Ash vs Evil Dead
One great thing about being a cast member of AvED is even when your seemingly main character is unexpectedly slaughtered, you know you get a second act as a Deadite.
And so Amanda Fisher, who turned on a dime from adversary to love interest to dead meat, is of course back as a Deadite, roaming the woods ready to spread the pain from Ash, Pablo, and Kelly to the suspiciously sexy Australian campers, who might as well be wearing T-shirts that say “bait.” But before we get to Fighting Fisher, we’ve got to resolve the tale of two Ashes.
Kelly and Pablo make it back to the cabin to find Fisher with a gutful of antler. The two Ashes crash through a wall and sock it out on the floor in front of them, setting up a classic “I’m the real me!” bit. Pablo and Kelly getting to the bottom of who’s the real Ash ends up being one of the snappiest exchanges this show has produced so far. It’s tautly paced and genuinely funny (Kelly, on punching a Nun after accidentally breaking a window: “She was being so dramatic about that stained glass.”), and even as each line raises the tension of the situation they also reveal extra information about everyone involved. Pablo’s best friend until age 9 was a kitty named “Notorious C.A.T.”, adorable and telling. Kelly had a rebellious streak in her Catholic upbringing, also something interesting about her that we didn’t know. And finally, that they both know him well enough to discern only the real Ash would be self-centered enough to have them just blow both of them away rather than put up with any more of this horseshit. BLAM, goodbye, Evil Ash!
But just as the team is about to set to work dismembering the bodies, the Sexy Australian Demon Chum hikers from last week make an ill-advised second appearance. Ash is understandably wary of their presence, knowing “they’re gonna get possessed, then they’re gonna be on the night train to Killadelphia” (with stops in “Chokelaholma City” and “Die-ami” Kelly ads; she’s picked up her Ash-isms well). So Ash sends them with Kelly and Pablo on the back road to Elk Rapids and gets to dismembering.
As soon as they leave, Heather (played by Samara Weaving, who, I feel required to note due to fantasy-film connections, is Hugo Weaving’s niece), wheedles Pedro about what they’re really up to in the cabin, since it’s pretty obvious it’s not experimental veterinary surgery. Heather brings up Pablo’s “girlfriend” to him, and suddenly Pablo catches wind that Kelly’s been throwing the doe-eyed blondie off his scent. “Is it serious?” Heather asks, and Pablo responds with an exasperated “I’m not sure!”
As Kelly and Pablo’s will they/won’t they becomes even more will they/won’t they-er, Ash deals with a different pull of forces on his personality. In a hilarious montage set to “Just the Two of Us,” Ash gets to work chopping up his evil clone (“Maybe someday that will feel weird,” Ash muses). But as the clone’s blood flows into it, the Necronomicon comes back to life and begins berating Ash: “If you bury me,” the book says, “you stop being a superman and go back to being a stockboy … I’M WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL.” What an especially brutal truth, both in the Evil Dead universe specifically, and many hero stories in general. Throughout the series we’ve seen various Deadites try to convince Ash that the death of his friends is HIS fault, but one can argue the point of whether it’s the Deadite who kills or the person who accidentally summons the Deadite who kills is really at fault. The book’s accusation here, though, is literally true. Ash’s whole point is being the schlub who becomes a hero in the face of evil. Without evil, what is he but Schlub? Of all the sinister mind games the Deadites have played with Ash, this is the most evil, undermining his only identity. For all the accusations of him being responsible for the death of innocents, Ash can always fire up the chainsaw one more time and slice ‘n dice his way back to heroic salvation. But once he hangs up the chainsaw for good … does he have anything left? Particularly nefarious, AvED. And as a plus, that dang ol’ book’s goofy mouth always cracks me up.
Unfortunately, while Ash is able to overcome the book’s temptation, he’s unable to keep his eyes on Deadite Fisher, who quickly catches up to Pablo, Kelly, and the Australians. In another excellent Deadite fight scene (Jill Marie Jones seems like she’s having a great time playing possessed Fisher), Fisher manages to put her hands through the skulls of both Brad and his hiker wife, using them like puppets to taunt Pablo and Kelly about their relationship. But with a stunning backflip out of the trees, Ruby arrives just in time to save the day, subduing Fisher but ultimately being distracted and allowing her to escape.
Ruby insists that simply burying the Book will not be enough to end its evil, much to Ash’s protestations (“I’mma say a lot of dumb things!” Ash honestly but ineffectively tries to refute Ruby’s arguments. They decide to follow her lead and dismantle the Necronomicon using the Kandarian dagger, literally carving its face off and not stopping until it’s done (“Don’t stop until the face-lift is done, got it.” Anytime Ash says “got it” … he usually doesn’t). With the book defaced, Ruby insists Ash present the book to her, and he reluctantly does. Ruby begins reading, and reality itself seems to begin to tear apart. Ash screams “You don’t know what you’re doing” before Ruby power slams him into the wall. “Of course I know what I’m doing” she hisses, “I wrote this book.” Chills, finally the big reveal on who Ruby is. But … what does it mean?
As we approach the season-one finale of Ash vs. Evil Dead the feeling I get is like watching a giant engine rev up. After a great initial spark, it took several clunky, sputtering episodes to get everything into motion, but by time we’ve arrived at the Cabin Arc, everything is firing at the high-rpm rate it was always meant to. The dialogue has incrementally improved from stilted to snappy. Horror and action have grown from a few highlight moments punctuating episodes full of expository dialogue to a pervasive one of tension hanging over every moment. Characters and their relationships are given space to work on a broader dramatic level rather than in a series of expository dialogue scenes.
Like, back in “Brujo,” I was exasperated that Pablo’s unreciprocated romantic feelings toward Kelly continuously played out over and over again in scenes where Pablo literally had to ask “How do you feel about me?” and Kelly had to answer “Not that way.” Last week and again tonight, using Heather’s interest in Pablo to spur jealousy in Kelly and subsequent confusion in Pablo allows this same romantic tension to build in a non-explicit way, which allows all the players involved to have more fun with the material. Like letting Dana DeLorenzo express her feelings towards Pablo in a confused backwards glance at him holding hands with Heather, a look that has much more to say than a dozen different rephrasings of, “I dunno, you’re like a brother!”
Anyway, AvED has got its chainsaw motors humming and both barrels loaded. It’s shaping up to be one hell of a finale, and I’m more hyped up about this show now than any point since the premiere. On to the showdown AvED seems to have been building to since the beginning: the final fight between Evil Ruby and Ash.
LISTEN UP, SCREWHEADS:
- Ash, justifying his selfishness: “I’m very important to me.”
- “My husband works in forestry!” — Particularly ineffective statement of credentials when fighting an undead menace.
- “Hey Evil, why don’t you eat my butt!” is an all-time great Ash-ism.
- “She did save our lives, and she does smell really nice” — Pablo’s perfectly understandable reasoning for trusting Ruby.
- So I’m kind of hoping Pablo gets some kind of The Mask thing going with this Necronomicon face?
- Evil Dead Jukebox: Dinah Washington’s version of “I Could Write a Book,” and of course Bill Wither’s “Just the Two of Us.”