The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.20 – Bye Bly

I wouldn’t say that they pulled out all the stops for Billy Drago’s final appearance on Brisco County, Jr. and the final death(s) of John Bly, as written by Carlton Cuse. The story feels incredibly small and contained to just a few sets and the backlot, and even the film stock looks oddly poor. It’s not lush. This time travel story owes a lot to Back to the Future and The Terminator. From there, we get the rule that time travel is easier when nude, but this only applies to a cute brunette from the year 5500, and nobody else. I guess she makes up for all those male models running around shirtless three episodes ago.

Bly gets killed twice because Brisco doesn’t like the way the first final confrontation ends: with Lord Bowler’s death. Sadly, while the gruesome special effects of the second ending in the do-over that Brisco creates for himself may have startled our son to the point that he said “ewww, I’m gonna be sick,” the second time just isn’t as impressive. That’s because the first showdown has both a stunning fight between Bruce Campbell and Billy Drago along with Bowler’s heartbreaking death. Beautifully, it feels like the character bows out for real because earlier in the episode, he did that thing that all doomed co-stars do a few scenes before they cop it and talked about retiring. And Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry act their socks off in the scene. It’s a great, great death scene. Heck, I wouldn’t wish Lord Bowler dead, but with a finale that sad, who’d want to rewrite time?

With the end of the John Bly storyline, it’s fair to say that some of the wind leaves this show’s sails. There are still seven episodes to come, and some of them are perfectly entertaining, but the slight format change introduced in the episode’s closing moments – Brisco and Bowler become special government agents answerable to President Cleveland – won’t find the series changing its rhythm or tone very much. Richard Herd makes his first of two appearances as Grover Cleveland in this episode. Herd is that guy who was always on TV in the nineties, often on Seinfeld, who looks exactly like Karl Malden.

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