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Series / Brimstone

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"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been a long time since my last confession. I was a cop, and good at my job. I was married; I had a good life. Then my wife was raped. We caught the guy who did it, but he got off. So I tracked him down and I killed him. Two months later, I cornered this petty thief who had a gun. He opened up on me, and I took five bullets to the face and neck. I died. And because I had killed a man in cold blood, I went to Hell. You know it's funny, but even in the most maximum security penitentiary, from time to time, inmates will escape. It happened on Devil's Island. It happened at Alcatraz. Six weeks ago... it happened in Hell."
Ezekiel Stone

A kind of satanic version of Highlander. Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Stone (Peter Horton) was damned to Hell in 1983 for killing, in cold blood, Gilbert Jax, the man who raped his wife, after he got Off on a Technicality. Fifteen years later, 113 of the most vicious damned souls in Hell escaped to Earth. Satan (John Glover), furious at having been "beaten," sent Stone back to Earth to track them down and kill them, returning them to Hell. If he succeeds, he gets the greatest reward of all: A second life on Earth, and thus a second chance at Heaven.

The show starts off in New York but, starting with as early as the second episode, takes places in Los Angeles, perhaps due to the fact that a resurrected hero cop going around his old haunt, so to speak, might attract unwanted attention.

Unfortunately, it suffered from constant preemptions and never quite found its audience, and was canceled after just 13 episodes. Lasted from October 1998 to February 1999.

The television show Reaper is eerily similar in concept to Brimstone, though played for comedy rather than dark action.

Provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The damned souls are mostly invulnerable, Stone included; the only way to kill them is to destroy/remove their eyes. Eyes being the "windows to the soul," of course.
  • Affably Evil: Definitely Satan, which is unsurprising, considering who played him, the ever-sarcastic and witty John Glover.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: A repeating plot element, at least on the supernatural side. You sin, you go to Hell. Period. No mitigating circumstances considered. A couple of the 113, not to mention Zeke himself, are actually quite sympathetic, basically decent people who made one big error in judgement...but that doesn't save them from eternal torment. This is revealed to be the cause of the entire plot—it doesn't even matter if you follow a different religion; if your people were conquered by Abrahamics, then you're judged as one. Ashur Badaktu AKA Detective Ash was a high priestess of a pagan religion which Abrahamics exterminated to the last man, meaning there was no one left to carry on her beliefs and condemning her to Hell by default. You cannot imagine how pissed off she is. However, this is offset by the fact that no matter what crimes you have committed, you can still repent and be redeemed, as the 'good' John Glover points out.
  • The Alleged Car: Satan gives Zeke one of these in one episode. At the end of the episode, Zeke realizes that it's the second damned soul Satan told him to reclaim that week, and shoots its "eyes" (headlights) out to send it back to Hell.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted. The escaped souls are often evil and one would expect them to be but, in fact, at least a few were shown to have been genuinely good people who made horrific decisions or, in at least one case, were doing what they believed to be the best (i.e. human sacrifice), only to then be judged by another religion's values after dying. Two of the thirteen episodes ("Repentance" and "Faces") use less violent special effects when Zeke "sends them back," leaving open the possibility that they were allowed into Heaven this time.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Typhoid Sally insisted on this, for good reason.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Zeke had $36.27 on him when he died. Just so happens, Ezekiel 36:27 is a fitting verse for his situation:
    "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The lost souls are all but invulnerable, but if you pierce their eyes, they earn a one-way trip back to Hell.
  • The Atoner: Subverted. Zeke still believes that killing Jax was the right thing to do.
  • Badass Longcoat: Zeke wears one.
  • Big Bad: Surprisingly, given its Monster of the Week format and being canceled after only 13 episodes, the series managed to present the mastermind behind the escape, Ash. She seeks to demolish the world's faith in God and possibly bring back her own. This Big Bad even worries Satan.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Justified. Every day, Zeke wakes up with exactly what he had on him when he died. This includes his clothes, his money, and his ammunition. But it's supposedly once a day, so he can and does run out of ammo a couple of times.
  • Boxed Crook: The Devil releases Zeke from Hell to capture the 113 damned souls that had escaped. If he returns all 113, he gets a second chance at life. If he fails, he returns to eternal damnation.
  • Confessional: The opening scene of the series uses this as exposition that Zeke has been brought back from the dead to hunt down 113 souls who have escaped from Hell. When the priest, Father Salinas, demands to know why he's telling "this ridiculous story," Zeke says: "Oh, I think you know." (Salinas is one of the 113.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Devil. Zeke manages to get in a few snarks as well.
  • Dead to Begin With: The show involves a deceased cop making a Deal with the Devil to catch 113 souls that had escaped from hell.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: The Devil is shown at the local hot dog stand and jogging.
  • Devil's Job Offer: Zeke, a tough-as-nails cop who went to Hell for the cold-blooded killing of the man who raped his wife, is allowed to return to Earth to hunt down 113 damned souls who've Escaped from Hell...
  • Divinely Appearing Demons: Satan visits at least Once an Episode, played by John Glover and wearing a good-looking business suit. When an angel appears later on, John Glover is dressed in a very worn-out white painter's outfit. Zeke first mistakes him for Satan, wondering why the new outfit. In the alternate ending, Satan finds the angel's doorag in his coat pocket.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Gilbert Jax, the guy who raped Zeke's wife, is one of the 113 who escaped. Zeke doesn't have the heart to tell Jax's mother what the guy was really like and lets her believe he sent Jax back to Heaven.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The Devil is annoyed when Zeke shoots him, and makes it clear he's not to do it again.
  • Escaped from Hell: 113 of the most evil damned souls in Hell escape to Earth; the Devil sends deceased cop Ezekiel Stone topside to bring them all back in exchange for being restored to life himself.
  • Evil is Petty: Whenever Satan drops by, he will engage in some petty prank of anonymous evil, such as ticketing a legally-parked car, loosening the lid on a salt shaker, or tying shoelaces together.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Inverted. Zeke wears long sleeves and a trenchcoat in the middle of the day in LA.
  • Expy: Sally McGee, the villainess of "Carrier" does a pitch-perfect Harley Quinn impression. Given the episode also makes a reference to Zeke being Batman, this seems fully intentional. And her situation is itself an expy of the historical Typhoid Mary.
    • The murderous lovers of, well, "Lovers", seem to be a lethal version of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Eye Scream: The escaped souls can be forced to return when the eyes of their hosts ("windows to the soul") are destroyed. This is often mentioned but usually done off-screen by Ezekiel.
  • Fake Guest Star: John Glover, who plays the Devil in every episode, is always credited as a guest star. In fact, the only name in the opening titles is Peter Horton.
    • He was originally supposed to only appear in the pilot, but the chemistry between Glover and Horton was so wonderful that the producers decided to make him a regular in all but name.
  • Femme Fatale: Detective Ash.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Oddly, Zeke himself is shown to suffer from this the most as he learns things such as looking information up on the internet as an alternative to the library. Others who have been in Hell for hundreds or thousands of years seem to have no trouble adjusting to their new surroundings.
  • Foe Romance Subtext:
    • Between Zeke and Ash. It started off as mutual attraction, until she got his shirt off and saw her name tattooed on his chest. She still seems to have some interest in him, however.
    • She's even implied to have worked her wiles on Satan.
  • Friend on the Force: Detective Kane in the pilot, but from the second episode onward, the series takes place on the West Coast and he's replaced by Ash.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Undergoes a dizzying Genre Shift when Detective Ash, the LAPD policewoman who had been Zeke's inside track with earthly authorities is revealed to be Ashur Badaktu, the ringleader of the 113 souls and a dead Canaanite priestess who had engineered the escape from Hell, possibly by seducing Satan. (The policeman had, unwittingly, been helping her to eliminate members of her "gang" that had gone rogue.) Her plan is to systematically eradicate belief in the God of Abraham from human culture, thereby causing God, Heaven, and Hell to all blink out of existence. Zeke realizes that Satan had been desperate to retrieve the escaped spirits, not out of some altruistic desire to restore the cosmic balance, but because if Ash were to succeed in her agenda, Satan, being part of the Abrahamic religion himself, would blink out of existence as well.
  • Go for the Eye: The eyes of the fugitives from Hell are their only weak spot (because eyes are the windows of the soul), thus Zeke has to shoot their eyes to send them back. Interestingly enough, he's also immune to everything except the eyes.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: implied with Sally McGee, the villainess of "Carrier"; she wouldn't have been condemned for the people she infected and killed before she was diagnosed, but when she was imprisoned in isolation she broke under the isolation, escaped, and killed more than 200 people by infecting them with typhoid.
  • Gotta Kill Them All: Zeke gets a second shot at Heaven if he catches all 113.
  • Hellevator: Every time Zeke meets Satan in an elevator, it's always going down.
  • Hero of Another Story: Detective Ash who turns out to be one of the 113.
  • Human Notepad: Zeke has the names of the 113 damned souls he's hunting tattooed on his body, "penned in [the Devil's] native tongue." When he sends a damned soul back, their name is removed, painfully.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Ezekiel Stone, for the 113 damned souls who escaped from Hell.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Zeke's pretty good at hitting targets in the eyes. Justified in that a soul escaped from Hell gains supernatural powers related to the individual's history and/or mental condition. As a former cop, it's entirely conceivable that superhuman shooting accuracy is Zeke's power.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: "It's a Helluva Life" uses this to some extent. Since Zeke is already dead, it involves the Devil showing him how all the things he'd done during his life had led to bad outcomes and pretty much doomed him to Hell, even without him killing his wife's rapist. Luckily, an angel turns up to point out all the good he'd done as well.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Pulled in the last episode.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Zeke always has exactly what he died with on him, including his handgun and its bullets as well as the $36.27 USD he had in his pockets, both of which are replenished each day.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In one of the later episodes, the Devil calls Ezekiel out on stuff he did in his life. However, the angel in the same episode does tell Ezekial that he wasn't damned to Hell despite what he did.
  • Knight Templar AND Sinister Minister: Father Edward Salinas, one of the 113 escapees, sacrifices boys to prevent the Apocalypse.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: The Devil wears an expensive Victorian suit, complete with a red tie and a pocket watch. In contrast, an angel is shown looking exactly like him but dressed as a blue-collar worker (a ceiling painter).
  • Muggle Best Friend: Ezekial has several of these, including Maxine and Father Cletus Horn, who are normal humans and are unaware of Ezekial's Hellish origins.
  • Night Swim Equals Death: A young woman who went to Hell after she murdered the families of the men who raped her goes swimming at night with her new boyfriend. When he gets a little too frisky and triggers her, her demonic powers kick in and she boils him alive in the water.
  • One-Word Title:
    • The show title, as the show's plot relates to Hell.
    • Episodes:
      • "Carrier": An episode about a Plaguemaster, aka a "carrier of disease."
      • All of the episodes up to the 12th have one-word titles.
  • Opening Narration: Subsequent episodes started with a truncated version of Zeke's confession from the pilot.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The 113 souls are, for the most part, invulnerable versions of who they were in life, don't need to eat or sleep (the Devil berates Zeke for this "indulgence"), and any DNA sample taken reveals itself to be dead.
    • Zeke himself could be considered a Revenant with the task of one of the Furies.
  • Plaguemaster: The damned soul of the week in "Carrier."
  • Portmantitle: Brimstone's etymology is likely a fusion of Old English words for "burning" and "stone." The show's plot relates to Hell.
  • Post-Rape Taunt: The main reason Zeke was in Hell in the first place. He tracked down his wife's rapist Gilbert Jax, who bragged about it. Zeke opened fire.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Ash. When she's going to kill Roz to become her, she keeps sniffing her like she's attracted to her.
  • Pun: Done in the pilot when one cop hints he's Jewish.
    "I'm more Old Testament. You go your way, I go YAHWEH."
  • The Punishment: The longer a soul spends in Hell, the more Hell becomes a part of them; the more Hell becomes a part of them, the more unholy power they're able to unleash when they break free.
  • Redemption Quest: More or less the entire plot.
  • Repeat Cut: "And I killed him — killed him — killed him," when Zeke is giving his backstory in the first episode.
  • The Reveal: Detective Ash is really Ashur Badaktu, the mastermind behind the mass breakout from Hell.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Zeke met Satan in an elevator, it would always be on its way down.
    • When Satan appears, he usually does some minor prank to an innocent bystander around him.
  • Satan: Played by John Glover.
  • Satan Is Good: The Devil isn't necessarily evil. In fact, he's in charge of punishing evildoers, hence his need to get the 113 escapees back to Hell. He is, however, an unrepentant Jerkass and his need to get the souls back is entirely motivated by self-interest because if Ash succeeds in her ultimate goal of wiping out Abrahamism, he'll disappear with it.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: An unusual example: It's implied that, prior to the rise of monotheism, people were judged by whatever deity they worshiped. After the Christian God wiped out the pagan gods, however, everyone was judged together. The show makes both options look equally unappealing: Either everyone is judged by a single authoritarian cosmic power, who often ignores context when dishing out punishments, or people face no consequences for atrocities because they're judged by the deity who ordered the atrocities.
  • Sinister Minister: Father Edward Salinas in the pilot episode.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Satan is sometimes spotted smoking a big cigar.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Hasdrabul Skaras, a Canaanite mercenary who gets Zeke's attention by targeting police widows for murder in "Slayer".
  • Trickster Mentor: Satan.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Some of the escaped souls were in Hell for more than a thousand years, yet they always seem to be perfectly adjusted to the modern world. Meanwhile Ezekiel has trouble adjusting to how things have changed in just fifteen years.
  • Walking Wasteland: "Carrier."
  • Water Source Tampering: In "Carrier," Zeke has to stop a Poisonous Person before she can throw up in the local reservoir.
  • With This Herring: Zeke is to track down damned souls who have been in hell since the beginning of time and thus have amassed fantastic powers. To accomplish this mission, he has a handgun and $36.27, the amount of money in his pockets at the moment he was killed. Luckily, that gun has a Bottomless Magazine and that wad of cash is replenished each day; it's essentially his salary. Just for fun, go grab a Bible and look up Ezekiel 36:27. We'll wait.