This review contains spoilers.
2.3 Last Call
During the past two episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead, there were moments in which I caught myself wondering when the show would go full-blown, all-out horror again like it did at the end of its first season. I thought to myself, “Be patient, me. They’re probably saving it up for the big finale again.” Yeah… no. It looks like the third episode’s the charm here in the more tightly written second season. And this time around, we have Masters Of Sex scribe Noelle Valdivia to thank for it, one of the only female writers to have penned an episode of Ash Vs Evil Dead in the show’s brief history.
This show is just full of surprises.
Last week I emphasised that season 2 is bringing a wackier, more sitcom-style flavour to the show than previously. After watching Last Call, I continue to stand solidly by that statement. But now, I’m convinced that it’s more of a commentary on sitcoms in general, digested through the rotten bowels of hell itself and farted straight out of Dante’s infernal cornhole. And yes, it’s just as appealing as that sounds. But even if it smells bad, looks weird, and your sensibilities might be offended just by being within 15 feet of it, Ash Vs Evil Dead one of the funniest, most surprising, most terrifying television shows to hit the airwaves.
What’s so fascinating about Last Call, and what makes it a stand-out entry, is that it hits all the notes that an episode of Ash Vs Evil Dead should hit. It’s gross, it’s hilarious, it’s gory, it’s ironic. It’s disgustingly, dementedly disturbing. And hot damn is it relentless! I harp on about the 2013 reboot, unfairly at times. But the horror sequences found in this single thirty minute television episode were more gruesome and memorable than anything that happened during that entire movie.
In case you haven’t noticed, this show likes to introduce disposable teens to feed its horror movie machine, and I dig that. Anytime you see a new batch of kids introduced, keep in mind they’re basically this show’s equivalent to Star Trek red shirts. Except this time, one of the teens was Linda and Sherriff Emery’s daughter. Uh oh. This is not going to turn out well, is it? Especially after that scuffle he had with Kelly at the morgue while Ash was doing that whole head-in-ass thing. Bravo writing team! Again, we’re seeing evidence of a layered story here, with little plot tributaries that are starting to bleed together to form one big flowing serialized river of a story. Impressive.
I notice a lot more “cause and effect”, chain reaction style proceedings happening this season, don’t you? You get the sense that more consideration is going into the episodic events and where they fit into the bigger picture. Season 1, at times, told a very video game-esque story. Each episode was treated as a level Ash had to clear his way through so he could fight the big boss back at the old cabin. We’re only three episodes into season two, but it’s already obvious that’s not the case anymore. Everything happens for a reason now. Everything is connected.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the big party that Ash and his new friend Ted Raimi threw. It facilitated everything except what it was intended to do: lure the teens who stole the Delta out in the open. (In their defence, they probably would have showed up if they weren’t too busy getting run down by the sinister Raimi-mobile.) Instead, it gave all the main characters some much-needed room to breathe and interact with each other in a meaningful way that explored their motivations, personalities, and current states of mind. In a show that toggles between three different genres in thirty seconds or less because its attention span is that short, this is either a luxury or a miracle – or both. I can’t decide which.
Yet here we are, watching a quiet exchange between Pablo and Kelly that reveals more than I expected it to. They start off discussing Pablo’s anxiety about his dark visions because he’s kind of like the show’s Cordelia Chase right now, but their talk soon twists around to reveal a harsh truth Kelly doesn’t want to face: she has nothing. No real family, no boyfriend, no home (a “stationary home” as Pablo clarifies). Hell, she doesn’t even have her own television series. So what’s keeping her going besides the plot itself?
And so we have another lesson in cause and effect. The holes in Kelly’s life have been exposed by Pablo’s compliments which were meant to applaud her, not make her feel vulnerable. Now she is lost and high, wandering through life searching for the next Deadite to take her aggression out on. She realizes that she has become a cartoon sidekick to a misogynist who’s not very good at doing his own damn kicking in the first place.
Naturally, the opportunistic Ruby, dolled up in her new take-no-prisoners Adam Ant garb, swoops in to take advantage of her moment of weakness and recruits her to start an all-out battle royale with her dark children instead of necking a bunch of ketamine and getting into a mechanical bull riding contest with someone’s dad. When ancient evil is rapidly taking over the world, it’s best to be proactive. Am I right?
Thus the Kelly/Ruby partnership begins, much like the Amanda Fisher/Ruby coupling did this time last year. I don’t necessarily see their dynamic duo lasting too long, because Kelly is a Scrappy-Doo at heart and I doubt she’d ever truly abandon Pablo or Ash. (At least, I would hope she wouldn’t.) But I understand why she would want to. Although she’s basically irreplaceable at this point, she’s still treated as a novelty more than anything else. Plus, remember the voice from the crematorium trap scene in the premiere telling her that she was stronger than Ash? Anyone who’s seen the end of last season knows that’s for damn sure. But does she?
(When it comes to the Evil Dead hero roster, I don’t think strength necessarily matters much. That’s not a fair ground for comparison. Each one of these stooges has their own “powers” so to speak, just like any member of any team of superfriends does. Kelly may be stronger, faster, and younger than Ash, but he’s still the most experienced monster hunter of them all even if he is an incompetent buffoon that causes more harm than good sometimes. Plus he has a chain saw for an arm! Come on now.)
The big party also created the perfect arena for Ash and Brock’s cockfight. This was an over-the-top parody of Ash, Bruce Campbell, primetime sitcom father/son dynamics, and more. It was a sloppy one at that, literally speaking. Maybe some of the jokes may have fallen flat here or there – maybe. But it was still stuffed with laugh out loud moments that hit harder than the chuckles and gasps we’ve been getting by on since the season premiere.
What was important was that Last Call did something I wasn’t expecting it to – because I actively avoid spoilers for this show – and killed Ash’s dad off in one messy swoop. He finally acknowledged that his son was a hero just before he was run over by the evil Delta before the end credits began. I didn’t see this coming at all, and even if it was a cheap cliff-hanger, especially since he was about to impart some secret family knowledge to Ash before it happened, it was the kind of ending that put the “sad” in sadistic.
Now it looks like Kelly isn’t the only one who discovered her new motivation at the big “exploring character nuances via meaningful dialogue while k-holing” party. Ash lost the Delta and now his father is no more. I guess we did have too many Ashes on this show after all, didn’t we? This shocking turn of events mirrors the death of Pablo’s uncle last year, just something to think about.
Ash will be dealing with two different sets of repercussions here. The first are the consequences of the horrific events involving the Necronomicon, the Delta, and the teenagers. His reputation in town is already awful and now it’s about to get even worse. Wielding the Deadite’s severed head at the party and scaring everyone away with it probably won’t help much, either. The second will be his need for retribution, if anything, and to find out what secret his father was going to tell him before…well, you saw what happened.
Poor Ashy Slashy. I’m looking forward to seeing how the show handles all of the conflicts its setting up. Hopefully messily and neatly at the same time.
Read Stephen’s review of the previous episode, The Morgue, here.