Now that Ash vs Evil Dead has finally reached the destination of its long and winding journey through the rather nondescript emerald flat lands of “Missouri,” we can finally put our roots down and figure out what the hell we’re going to do to make the remaining two episodes of the season the spectacle us fans deserve. If you didn’t catch last week’s momentous episode, we’re back at the cabin, and you know what that means: it’s Evil Dead 4 time baby! Hex yeah.
Even though the recreated set seemed lifeless and cold in “Ashes to Ashes,” here it gets it’s old spooky spirit back, literally and figuratively. And how appropriate is that, given that this is the (gulp) penultimate episode of the show’s irresistible yet uneven first year on the air.
As soon as the episode kicks off, I had a gut feeling that this installment was written from a completely different angle than its dreary predecessor was. We left off in a somewhat disturbing place last time: Ash suddenly had yet another evil doppelganger grown from his old hand that brutally murdered Agent Fisher by impaling her on a pair of antlers, just like how her partner from the pilot died. It was a grim note to end on, and the cartoony duel between the two Ashes that immediately followed gave us a case of tonal whiplash that I’m still recovering from.
I suppose that’s why I found our heroes immediately making puns and cracking jokes about the shocking brutality a major character suffered so, I don’t know…insensitive?
Wait — why am I complaining that an Evil Dead TV show isn’t being sensitive enough? When did Evil Dead ever have a code of morals, or respect its characters for that matter? When did it ever take time to show grief or normal human reactions? I mean, what do I expect from the horror franchise that introduced us to tree rape for crying out loud?! Nothing tops tree rape. Absolutely nothing.
So, with this perspective in mind, I’m going to shut down that part of my analytical process down and continue to charge ahead through this series like that evil POV cam zooming through a wooded area. Deal? Deal.
It’s no shock to anyone that Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t what you’d call a feminist show. We may have Kelly, the sardonic and aggressive Jewish female character who talks like a sailor and carries a assault rifle, but we also have characters like Agent Fisher who have been nothing less than disposable pieces of cardboard in a show that’s preoccupied with improvising curveballs to throw at us than it is in telling a consistent and logical story arc.
And now, we have Heather…ugh. She’s not so much of a character as she is a pet. Then there’s Ruby. She really doesn’t count because Lucy Lawless is more of a goddess you invoke for awesomeness than a female human being. Come on, Ash vs Evil Dead. I know you’re made for the dude demographic and everything, but damn. Let’s be a little bit less offensive when you’re trying to offend us, okay?!
Hey, remember that time a week ago when I said that Evil Ash was the big bad? Just kidding! He gets taken out before the intro credits even begin to roll in this episode. Thanks, Ash vs Evil Dead. You truly are an unpredictable show, and I mean that in a (mostly) flattering way.
Okay, so maybe you come across as shallow most of the time, but I get it. You’ve only got thirty minutes a week to spare, and you need to get your shit done. But why did you spend all that time ruminating about whether or not Ash is evil and teasing us with his old hand running around looking like Thing in desperate need of some lotion? I guess I had this impression you’d be getting more mileage out of what (I thought) you were setting up.
I haven’t seen the finale yet, so I don’t know what you’ve got hiding up your sleeve. I just wanted to let you know that I love you but I think you’re oddly paced at times and I’m not quite sure what your priorities are when it comes to storytelling. It’s like you still haven’t decided what kind of story you want to tell: a parody, a stoner comedy, a horror anthology, a road trip movie, a zombie thriller, a supernatural cop drama, or an Evil Dead sequel. Don’t get me wrong, you can be all of those things and more if you want to. Here’s a pile of genres; by all means, bend away. But while you’re doing that, can you decide whether or not your characters are real or if they’re cartoons? I think that might help out the most.
Like, is Ash a traumatized, grumpy survivor, a big hearted, wisecracking mentor, a bigoted, rapist asshole, a blood soaked superhero, or just another insane serial killer? Is Pablo a sweet and loveable nerd or is he the teenage heartthrob that gets all the girls? Is Kelly an aggressive empowered female or a prickly sex object? (There’s a mental image for you. Happy Holidays.) The angle seems to change week-to-week, does it not?
And, still, we have this idea that Ash is still not a very good guy planted in our heads. Despite the premature loss of his evil twin, “Bound in Flesh” still waters this seed. We see the Necronomicon Ex Mortis begging Ash to use it again, convincing him that it’s the source of his “super powers.” Without it, he’d be just another stock boy in a mediocre department store somewhere in the midwest. Ruby echoes this notion after she introduces herself to Pablo and Kelly in the woods, suggesting that there’s a big part of him that doesn’t want to bury the book and end all of the madness because then he would be faced with a more mundane sort of hell: his everyday life.
Does he really want this all to end? Is Ash really that self-destructive and bored that the only way he can feel valuable to the world is if he perpetuates a bloody war against the forces of darkness that continues to end the lives of countless innocent people across time?
Again, this is fantastic insight into Ash’s character, his motivations, and the nature of his role in the Evil Dead universe. But are we going to do anything worthwhile with that, Ash vs Evil Dead? Is this going to have some significance in the season finale, or are you just tossing out ideas for fun again because your doggie bag is getting full again?
What else…oh, Fisher returns here as a Deadite, and she proves to be one of the most ferocious yet. She kills off a couple of the Kiwi hikers and shoves her hands into the backs of their skulls to make them her unholy Muppets. Now this scene, folks, is quintessential Evil Dead. It’s shocking, visceral and sickly funny. It’s silly and childish and brutal and disgusting. It provokes a reaction out of you. Take notes.
Anyway, Fisher uses this as an opportunity to make fun of the impending forced romance between Pablo and Kelly, which is hilarious because I’m still very much on the fence with their coupling. I don’t want to say it came out of nowhere, but…it came out of nowhere, right? Again, it seems that because Kelly’s a girl and Pablo’s a boy and they chop up corpses together, they have to be in love. They can’t just be friends or anything. Nope. Sigh.
What’s worse, we can tell Heather’s just there to bring out this sexual tension between the two while making Pablo look like he can get some. Oh, plus to add to that body count thing too, I’m assuming. So far, she’s just your average ordinary sacrificial blonde girl seen in most horror films of the 1980s. I have a feeling that she’s about to sink her teeth into the big dust pie next time, so I’m not getting too attached, nor do I want to. But I think it’s interesting they’re playing with classic horror pastiches to bring back that vintage video nasty feel that is embedded in the show’s DNA.
At last, Ruby finally (repeated for extra emphasis: finally) confronts Ash face to face, after all that time she spent catching up to him. Thankfully, it’s just as cool as I thought it would be. The chemistry and banter between Lucy and Brucie is as smooth as the creamiest of peanut butters, and equally as nummy (it even gets stuck to the roof of your mouth). I mean, the funniest and most quotable lines in the entire series (so far) were shot back and forth between the two in the space of under four minutes or less.
Is this really the second-to-last episode of the season? We need more time to bask in the glory of watching these two legendary cult icons roast each other. But, nope. No more distractions. It’s time to get down to business. We have to make the most of the time we have left and so we can reach the big plot crescendo stuff.
After dodging a few zingers, Ruby explains to Ash that in order to stop all of this terror and bloodshed, Ash must pass on his book bearing duties to her by cutting off its face with her Kandarian dagger while she recites incantations that her father wrote. He hesitates for a moment, and it’s played out almost like his character is being put on trial by the rest of the cast, Pablo and Kelly, especially. With all the doubts planted in their head by Ruby and pretty much everyone else ever, they half-expect him to not go through with it. Hell, even we stop and wonder if he will or not. He eventually does, and he rips of the screaming face of the Book of the Dead quickly and efficiently with the knife, handing it over to Ruby when he’s done.
See? He’s capable of sharing power with a woman in a symbolic act. He’s really not so bad after all. Y’know, if you look past all of the racism and the sexual predation and the bone-headed carelessness and the unapologetic misanthropy and the…ah, just forget I said anything.
When the Necronomicon’s face is in Ruby’s hands, she continues to chant, and the old cabin starts rumble and shake, acting crazy just like it used to. Hallelujah! The face also flies towards the mysterious pendant around Pablo’s neck and winds up plastered to his own very confused face instead. We could tell Ash had a bad feeling about all of this, couldn’t we? He steps in to stop Ruby, asking her if she knows what she’s doing. “Of course I know what I’m doing,” she says. “I wrote this book.” #cliffhanger
Now, I’m not going to spend much time speculating on whether or not Ruby is really the one who wrote the book or if she’s been possessed since her sudden death and rebirth a couple of episodes ago at Brujo’s shack, but I will say this: “Bound in the Flesh” was one of the most satisfying and confident episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead so far. Now that it’s back in familiar territory (i.e. the cabin), it feels ready to tell a story that is equally as relevant to the future of Evil Dead as much as it is respectful to the past.
I don’t want to hype up the season finale too much, but I’m hoping that it will be as game changing as the endings of each film in the classic trilogy were, and equally as surprising. Cross your fingers — after you pick them up off the floor.
Hot damn, was there a f**k ton of dismemberment in this episode. First Evil Ash, then the hikers… Plus, all that gore too. Heather’s fractured leg, the bloody puppeteering…sheesh. Say, you feel like going out for Italian later? My treat.
“She’s a Knowby!” Pablo and Kelly act like hardcore fans who’ve watched Dead by Dawn too many times. I guess Ash probably had time to tell them everything while they were cruising around, yeah?
So Ruby really does have the hots for Fisher. I thought she might have been seducing Fisher during their scene together back in “The Host”. Is this a clever reference to Xena/Gabrielle?
This also just might be the scariest episode of the show so far, now that I think about it. The atmosphere is menacing and brutally dangerous, and the snappy jokes juxtapose that dread quite well. I think this is a good example of what the show could become in its second season if it had a more stable seasonal story architecture.
THE NOT SO GROOVY
I apologize for the delay in this review, folks! The holiday weekend had me all over the place (in a good way, of course.) I hope you and yours had good time yourself. You can expect my review of the season finale up soon after it airs this Saturday, because I’m sure we’ll all want to share our reactions as soon as we see what crazy shit goes down. Is a rip in time and space that sucks our heroes into another dimension too much to ask for? No? God, I hope not.
“Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers (played ironically during montage of Ash chopping up his doppelganger)
“I Could Write a Book” by Dinah Washington (played ironically during the end credits after Ruby makes her confession)