Say what you will about ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ but as a TV series it, more than any other, redefined modern telefantasy. It showed that a genre show could be popular and that character drama was equally as important as plot devices, a notion that many shows to this day could well do to remember. Like all shows, ‘Buffy’ has had its imitators, and none is more blatant and yet so different than ‘Hex.’
This is a review of the first season only, as season two which has completed its run, I have not yet seen. ‘Hex’ is Brit-Buffy; we have a pretty girl who wants to be popular as the nominal hero, we have the wacky sidekick, the arrogant drama queen and even the tortured demon (who this time is actually an angel). In many ways every major part of the setting is due to ‘Buffy.’ It’s set at a school, it has a school principal who may know more than he is letting on and the world is at stake.
Yet, at the same time, it is remarkably different. Where ‘Buffy’ was well-written and had a smoothness of plot that allowed a season to have a plot-arc yet still entertain you with one-off stories ‘Hex’ is clumsily plotted, wastes two episodes out of its of six to set things up and tries desperately to make the audience think that the story has taken place over a much longer period of time than it has. Where ‘Buffy’ had a multitude of interesting characters ‘Hex’ has two, and one of them you don’t particularly like for half the stories. Its attempts at episodic plots fall flat and the brooding evil the series tries to instill in the viewer never gets beyond vague irritation.
Sounds like I loathed it, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t. It was pretty enjoyable, really, but possibly only because I know there is a season two to look forward to.
When ‘Hex’ works it works wonders. It is unremittedly British. The school, the way the students are obsessed with sex and the awkward pauses in speech are things the Yanks can’t do. When ‘Hex’ doesn’t work, which is mostly the comedy they give to the lesbian ghost it is more the fault of the music rather than the acting. Yes, the characters don’t seem to fit their assigned roles; it’s set at a school where the students seem to go clubbing every night and principal is concerned that some of the girls aren’t getting enough sex and people can be wise and intelligent one minute and rather clueless the next (which some might argue is realism) but it has moments where you forgive it its foibles. In the last episode the fallen angel attends a Bible reading on Christmas Eve. His dialogue is to die for. The Principal compares the Year 11s to fallen angels and a 1920s slapper reveals her lesbian roots.
Which brings me to sex. ‘Buffy’ did the issue of sex tangentially in season two and then became overly obsessed with it in its last few years. ‘Hex’ does sex from the first act and then makes it its raison d’Ãªtre. Its hardly romantic about it either; there are breakups and abortions and it all feels very teenage-y without the usual angst.
‘Hex’ is by no means a brilliant series; it is more hypnotic than anything else; a good five hours of Sunday afternoon viewing that will feel just a little rewarding rather than wasteful. Its chief flaws are its lack of interesting characters and plots that don’t really move along at any speed. Its chief virtue is that the Merchant Ivory approach to supernatural drama isn’t a waste of time. Roll on season two, I say, and lets hope that the lesbian sex scenes feature more prominently.