This Stan Against Evil review contains spoilers.
Stan Against Evil Season 3 Episode 4
“Because he likes it…”
Stan and Evie exhibit a certain resilience with their continued efforts to thwart the evil that visits Willard’s Mill, but “The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” is an episode of Stan Against Evil that’s all about getting burnt out. This angle plagues Stan in regards to his demon fighting, it strikes Bill with how he simply isa demon, and even Eccles isn’t free of this pain and feels frustration with how he still needs to hunt down Stan after all of this time.
Stan’s malaise and frustration over the state of Willard’s Mill is nothing new to the series, but this is arguably the first time that his checked out attitude nearly kills the entire cast. “The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” throws a lot of humor and ridiculous sequences at its audience, but at its core it hints at a much darker story about Stan’s defeated nature. This disaffected, reluctant hero may finally be reaching his breaking point.
This episode kicks off with a really strong cold open that does a solid riff on The Hitchhiker (and even invokes an impressive, synth-y score) and establishes that a soul-collecting demon has made his way into Willard’s Mill. It’s once again nice to see the cold open remain in the present and that the show seems to officially feel free of the burden of beginning episodes in the past. Hopefully Stan Against Evil will only continue to break their traditions and get creative with their structure.
“The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” gives some healthy focus to Diane (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is a Denise-centric installment) as she heads out on a romantic date with Kevin. The Fast and the Furious films originating from a piece of theater is also a very funny joke, let alone that a production would be going on in Willard’s Mill (let’s also not overlook that the venue is the freaking Yaphet Koto Playhouse). Denise and Kevin’s peaceful night out gets interrupted with an unexpected case of corpses. Not only do they stumble upon some dead lovers, they’re killed in ways that are seemingly impossible, like removing all of someone’s bones.
It’s not just romantic lovebirds that are facing danger here. Leon also has a run-in with this super-human killer that does not exactly go well. In fact, this encounter turns into a Looney Tunes-esque beat up montage that may be the silliest sequence in the whole episode. It’s not exactly clear why this killer takes so long to pummel Leon, but not actually kill him, but the episode hopes the absurd business that follows is enough to make you not ask too many questions about Leon’s brush with death here. In the end, it’s stupid technology that saves Leon’s life.
While a killer appears to be loose in Willard’s Mill, Stan meanwhile has some much simpler problems on his hands, but problems all the same. The plumbing in his home is a disaster and this average inconvenience becomes his focus as Denise and Leon get trapped in something bigger. Unfortunately Ghoulies aren’t the problem in the case of Stan’s backed up pipes (nor is it CHUDs), but the plumber very quickly shows his hand as a disciple of Eccles.
This demon plumber’s complete ambivalence towards his task is consistent to this season’s trend of not trying to draw out its mysteries, but rather to get to the good stuff right away. This is a season that’s more interested in the dissection of these demons and allowing them to rant than it is about determining who is evil.
Accordingly, Stan finds himself as a de facto therapist for Bill, this demon, as he complains about his mid-life crisis and lack of ambition, provided that he still fixes his plumbing problem. More importantly though, Stan is able to pick Bill’s demon brain on all things Haurus and Eccles and gains some information that’s actually helpful here.
The series’ larger mythology also initially appears to deepen a little this week when Bill tells Stan and Evie that they can basically dismantle Eccles’ demon army with a certain spell that reverses the flow of energy and will free all the souls that he’s taken captive. Bill has a certain added interest in all of this because it means that his soul will also be free.
Bill the demon plumber is a formidable character, but much of this has to do with the fact that he’s played by Scott Adsit. There’s some truly wonderful chemistry between these two and Adsit marks yet another impressive guest star for this season. It also wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Bill is friends with Henry from Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell. Stan gets along with so few people, so it’s genuinely delightful when the two of them hit it off, share beers, and quote Dirty Harry together. “It’s not his fault that he’s a demon,” Stan says in his new friend’s defense. It looks like Bill’s future on this show is probably over, but it’d still be nice to see him semi-regularly hang out with Stan in the future.
“The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” finds an interesting balance as it’s less about the team’s mission to find answers and more about if their shortcut to success is too good to be true or not. Ever the skeptic (she’s a real Agent Nesbitt), Evie is skeptical over Bill’s easy fix to Eccles, but what’s more fascinating here is the realization of just how burnt out Stan is from the events of the series.
Eccles has been hitting the “monster of the week” card hard lately and Stan expresses that he’s over this and getting too old for this demon shit. The revelation of this episode is less that Stan and Evie might find a shortcut to their demon problems, but that Stan is so willing to jump right into it. This is about a man who’s at his end and it’s an interesting dimension to add to Stan’s character that even though he’s always victorious in these battles, that doesn’t mean that they still don’t take a toll on him. Constant demonic inconveniences can sometimes be worse than a quick and speedy death.
The best part of this episode is that it actually pulls off a sizable twist. It’s so easy to get caught up in the infectious energy of Stan’s camaraderie with Bill and to let your guard down. “The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” takes advantage of that and it turns out that Evie’s completely right in her suspicions over Bill’s plan. Not only is there no quick fix to the Eccles problem, but Stan’s enthusiasm nearly condemns him and his friends to Hell until the episode pulls off a “lunatic ex machina” to save the day.
That’s right, the killer from the beginning of the episode returns to conveniently eliminate Bill and then politely die from gunfire. The episode pokes fun at how random all of this is and the unimportance of this character in the grand scheme of things. Not only that, but the episode leads everyone to believe that an intermediary demon called the Bondsman is responsible for these deaths. Well guess what, the Bondsman is just another lie from Bill! “The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” gets so much mileage out of the trust that it builds with Stan and the audience and the impact of its conclusion depends on how badly it’s deceived everyone. It’s an effective trick on the episode’s part.
“The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” may pull off a bunch of tricks in its final act, but it’s also just a straight up funny episode with a hilarious script (although it’s a shame we don’t get to actually see any of the Fast and the Furious theater). There’s a highly playful “Previously On” introductory sequence that just focuses on bullshit minutiae. It’s a joke that’s been done plenty of times before on sitcoms, but it still starts the episode off on a strong reflexive, comedic note that carries through the entire installment. Furthermore, was this episode supposed to be “Cuckoo for Murder Puffs,” or is that just more of the non-sequitur gag at hand? It’s ultimately unimportant, but still, guys.
Leon’s DepCon speech is also a highlight from the episode and the idea of a convention that celebrates being second in command is just such a gloriously ridiculous concept, but one that makes perfect sense for Leon. His upgrade to a “Smart Stick” over the standard police stick is also another gag that’s so stupid that it’s fantastic. Stan Against Evil can sometimes bend its comedic bone too far in the broad direction, but “The Demon Who Came in From the Heat” finds the optimal sweet spot with this comedy. It’s the funniest installment of the season so far.
McGinley also gets to shine with the material he gets here. His “get out” broken record routine to Denise early on in the episode is glorious and his work as Stan has become so natural at this point, it’s easy to take it for granted. McGinley gives a particularly strong performance in this episode. Needless to say, it’s so rare that he expresses satisfaction in this series that all of his scenes with Bill really pop.
“The Demon Who Came In From the Heat” is a strong episode, but it’s almost a little weaker when it’s played back-to-back with the previous installment. Both entries deal with men who struggle with feeling washed up and useless. Granted, they cover wildly different material with their monsters and the execution of this topic, but at their core they both touch on very similar things.
This is a minor complaint though and it’s encouraging to see that the two episodes from this week are much stronger than the two from last week. Furthermore, the things that this episode says about Stan’s state of mind will likely carry over through the second-half of the season. This unseen depression is just the tip of the iceberg. Next time he and his friends may not be so lucky as to run into a homicidal lunatic that can save the day and cover his ass.
And can we please get an episode in season four that sees Denise become Queen of the Sewer Pigeons? Yes? Also a DepCon detour, please. Let us drown in Leons.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.