Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Cult-TV Blogging: Brimstone: "Ashes" (December 18, 1998)
If “Slayer” and “Encore” didn’t already prove how the turn-of-the-century horror TV series Brimstone (1998 – 1999) could scale the heights of TV series greatness, then certainly this week’s episode, “Ashes” does.
In this story, Detective Ezekiel Stone (Peter Horton) teams up with Detective Ash (Teri Polo) to investigate a series of arsons in Los Angeles. Houses of faith from various religions are being burned down by an unknown culprit, and worse, someone inside those burned buildings seems to be conducting ceremonial human sacrifices. One night, Stone even dreams of being the victim in one such sacrifice.
At one crime scene, Stone discovers a 4,000 year old Canaanite knife, and realizes that he is facing, perhaps, the most powerful of the 113 Hell escapees. Meanwhile, Ash and Stone grow ever closer while working together, and this episode features an unexpectedly hot sex scene between them in a car. Unfortunately, it ends badly when Ash sees all the strange tattoos on Stone’s chest. She brings things to a stop when she realizes she doesn’t really know who Stone is.
The episode’s final revelation, I must admit, threw me for an absolute loop when I first saw this episode in the 1990s. It turns out that the escaped convict of the week – the arsonist who is angry with God (or Yahweh) is not a guest character, but Ash herself. In fact, as Stone learns, she is actually Ashur Badaktu, the “ringleader” of the break-out down below Worse, she escaped from Hell in the first place (with 112 others…) by tricking and seducing the Devil (John Glover) himself.
It’s a great and absolutely unexpected twist to transform the put-upon, curious and very human Detective Ash -- whom we have seen in virtually every episode so far -- into the series’ villain. This episode also answers some critical questions about her judgment, and why she has been willing to let Stone take the lead on so many cases in her jurisdiction. It turns out, they really are two-of-a-kind.
The chemistry between Stone and Ash (and Horton and Polo) is terrific in this episode, and the latter half of the episode (after the typically dull police procedural aspects…) really sizzles. The final punctuation, of course, is the Devil’s realization of what has occurred. “You fool, you’ve fallen in love with her,” he says to Stone with dismay. Stone counters that he isn’t the only one, and the look on the Devil’s face is priceless. Ash is so powerful a personality that she has pulled the wool over both of their eyes.
The episode’s climax, in which Ash transforms from a blond, 20th century police officer into a dark-haired Caananite warrior is also a real shocker. When Ash escapes, her survival makes “Ashes” the first episode of Brimstone in which Stone doesn’t send a convict back to Hell.
In many ways, “Ashes” feels like it introduces one of the final and most important elements to Brimstone: the individual explicitly working against Stone and the Devil’s agenda. Had the series lasted, I’m certain she would have been an even more important player…
Next week on Brimstone: “Lovers.”