Having been American Gothicked out, I skipped over the pond to investigate the BBC’s Hex. The British show seasons are usually 6 to 8 eps, 1/3 the size of American show seasons, so I watched the first season, eps 1-6, before, as the reviews commented, the cast switched around and character development went out the window.
In season 1 of Hex, shy, artistic Cassie tries desperately to be popular, but wins the eye of no one except her snarky roommate Thelma, who has a huge crush on her, and Azazeal, a fallen angel and professional lurker. Both Thelma and Azazeal want to get into Cassie’s pants, so essentially season 1 forms a love triangle. Azazeal kills Thelma at the end of ep 1, turning her into the Dead Lesbian archetype, and it’s basically all downhill. Despite Thelma’s investigative work and devotion to freeing Cassie from Azazeal’s influence, Azazeal claims that Cassie is destined to have sex with him. Azazeal possesses Cassie in order to get in her pants. Cassie and Thelma try to get Cassie an abortion, but Azazeal possesses the doctor so that the baby ends up being born. Since a child by Azazeal and a human woman will let the rest of the fallen angels out of prison, the failed abortion is a very bad thing. Season 1 ends.
Unfortunately for Hex, love triangles only work if you have three points to connect — in other words, three compelling characters. Cassie and Thelma are lively personalities with great, energetic chemistry. Thelma especially gets all the quips and, as played with a comically expressive face by Jemima Rooper, lights up the screen whenever she’s on. As Cassie, Christina Cole strikes me as a second-grade copy of Keira Knightley: winsome in a slight, scrawny way, but mediocre in the talent department. Still, she works well with Rooper in the best parts of the show.
Michael Fassbender as Azazeal, however, dooms much of the enterprise. Partly I fault the script writers for this because he spends entirely too much time lurking in a criminal, yet extremely tedious, manner, watching Cassie. And partly I find fault with Fassbender, who apparently can’t register any of the emotions that a fallen angel might be feeling at finally returning to power. How about some excitement when he’s killing Thelma to restore his strength? Or some gloating arrogance when he says to Cassie that they are fated to have sex? Or some relish and triumph when they actually do screw? No, he just drifts in and out of the shadows with a bored, rather blank look on his face. Since he’s the main plot motor, his crashing dullness removes suspense and narrative urgency from the show, leaving it more atmospheric than truly engaging.
[In fact, the most insight into Azazeal’s character that we get is an impassioned speech against abortion that he makes to a bunch of people in a church. He says that people tell him about women’s rights, but he doesn’t think that anyone cares about the baby’s rights. He says that life begins at conception, “because that is when the soul is formed.” Well, it’s nice to know that this millennia-old demon is actually an uptight, narrow-minded, poisonously bigoted weirdo who would fit right in with those fundamentalist wackos who think abortion should be legal, but, when asked how much time a woman should serve for having an abortion, say, “Durrrrr,” and can’t answer the question.]
On a more thematic note, I have a huge objection to the Divine Screw narrative line, despite having co-created a decade-long saga predicated on just this exploitation. You know the story: Some all-powerful dipwad wants kids and decides to rape a human woman. The woman may resist, but the Penis of Doom cannot be stopped. The dipwad rapes the woman. She conceives a son, always a son — the Dipwad is convinced of it. The woman may try to abort the fetus or to kill herself, but her attempts avail nothing against the Son of Dipwad. The woman gives birth to Son of Dipwad, who inevitably takes after Dipwad Dad. The expendable woman, having served as an incubator, is pretty much abandoned by Dipwad, and who cares what happens to her next? All focus shifts to the glorious Son of the Penis of Doom, who naturally fulfills his destiny and destroys the world.
Leda and the swan, a famous mythological rape, is referred to via Yeats’ poem in an ep of Hex.
Leda and the Swan, by an anonymous Renaissance painter
Without challenging the Divine Screw theme itself [some other time], I argue for the primacy of the women. Penises of Doom don’t reproduce asexually! They need sexual reproduction with women in order to have children. Women, however they react to the Divine Screw, constitute a necessary half of the story. In fact, to me, they’re the more interesting half. Penises of Doom and Sons of Dipwad have been around for millennia, stomping heroically all over the earth, but they’ve been making so much noise that you can’t hear the Mothers of the Children of Doom.
You can’t hear them tell you what it’s like to be approached by the Divine. You can’t hear them tell you how they wrestled with angels, how, in their relations with the Divine, they took on divinity themselves. You can’t hear them tell you about the confusion and pain and power of being caught between the worlds of mortal power and those of supernatural unearthliness. You can’t hear them tell you about the fear and anxiety of knowing that they would have unusual children and perhaps the hope that the children would be, well, usual. You can’t hear them tell you about the harsh things their families and communities said to them and the harsh things they said to themselves…and the stories they ended up telling themselves to rationalize. You can’t hear them continue to live and find meaning in things, despite having been treated like shit and exploited. You can’t hear them wonder how in the world to raise their extraordinary children. You cannot hear their courage and perserverance, for it is not a warlike courage of Heraculean deeds, but an interior courage manifested in their continual striving to balance wonder and terror.