Warning: spoilers about the first episode
Although killing off the lesbian character is a common practice in film and television, even the most jaded viewers don’t expect the lesbian sidekick of the main character to die in the very first episode of a series. But this is exactly what happened on last night’s premiere of the UK’s long-anticipated new show Hex.
Set in a gothic boarding school in England, Hex (airing Sunday nights on Sky One) is a raw and edgy drama that centers on Cassie (Christina Cole), a shy girl who has recently and unexpectedly gained supernatural powers, and her best friend Thelma (Jemima Rooper), a witty lesbian.
Cassie has eyes for Troy (Joseph Morgan), but is also drawn to the evil Azazeal (Michael Fassbender), the leader of the Nephelim, with “thousands of years of sadness behind his eyes,” according to producer Johnny Capps — a description that is sure to draw comparisons to Buffy’s boyfriend Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
There are other similarities to Buffy, like the show’s references to broader social and political issues.
The theme of slavery runs throughout; for example, the headmaster of the school imparts such gems of wisdom as “all religion is dangerous if it is taken too far,” and Cassie states that she would rather marry Saddam Hussein and kill Bush when playing the game “Shag, Marry, Push off a Cliff” with Thelma (who would have shagged Lucy Liu, married Cameron Diaz, and killed Drew Barrymore).
But there are some key differences, too. Cassie is neither an anti-hero nor the hero, and in comparison to Buffy, Cassie seems both emotionally and physically pathetic. Whereas Buffy had physical power, Cassie does not, and she often seems consumed by her weakness (like when she sees a bald woman in the bathroom mirror after she has just washed her hair).
Christina Cole as Cassie
The love triangle in Hex also departs from Buffy‘s initial Xander-Willow-Buffy triangle.
If Cassie is the British Buffy in Hex, and Thelma the British Willow, then Buffy and Willow would have had to flirt shamelessly with each other, while Buffy looks longingly at the popular boy of the school, and Willow looks longingly at Buffy.
The promos leading up to Hex’s debut heavily touted the love triangle between Cassie, Thelma, and Troy, leaving many lesbian and bisexual viewers disconcerted, since this is not a formula that often leaves the lesbian triumphant (as we saw most recently in the relationship between Nan and Kitty in Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet).
The triangle is immediately addressed in the pilot, with plenty of flirtatious dialogue between Thelma and Cassie, like this:
In moments such as this, and in scenes like the one where Thelma draws around an underwear-clad Cassie lying on the floor, the viewer feels a mixture of affection and anxiety: affection for the relationship between the two characters and the amazing chemistry Cole and Rooper share onscreen, and anxiety for the inevitable outcome of their relationship, which can only end in frustration for Thelma (although we didn’t quite expect her to die).