Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hex: Season 2, Episode 4: Ella Burns

Jez, the evil Nephilim/priest is giving everyone a lecture of how extreme exclusion of people deemed the “other” was in the past (though misses the “not so past”) and brings up the persecution of witches – why a witch was persecuted quite close by – he said staring directly at Ella.

And while we’re discussing that, we see Ella facing some terrible headaches and also hitting an emotional low since Leon is obviously not very pleased with her at all.  But as much of the taunting seems to be aimed at Ella as anything. Especially since Jez is asking Roxanne to spy on Ella for reasons to kick her out of the schools

Ella, herself, is getting more and more severe headaches and is having visions of someone being tortured. Thelma makes the not very huge leap that she’s actually the witch, which she thinks is cool – and Ella, tormented by headaches and mental images of torture following a witch trial, is not amused and lashes out at Thelma. This very public outburst was noticed by Roxanne. Jex takes this to the headmaster David – advising he let him counsel her.

Of course the true culprit behind it is Azazeal, using the stone that Thelma got for him to make her relive her worst memory, being tortured as a witch.

Jez follows it up with attempted counselling and trying to give her “pain” medication. Ella doesn’t take to it well and especially resents him in her room – dropping lots of hints that she knows about him and Roxanne. But his irritation has him slipping up – and almost revealing he can see Thelma.

But Thelma is more focused on Ella – and asking her what exactly is happening; Ella confides that she’s being forced to relive the worst day of her life – and that he’s doing it using the stone Thelma gave him. Of course, taking the pills Jez offers doesn’t help at all – and leads to her crashing Leon and Roxanne’s little drug party, ranting and screaming and babbling. She passes out and the headmaster and Jez take her to the library.

There Ella wakes up and begins screaming and ranting about Jez poisoning her (true) causing Jez and the reluctant and confused headmaster, to tie her to a chair to stop her from hurting herself. And lighting St. John’s Wart candles that kills her power – and her ranting about power and Jez trying to kill her, of course, makes Headmaster David even more convinced she is insane. The headmaster decides to call a doctor rather than trusting Jez – while Azazeal arrives to taunt her

Thelma, driven by guilt, sees Azazeal skulking around and follows him to a long sealed room – that contains the chair Ella was tortured in. And there’s Azazeal to mock her foolishness – and trap her in her torture chair. It makes Thelma relive it, and suffer it, as well as we watch the flashbacks.

A doctor arrives and finds Ella unconscious. He talks to her friends – but, of course, that’s Leon being blackmailed by Jez for taking magic mushrooms and Roxanne who is sleeping with Jez. Which is interspaced with the same testimony Ella faced when she was on trial as a witch; it’s nicely cut back and forth. These scene melds past and present excellently – it’s really well done.

In the face of the evidence and the scars on Ella’s arms, the doctor decides to have her sectioned. And in the vision of the past we see Ella being lowered over the flames as a witch – but Thelma arrives to winch her back – the judges running at an invisible form saving her. But she isn’t in time in the present to join the ambulance – but Jez does appear to speak to her, again confirming he can see her.

This episode is very well written in terms of fear and pain. It also brilliantly melds the past and present and shows the many ways someone can be railroaded, manipulated and decisions railroaded, especially by anyone claiming any level of expertise. Jez’s claims of being a counsellor push David to follow his instructions even when it goes against his better judgement, just as the court follows the instructions of the witchfinder. 

There isn't much to say on the episode because it was more long scenes rather than many different scenes with a lot happening. It was drawn out, ugly and very disturbing - but then, torture is ugly and disturbing. Some things shouldn't be glamourised or washed over and I think it presents the trial as grim and horrific as it was; though there's a risk of it being gratuitous

It is another depiction of mental illness without actual mental illness which is less than ideal, but it is possible to examine the treatment of the mentally ill through this lens – but inevitably it ends up with the message of “you shouldn’t treat her like this, she’s not mentally ill” rather than “you shouldn’t treat her like this, even if she is mentally ill.”