Forgotten Gems: TV’s ‘Brimstone’

Forgotten Gems: TV’s ‘Brimstone’

February 15, 2020 0 By Jeff Fountain

As a horror fan, I have spent many disappointing years in front of the television, constantly flicking through channels in hopes of finding something new and exciting. I had all but given up on any series being done and began settling into the late-night horror movie rerun routine. Then in the latter part of the nineties, along came Chris Carter’s Millennium and I was in heaven. I didn’t think it could get any better but I was wrong. On October 23, 1998, Fox premiered a new series to lead into Millennium on Friday nights called Brimstone. It was at this point I was in horror TV series heaven. Back to back dark, brooding and horror-filled TV shows? I had died and gone to heaven.

Alas, it was short-lived as Brimstone was canceled after only thirteen episodes. Another show with so much promise once again flushed down the television toilet.

The premise of Brimstone seemed simple at first glance.

Ezekiel Stone, a highly decorated police detective in New York, gets pushed passed his breaking point when his wife is raped and then the offender is cleared of all charges. Stone then tracks him down, kills him and gets away with it.

A few months later Stone himself is killed and goes straight to Hell for murdering his wife’s attacker. Fifteen years later, 113 souls breakout from Hell and the Devil sends Stone back to the land of the living to track them down. If Stone manages to return all 113 souls to Hell, the Devil promises him a second chance at life on Earth. Of course, when you make a deal with the Devil there is always a catch or in this case, rules and guidelines that need to be followed. The only way the escaped souls can be returned to Hell is by destroying their eyes. They, along with Stone are basically immortal otherwise. They don’t bleed and can’t be injured. The only way either can be hurt or killed is by one another.

I found this set up for the show very intriguing with huge possibilities. When I watched the first episode the first thing that struck me was the look of the show. It was dark, gritty and just plain dirty. It had a great sense of despair hanging over it, just waiting to show itself at a moment’s notice. With a wonderfully dreary setting, it allowed the viewer to connect more with the characters, especially Ezekiel Stone, who live in this environment. You begin to actually feel for Stone and start rooting for him, even though you know he is not perfect.

That brings us to the two main characters in the show. Stone (Peter Horton) and the Devil (John Glover).

The two actors had great chemistry together, playing off one another quite well. They were able to convey the required amount of tension needed but added to the relationship by adding dark comedic jabs at each other. Bad guys, or in this case the Devil, always seem to get the best lines. Glover delivers his sarcastic dialogue while still being able to give off a sense of malevolence and evil.

Horton had a much tougher task, both with his character and the dialogue.  It must have been hard playing a character that is given a second chance but has to thank and/or answer to the Devil. Not only that, but he must deal with the guilt of killing a man and knowing his wife is still alive but essentially out of his reach. It is also pretty clear after the first few episodes that there is no guarantee that the Devil will keep his promise should Stone complete his task of recovering the 113 escaped souls, some of whom were extremely clever and quite evil.  Making a deal with the Devil is obviously not a great idea, but if you are already stuck in hell for eternity what do you have to lose?

Whenever the Devil showed up, you really never knew what his real agenda was. He would offer hints or help to Stone on certain topics but then do it in a way that was just vague enough to piss off Horton and the viewer alike. Stone does find a few allies along the way, but in the end, it is all up to him to wade through real clues and misinformation to move towards his ultimate goal.

Maybe it was the mood of the show that did it in. It can be hard to watch a series week in and week out that has such a heavy-handed feel or mood to it. Having it go back to back with Millennium was probably too much for most TV viewers at one sitting. It was great for me, but that was possibly the darkest and most depressing two hours in network television history.

I am always puzzled at why shows get pulled after only one season. Ratings obviously play a big factor but there seems to be little in the way of patience from the powers that be.  Sure, some series are bad but you would think two seasons would be the measuring stick to see if the show is catching on and gaining a core audience.

The show lasted only 13 episodes and was canceled while they were filming episode 14. Not only that, but apparently there were another six episodes in various states of pre-production. In reality, FOX never really gave the show a chance. It was given a poor time slot, episodes were aired out of order, which really damaged some fo the continuity being developed in the storyline.

Well, nothing to do now except cry in my beer, watch reruns and dream of what could have been. As it is, it was a great concept and delivered some quality television, well-acted, strong visuals and with a solid musical score.  Do yourself a favor and search it out sometime. You will not be disappointed.