This review contains spoilers.
This week, I watched The Quick And The Dead all the way through for the first time ever. The funny thing is, I owned it on DVD once. It’s one of those movies you mean to get around to watching one day, but I was never in the mood for a Western unless it was full-on spaghetti, so I wouldn’t make it past the first half hour or so. After sitting through its entirety with rapt and (mostly) undivided attention, I realize now that it’s one of Sam Raimi’s greatest achievements as a director. Although its A-list cast might be its most impressive feature, the real star of the film is Raimi’s carnival of visual storytelling tricks. Watching one of his movies is hardly ever dull because of all the rushing perspectives, the spiralling zoom-ins, the gleeful over-exaggeration of reality. The Quick And The Dead showcases Raimi refining his forever youthful approach to cinema and embracing his proclivity for horror to tell an operatic tale of spaghetti retribution in the Wild West.
While I was watching this now relatively obscure Sharon Stone epic, I couldn’t help but think of Ash Vs Evil Dead and how its production team could emulate Raimi’s signature style more often than it does currently. For example, last week’s showdown between Ash and the Delta was a lot of fun, I admit, but it felt watered down by the straightforwardness of its cinematography. Evil Dead hits harder when its world is portrayed as askew, warped by the eponymous evil itself. And even if Ash Vs Evil Dead does sprinkle in a few Dutch angles here and there to evoke Raimi’s sensibility, it’s not enough.
Not that I’m dissatisfied with the work of Rick Jacobson, Tony Tilse, or Michael J. Bassett, who directed the episode we’re here to talk about today. I feel that they “get” what Evil Dead is stylistically speaking and pay homage to it as much as they can (just check out The Dark One and you’ll see what I mean). But I think we need to up the dosage of Raimi’s classic flair, that’s all.
If there were any episode that could benefit from his touch, it would be Confinement. This is a pivotal episode of the season (and perhaps the series at large) with a ton of vivid material to work with. And it all revolves around the introduction of Baal, the the show’s first true ‘Big Bad’ character – or, at least, that’s what he comes across as. Ash Vs Evil Dead has a tendency to subvert my expectations both in good and bad ways at least once every episode. But everything about this new and strangely familiar character indicates that that’s where the writers are headed with this. Plus, guess what kids? We’re at the midpoint of the season – already. Yes, this show just had its season premiere last month. Why are you so shocked? The same thing happened last year. So it’s time to get serious about not letting all of that build-up that we – uh – built up the past four episodes go to waste by actually doing something, I don’t know, meaningful with it. Or if not meaningful, than at least let it provide us payoffs for playing its serialized game.
And what else could be more meaningful than finally giving Baal his big coming-out party in the sheriff’s station, with all major and/or currently relevant characters trapped inside of it? (You can’t blame this show for its lack of convenience, that’s for sure.) Giving the demon powers of skinwalking (or skinwearing) was a neat way to add tension to the proceedings, turning everyone against each other in a truncated, wackier version of Carpenter’s The Thing.
After the episode teases us with glimpses of the new character, Baal is finally revealed to be hiding in the skins of a “lady cop” who is locked in the evidence room with Ruby, who was on a mission to reclaim the Kandarian dagger for protection. When he finally gets to put on clothes and interact with her, we finally get a taste of his personality – and Joel Tobeck’s performance. I’m going to paraphrase his dialogue into one single, concise sentence: “Did someone order an arch-villain? Mwa-ha-ha!”
This doesn’t mean to be a slam, it’s just how it is. There’s something cartoonish about his portrayal that might not be complimentary to the cartoonishness of what we already have established. I can see Baal being a divisive character as we move forward, simply because he evokes late 90s syndicated action show bad guy and Supernatural-esque antagonist in the same rotten breath. Depending on where his story takes us, including him could possibly be a jump-the-shark moment for some fans.
What else can I say about Confinement that’s not completely focused on Baal? We had some great scenes and one-liners here from just about every main cast member, and despite mentioning how much I enjoyed seeing them all split up last week, there’s a lot of fun to be had when they’re all stuck in a room with each other. I was surprised to see how quickly we cleared Ash’s name in front of Linda and Sheriff Emery, and I’m equally surprised to see Kelly and Ruby join back up with the crew instead of continuing on with their rogue adventures. It looks like Pablo has a fan in Sherriff Emery’s daughter, who he kinda sorta saved from the Delta last week. But this time we witness his connection to the Necronomicon take its full hold over his body, with Sumerian inscriptions popping up across his chest. Uh… that’s not good, is it?
It also looks like we’re getting a romance set up between Ash and Linda. He swept her off her feet in a single episode, just by saving all of their asses (and chainsawing that skinless lady cop in half, of course). Her sudden break up with Emery is sure to lead to a bigger conflict later on – or will it? Ah, who cares. Hand me another beer.
Read Stephen’s review of the previous episode, DUI, here.