Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E03 - 'Books from Beyond'

With the first two episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead so focused on coating its cast in fake blood, it's probably well past time that things were slowed down a bit so that we could get some focus on the season's overarching plot. After all, all we really know is that Ash read from the Necronomicon while high - and, now, the Deadites are free. As entertaining as that has been, so far, that's not really enough to build an entire season on. Fortunately, the third episode gives the show exactly what it needs to add a bit more long-term appeal.

As Ash, Pablo, and Kelly make their way to 'Books from Beyond', an occult bookstore owned by a man who had once claimed to be able to translate the Necronomicon, they are caught by surprise when it turns out that Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) has actually beaten them there. Amanda recognises Ash from a police sketch and, believing that he is the one behind everything that has happened to her recently, tries to arrest him. Amanda, in turn, is caught by surprise by Pablo - who, hilarious, only realises that she is actually a police officer moments after knocking her unconscious.

With Amanda handcuffed, Ash is able to get back to the important task of having the Necronomicon translated. The bookstore's owner, Lionel Hawkins (Karlson Henderson), isn't able to make very much progress on his translation in such a short period of time, though - and, an offhand comment from Pablo gives Ash the idea of using the book to summon another demon, so that they can get the information they need.

As I've already mentioned, this feels like an important episode for the series, as a whole. It's here, after all, that we get our first real look at some of the history of the Necronomicon, itself - and, it's also here that we learn that there is much more to be worried about than simply Deadites. Sure, the result is an episode which does, overall, feel slower paced then either of the previous ones - but, the pay-off is arguably worth it.

Eligos, the demon summoned as part of Ash's foolhardy plan, is also a genuinely impressive new addition to the show - something entirely unlike anything that the franchise has shown, so far. While Deadites tend to be played so over-the-top that they often come across more as comedy villains, Eligos felt like something from a much more serious horror franchise - and, the combination of make-up, costume design, and special effects, that went into creating the demon was very impressive. Eligos was a genuinely imposing creation even when he was trapped in Hawkins's summoning circle - and, it only became more so when it was inevitably able to escape and go on the attack. It was an entirely different sort of threat for Ash to face, too - something which couldn't simply be shot, or carved up with a chainsaw. The idea that there might be more like this coming in the future is definitely exciting.

Elsewhere, we also got our first proper look at Lucy Lawless's character, Ruby. While anyone who had been paying attention to the show's pre-launch publicity would already know who she is, and how she is involved, within the show, itself, she is still very much a mystery. She clearly knows much more about what is really going on than anyone else we have met, though (even Ash - though, given how oblivious Ash seems to be to the content of the book he has been carrying around with him for so long, that probably isn't much of a surprise). And, not only is she completely unfazed by the presence of Deadites, but they actually seem to be afraid of her - or, at least, of the dagger that she carries with her.

As great as the first two episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead were, I'll admit that I had some concerns about whether it could last for an entire season. This episode, though, did a great job of alleviating my concerns with some much needed broadening of the scope of the Evil Dead franchise, as a whole. Thanks to this episode, I can continue with the rest of the season reasonably confident that there will actually be an interesting story taking place alongside the crude, and occasionally very dark, humour and the over-the-top gore. From the brief glimpse we see, here, it seems as though the Evil Dead franchise is going to be well worth exploring in more detail.

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