Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Cult-TV Blogging: Brimstone: "Executioner" (December 4, 1998)

This week’s episode of Brimstone (1998 – 1999), titled “Executioner,” isn’t one of the best in the series catalog.

The story involves Det. Ezekiel Stone (Peter Horton) hunting down a vigilante killer who uses electricity to fry those who have escaped the hand of justice.  Stone teams with a feisty district attorney nicknamed “The Dargon Lady” and “the Iron Maiden” played by Michelle Forbes to investigate the case, and at first pursues a red herring (Robert Knepper) before targeting the right man  (John Hawke).

This story is far more routine and by-the-numbers than most Brimstone episodes, with fewer twists and turns. Although the supporting cast is indeed strong, and the Devil (Glover)/Stone repartee is as amusing as everywhere (particularly a reference to Regis and Kathie Lee), this episode really drags.

Late in the story, the Devil makes an observation that the killer here has appointed himself “judge, jury and executioner,” and explicitly compares that act to Stone’s vigilante murder of Gilbert Jax, his wife’s rapist.  

This kind of social commentary – and mirror for Stone -- is usually the thematic point of a Brimstone episode.  By investigating each Hell escapee, Stone gains some new insight into his own humanity, and his own failings.  Here, however, the comment by the Devil feels shoehorned into the proceedings to give the story some meaning beyond the dull, plodding murder investigation.

The most interesting aspect of this episode, perhaps, involves Detective Ash (Teri Polo) and Stone growing (almost) intimate over a game of pool in a bar.  Just as they are about to kiss, a waitress walks by pours a drink on Ash, thus ending the romantic moment. 

We learn afterwards that the Devil paid the waitress to spill the drink.  The funny thing about this whole sequence is that it when viewed in context of this episode alone, it plays merely as the Devil being his usual, mischievous self.  However, in light of the next episode in the canon -- the brilliant and shocking “Ashes” -- it takes on a whole different aspect.  After that episode, we understand there are reasons why the Devil doesn’t want Ash to hook up with Stone.  In fact, from a certain perspective, the Devil is even protecting Stone.

The relatively poor “Executioner” reminds the viewer that Brimstone is an exceedingly strong series only when it travels beyond the repetitious police procedural format, and only when it remembers that the series concerns more than chasing the supernaturally-powered criminal of the week.   With a few exceptions, installments such as this one are as dull, predictable and forgettable as your average first season episode of Grimm.

Fortunately, Brimstone hits its stride again in next week’s show, the aforementioned “Ashes.”

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