Saturday, July 23, 2011
Facetiousness aside, this series was basically Firefly before there was Firefly, only with no DVD sales to provide a relatively happy ending.
Brimstone is about Ezekiel Stone, a NYC detective living in the mid-80s. He's a clean cop, does a good job, and has a beautiful wife. Life is good. Then, one day he comes home to find that his wife has been raped. They catch the guy, a serial rapist who manages to get off the hook due to a technicality. Zeke, not able to stand the fact that such a slimeball could be walking around free tracks him down and kills him, making it look like a drug overdose. Two months later he's shot dead in the line of duty.
Fast forward 15 years. 113 of some of the worst souls ever to be damned to hell escape back into the earth. So the devil, knowing that Zeke (despite the act of revenge that got him damned) is an honest guy with a sense of justice makes him a deal: If he can track down and send all 113 of the escaped souls back to hell by destroying their eyes (the windows to the soul) then he will get a second chance at life and, therefore a second chance at heaven. The thing is, the longer a soul is in hell, the more that hell becomes a part of them. So someone like Zeke, who only spent 15 years there, doesn't feel heat, and is stronger than most people, but that's about it. But those who have been there longer have some pretty interesting powers, always related to either the kind of person they were in life, or to the sin that condemned them to hell. For instance, one girl who was a typhoid carrier and intentionally infected others over 100 years ago now has super typhoid that kills mortals almost instantly. Another soul is one of Carthage's elite assassins who helped invade Rome with Hannibal over 2000 years ago, and he can turn completely invisible.
The show is fairly episodic with only a couple recurring characters, most of which are not important to the plot, but all of them are interesting and three-dimentional. The main one is John Glover, who gives an amazing performance as the devil (and also later in the show an angel, though we're never told which one). While in most shows the episodic nature might become a boring "monster-of-the-week" thing, Brimstone manages to keep the "monsters" pretty engaging and often manages to make some of the escaped souls rather sympathetic. For example, there is one girl from medieval times who was raped by local lord's sons. Since she was a peasant, there was no justice. So she burned down the building they were in, killing her rapists, and everyone else in the building. What's Zeke gonna do? He did close the same thing. In another episode, Zeke's hunting down an escaped Nazi. Easy enough and no guilt, right? Thing is, this Nazi wasn't a Jew-hater. In fact he was quite the opposite. He was kind of a mini-Schindler because he almost smuggled several dozen Jews into the safety of England. What got him damned was the fact that we has a coward. He was so scared that something would go wrong and he would be caught that he turned them in himself, and got a nice promotion out of it, but never slept a good night's sleep after that. So what's Zeke to do? The guy obviously regrets what he did and is penitent. How can he send him back to eternal torment?
Even though the show does really well with it's episodic format, what really makes the show great is it's character interactions, especially between Zeke and the Devil. As I said before, John Glover plays probably the best devil I've ever seen. He plays the role as an amazingly magnificent b*st*rd who simultaneously helps and hinders Zeke in his efforts to track down and re-kill the 113 escaped souls. Really, it's hard to describe the two interacting, but it is brilliant. You really need to watch it for yourself.
The reason I won't be showing this at the film forum is because you can't find this on DVD or even VHS. Heck, FOX almost never even licenses the reruns out to cable channels. It ran on the SciFi channel for a year or so back in the early 2000s, but it's rarely been seen since. I think it shows occasionally on the "Chiller" channel, but I don't get that one, so I'm not sure. If you really want to find it, you could probably find some guy on eBay who'll sell you bootleg "DVDs" that just have the show copied off of VHS tapes from when the show originally ran or was on the SciFi channel. It's really a shame, because this was a great show. Unfortunately, it's creators, Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, (yeah, I don't know who they are either, really) didn't have the star power of Joss Wheden to get the show put out on DVD, and FOX currently has no plans of releasing them, either. Darn shame.
Bottom Line: Amazing show. Simply amazing. It was cut down in its prime, and we shall rarely see its likes again. I just hope beyond hope that FOX will see the light and have a DVD release. I know I'd be one of the very first people to purchase a copy.