's presented in short advertisements or trailers. The first season of Hex only consists of six episodes, including a two hour pilot and unfortunately the slow pace of the show means that not a hell of a lot happens in each episode. Sometimes events are drawn out so much it’s like watching a daytime soap opera. Having said that, there are a few intriguing things about the show to draw viewers in. Ultimately, this sublime looking show has only a few basic elements in common with Buffy and after the first episode quickly transcends into a darkness that Buffy took a full five seasons to accomplish. However, I’m not saying that Hex is a better show. Its central mythology and central character are much weaker and unappealing than the slayer series, but Hex is well acted, most notably by Jemima Rooper who plays lesbian ghost Thelma and Michael Fassbender who plays the fallen angel Azazeal and it’s fantastic that this kind of show is being produced somewhere other than the United States. Having said that, what this short, six episode first season does offer is potential. Potential to become a really interesting supernatural ‘dramedy’ with more serious and edgy overtones that any American teen show could accomplish.

Hex: The Complete First Season
The bad news is that the show hasn’t thrived on the potential that this first season demonstrates. After the final episode of this first season the door was left open for huge possibilities, apocalyptic possibilities. There are so many characters that could have been developed and a lot of background information that could have been revealed in flashback episodes. Instead, the thirteen episode second season introduced far too many new characters and let the central characters become secondary and then eventually non-existent. Now to be fair, this wasn’t entirely the fault of the creative forces behind the series. Christina Cole, who played Cassie, was written out of the second series early on by her own choice. Now why it could argued that trying to make the show work after the departure of its central character is impossible, many television shows have managed this feat. In many ways Cassie was the least appealing character of the show and much more focus could have been placed on the stand out characters of the first season, Azazeal and Thelma. This didn’t happen and the second season gradually got weaker and became a completely different (and terrible) show by the time it limped to the final episode of the season. I am not totally disregarding the second season, there were moments here and there where the promise that the first season offered glimmered through in an episode or two, but these glimmers quickly faded as storylines were abandoned and characters disappeared. It really is a shame that this series hasn’t lived up to what it delivered in the pilot episode because it really could have become a great show.

Video
All six episodes of Hex looking suitably superb presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement. The setting of the show lends itself to constant shots of large stretches of gorgeous green grass, spectacular buildings and foggy dark nights. Imperfections are minimal and barely noticeable. The only problem is the occasional evidence of edge enhancement, but it’s very minimal. Colours are vibrant and clear with blood the rubiest red and skin tones (when the person on screen isn’t a recently resurrected fallen angel) realistic. The show contains many darkly lit interior and exterior scenes and for the most part detail is exceptional. It is only in a handful of dark interior shots that details and clarity become problematic. But for a show that involves so many dark or harshly lit scenes, the shadow detail is exceptional.

Hex: The Complete First Season
Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is equally impressive, with a well balanced, across the channels package. Dialogue is clear and audible in the centre channel with subtle sound effects and natural noise coming through the rear channels. The show features an interesting score that ranges from the grandiose to the sad and intimate and while it can at times seem rather aggressive in certain scenes, there are sync or low level noise issues. Although this is not an amazing audio presentation, there are no obvious problems and the spooky atmosphere of the show wouldn't be as ominous and haunting without the well presented sound effects and clever soundtrack.

Extras
Hex is a show that has predominately gone under the radar of both the media and a mainstream TV audience, so it wouldn’t have been surprising if the show was released without any extras. But with a devoted fanbase the inclusion of a couple of extras will be welcomed by loyal fans. Firstly there is a director’s commentary by Brian Grant on the two hour pilot episode. Grant is a good talker, but he often falls in the trap that many commentators fall into by simply explaining what is happening on screen. While he does stumble into this common problem area, he seems to quickly realise what he is doing and begins talking about the performance of a particular actor or the meaning behind a particular scene. A small collection of deleted scenes are included with most completely irrelevant or boring. However, one deleted scene stands out and it’s a shame it wasn’t included in the show. It involves ghost Thelma having a little picnic (she’s always eating) while listening to a lesbian self help CD. This scene is priceless and clearly demonstrates the comic talent of Rooper.

Hex: The Complete First Season
‘Inside the World of Hex’ is an almost half hour behind the scenes featurette with the usual interviews with most of the main cast and series director Brian Grant. Although Grant’s commentary was slightly uneven on the pilot episode, he is clearly more comfortable being interviewed. His interview segments provide much of the background information in this featurette with topics ranging from the conception of the show, casting of the actors to the behind the scenes antics of the crew. This is an above average behind the scenes featurette. It's certainly clear that everyone had a lot fun making the series, but a little more history about the development of the series would have been appreciated.

Overall
Despite its slow pace and obviously plot holes, I became very drawn into Hex almost immediately. It certainly has its problems, but the strength of show is drawn from its luxurious cinematography and the appeal of two of the main characters, Thelma and Azazeal. And I have to admit to being very bewitched by the talents of Michael Fassbender, who is really the only reason Hex appeared on my radar. Unlike a lot of the world I am not a Buffy fan. I have watched episodes and I appreciate that it’s well written and well acted show, but it was never a show I really got into, mainly due to my instant dislike of the central character. As I said, this short first season of Hex sets up an interesting premise and demonstrates major potential for becoming a long running series. But unfortunately, the second season quashed all the potential with the exits of central characters and the continued weakening of the show’s mythology.


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