Disturbing Charms: A review of Hex
I jumped into this series expecting something like Buffy. What I got from Hex was far creepier and quite captivating. Read on to find out why.
This article contains some spoilers. Just click on the blurred text if you want to reveal!
Hex began way back in 2004. I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, but watching it in 2014 makes it seem as dated as a Nineties show. I was at college in 2004, and so the collegian setup is immediately familiar and somewhat nostalgic – bar the snotty bully characters, of course! The two main characters we are introduced to, Cassie and Thelma, are instantly likeable. Cassie is the calm, studious type, while Thelma is her bold, outgoing lesbian roommate.
The theme song sets the tone well – it’s Number 1 Crush by Garbage, which is one of their most disturbing and intense songs. Watch the intro below and see if you agree!
Initially there are promises of intrigue and witchery and ancient Vodou rituals, and the air is full of promise for the rest of the series, as we realise Cassie is actually a descendant of the Medenham Witches who were executed in the very mansion her college is set in. The building itself, Medenham Hall, is ominous and a bit cliché, but still a perfect setting for a supernatural college drama.
After touching a vase from a Vodou ritual, Cassie unleashes a fallen angel named Azazeal (played by Michael Fassbender), who proceeds to stalk her with increasing levels of creepiness.
The very first episode starts off with a surprising twist as Azazeal kills off Thelma, who then becomes a ghost for the rest of the series. After this it turns out that he wants Cassie to give him a child that will bring about the apocalypse.
It gets creepier from thereon in. The focus shifts from witches and magic and Vodou to become a story about stalking, possession and non-consensual sex. And while the show relies on magic to achieve some of these plot points (Azazeal uses magic to ‘possess’ Cassie and make her do what he wants), what is scary is that it mirrors the way abusive relationships work. Towards the end of the first series, Hex succeeds in becoming a nail-biting interpersonal drama-thriller. It is disturbing, sure, but it makes for great viewing.
The second series is much more of a let-down. The writers disappoint by killing off the main character, Cassie and bringing in a new character named Ella, who is attractive and kick-ass and goth as hell, but it’s just not the same. The focus becomes a battle between Ella and Malachi, the child of Cassie and Azazeal.
Azaeal also drifts randomly out of the story, meaning we never get to see any resolution between Cassie and Azazeal. It is incredibly frustrating for one who has invested time in these characters – I at least wanted to see Cassie give him hell for what he put her through.
I could go on about the faults I find in the script writing, as there is a bit of trigger-happiness going on when it comes to clichés, ridiculous plot developments and lack of resolution, which might explain why it never got billed for another season. Nonetheless if you accept that this is going to be part of the experience, you can have great fun watching it. The way to approach it is to treat series One and Two as completely different shows, and maybe play a drinking game too – problem sorted!
In terms of mythology, there is a lot that Hex borrows from. Of course there are the initial promises of Vodou but no actual use of Vodou mythology to back it up, which is a disappointment. The fallen angels, however, have proper mythological links. Azazeal is based on the Hebrew Azazel, who, according to the Book of Enoch, is a fallen angel and member of the Grigori, a group of incubi who seek intercourse with human women. Some funny trivia; Azazel was originally cast out of heaven for teaching people to make weapons and beauty products! It would explain his fantastically-coiffed hair in Hex, at least.
The story deviates more than a little from the mythology, and in some pretty entertaining ways. For example, when the Grigori married human women, the resulting progeny were giants. This is chronicled in the Dead Sea scrolls’ Book Of Giants, and as a result I can’t help but laugh imagining Malachi as a humongous giant and how unsubtle his attempts to control the college would be.
Malachi himself is interesting for his name, which is not really a name at all. It simply means ‘Messenger of Yahweh’, and nobody knows who actually wrote the Book of Malachi. Azazeal might as well have called him Anonymous.
You will have to overextend your suspension of disbelief to watch this series. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable, and well worth a watch, especially that first season!
Feature image © Shine Limited