This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 7
Last week on Ash vs Evil Dead, my hopes for this little movie-to-television experiment were renewed. “The Killer of Killers” was, for lack of a better term, a killer episode. It was a sufficiently ghoulish checkpoint for the first season that managed to dish out plenty of cheap thrills and disgusting spills we won’t soon forget. This week, however, my expectations have been tempered again since what I’ve just witnessed might possibly be the lowest point of the series so far.
Sounds harsh, I know. But “Fire in the Hole” is not an episode I wish to rewatch anytime soon. It shifts the show’s tone back to that cartoony place, the one that sounds like a live action remake of The New Scooby Doo Movies, with fewer celebrity guest stars and more disembowelment. True, there are a few fun moments as always, and one-liners that are worth their weight in chuckles. And because of how it ends, it’s not one you want to skip over either. But trust me, there will be a point somewhere in the middle where you’ll wish that you actually did.
For me, it was when Ash and Agent Fisher were handcuffed to each other, fighting a fire breathing Deadite version of Lem without breaking a sweat. As I’m re-reading that line now, it sounds like something I’d want to see. On paper, it’s gold. The way it’s delivered on screen, on the other hand, is curiously eye-rolling. It’s not the stunt work at all – which is excellent by the way – it’s just the principle behind it.
This whole sequence is treated as if it were an inevitable first date between two people who have gotten to know each other better over a period of time when we know for a fact that they haven’t. In most of their interactions so far, Fisher holds Ash at gunpoint while he both objectifies and sexually harasses her.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but does that sound like the sweet beginnings of a beautiful relationship to you? I mean, how can a girl go from kicking a dude’s face into a urinal one day and then get all up in it for smoochies the next?
Listen, I’m all for Ash getting some lovin’. And even if I don’t like how her character is being handled, Agent Fisher is still fun to look at. Maybe if we had seen them spend more meaningful time together throughout this season, this wouldn’t be as jarring as it is. I want to think this is yet another symptom of having only thirty minutes at a time to tell a rushed, bigger story. But if that were really the case, then why are we given long, talky scenes designed to build Pablo and Kelly’s relationship?
Speaking of those two – is it just me, or are they slowly taking over this show? It’s no longer Ash vs Evil Dead; it’s Ash vs Evil Dead and Friends. I don’t mind this so much, because I’m digging their chemistry. Their scenes in “Fire in the Hole” were arguably the most memorable of the episode, as they treated us to Whedonesque dialogue and gorey gags that stole the spotlight from Ash’s subterranean hijinx.
In one key scene, Pablo notices that Ash and Kelly both have their trademark go-to weapons and he, well, doesn’t. This is a great way to highlight something distinct about his character: Pablo’s not as aggressive as his peers. He’s quieter, humbler, and mostly egoless; he’s someone who doesn’t want to cause harm, either directly or indirectly. These are character traits of a shaman, which leads me to believe that his real weapon are the spiritual powers he inherited from his uncle at the end of “The Host” (in fact, I can see them being the macguffin that saves the day in the season finale).
What really feels contrived about this episode is its premise: Ash and the gang infiltrate the base camp of backwoods survivalist hicks in hopes of acquiring some ammo for their big journey back to the cabin. In the grand scheme of things, this is just another sidequest to pad things out and buy some time until the big stuff goes down at the cabin.
Their earlier visit to Brujo’s house made sense, since his character served a useful function in the larger narrative arc. The members of the crazy militia camp we meet here do not. I can’t remember any of their names or what they look like, except for Kiwi actor Milo Cawthorne, of course. He starred alongside iZombie’s Rose McIver and Jessica Jones’ Eka Darville in Power Rangers RPM, which is hands down the funniest and darkest series that the kids action franchise ever produced (seriously, do yourself a favor and Netflix that when you’re done reading this. I don’t care if you don’t like Power Rangers. Suck it up and do it anyway. You’ll be surprised). His appearance is enough to justify the mediocrity of the militia redneck subplot, even if watching him get his face bashed in with a truck’s ball hitch might have traumatized me. Run, Ziggy, run!
Hold on. I just realized something. “Fire in the Hole” is plotted a lot like the level of a video game. The whole story centers around getting more ammo and guns to prepare for the big boss, for god’s sake. Then you have Ash and Fisher’s adventures trapped in the underground bunker with Lem (the mini-boss), a zombie who attacks them by jumping around and breathing fire. Survival horror much? Hopefully they found some first aid spray down there to tide them over. Or an ink ribbon so they could save their progress on a typewriter that’s randomly placed in a corner somewhere.
Despite being mostly filler, this episode of Ash vs Evil Dead has a higher purpose that’s not that obvious until the end. It’s really a graduation ceremony for the supporting cast we’ve accumulated over the past six episodes. We stand beside Ash as he watches Pablo, Kelly and Fisher carry firearms and triumphantly shoot down a Deadite in a heroic montage. Soon thereafter, he thanks and congratulates them. We can tell he means it, since he’s never met anyone else that’s able to survive like he can. But when they’re not looking, he ditches them so he can go back to the cabin by himself, without his new crew. #PlotTwist.
Is it bad that I cheered at the screen when this happened? I don’t think so.
Any concerns I had with the creative direction Ash vs Evil Dead is taking were mostly realized here. The corniness factor; the glorification of supporting characters who we’re still feeling on the fence about; pushing Ash into the background to be a cardboard stand-up version of a mentor archetype; and still figuring out what to do with characters like Agent Fisher. Each one of these growing pains were laid threadbare in “Fire in the Hole,” which is a close to a filler episode as we’ll probably get at this point. The writers seem aware of this, which is why it feels so right to see Ash split after all is said and done.
And yet, I can see that this episode might be a way to give our hero a little bit of wish fulfillment before he goes roughly into that good night. For all the years that we’ve known Ash, he’s never had a support group. He’s never had a clique of friends that haven’t been dismembered or beheaded by the evil force that haunts him. He’s never had a love interest who can handle a nine millimeter, either. And it’s been a long time since he’s been around people that he cares about.
Because of that, I can see why he doesn’t want to push his luck. He knows what’s lurking ahead in that old cabin in the woods, and he wants to face it alone. We want him to as well, not just because we want an authentic Evil Dead 4 experience, but also because we want more time alone with El Jefe himself because we don’t want these new kids rubbing off on him too much. It’s going to happen anyway, as I’m sure the Scrappy Doos will catch up with him in the woods later on. But until then, let’s just enjoy that last shot of Ash’s hand crawling towards that cabin, shall we?
Deadite Lem was fun here, even if he was barely around. Loved the effects makeup on his face.
Oh, and Ruby! I forgot that she had resurrected herself. Why did Fisher talk like she knew her so well, though? It’s not like they were on the road together for a few months or anything. It was just like, what, a day or two? Maybe three? I don’t buy it.
The scene with Pablo trying to get the gas mask off of the Deadite was everything. And it has a great jump scare that I saw coming but fell for it anyway. Props to that.
Even if Ash is a creep, he’s definitely got that swagger.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of Doctor Who again while watching this episode. Ash and his companions step into this strange new situation at a military base, they soldiers distrust them and split them up. Ash saves them from a monster he knows everything about…I mean, come on. The formula is basically the same, right?
THE NOT SO GROOVY
Again, Ash and Fisher. Why are they connecting so fast? Is it the wish fulfillment thing? Or is she lacking some self respect? Actually, maybe there’s a twist and she’s really possessed by a demon or something and we won’t find out until the end of the season. That also makes sense. (Kinda hoping that happens now.)
Our heroes’ relaxed and casual attitude really took most of the tension out of what could have been a tense scenario. (Again, very DW.)
When they were about to kiss at the end, I was expecting a fake out, and was a little bummed when it didn’t happen. You can never trust this show when it tries to be sincere. Or can you? After watching this installment, I don’t know anymore.
“Time Has Come Today” by The Chamber Brothers (played during the credits)