The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. 1.26 – High Treason (part one)

This blog is, I’m sure, full of opinions nobody agrees with. You will certainly not agree with this one.

For the two-part series finale, four of the show’s main writers (Chehak, Cuse, Kern, Wirth) had our heroes round up four of the popular recurring characters (Pete, Wickire, Whip, Aron Viva) for a big mission in Mexico. But they’ve been set up; it’s all a pretence for a rogue general to launch an invasion and start a war. Brisco short-circuits the scheme, and he and Bowler are arrested, tried by a military tribunal, and sentenced to death at dawn.

Until the sentence, this is Brisco doing what it does best: lighthearted and faintly ridiculous, occasionally really funny. And then the tone changes and it spends about five minutes getting ready for the inevitable end. It’s quiet, funereal. There aren’t any gags. There isn’t any way out. Dawn comes, our heroes decline blindfolds, and Lord Bowler softly says “We had a good run, didn’t we?” The executioners fire and their bodies hit the ground.

If only that had been the ending. It’s so amazingly well done that it’s honestly spoiled by the screen reading “to be continued.” Of course there is more – sensibly, Fox’s trailers for the next episode did not actually feature Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry – and it will be triumphant and silly and entertaining, but if they had decided to end this with our heroes losing so permanently, that really would have been something.

It’s worth noting that about one year before, NBC aired the final episode of Quantum Leap. It ended on an amazing gut-punch that had all twenty million of that show’s fans and viewers furious with Donald P. Bellisario. I never cared much at all for Leap myself, but I enjoyed that strange little hour so much, especially how it refused to act like any traditional series finale before it broke its audience’s heart with its final caption, that it probably had me very anxious to see any other show produce a finale that bold. Brisco couldn’t do it, and it almost certainly shouldn’t have, but I have never been able to quash that part of me that wishes this had been the end.

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