Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E08 - 'Ashy Slashy'

With the previous episode of Ash vs Evil Dead taking us on a brief journey into the realm of the surreal and disturbing, it was actually a little bit jarring to see how abruptly this episode pulled us back into more familiar territory. In many ways, the season's eighth episode felt like a very conventional one – giving us everything that we have come to expect from the series. There was the mix of gore and comedy, there was a cackling and maniacal Deadite – and, there were the sudden, and violent, deaths of certain members of the supporting cast.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, of course – these elements are, after all, practically the foundation that the entire franchise was built on. It's just that, with Baal finally seeming to become the genuinely threatening figure he was clearly always meant to be, I was expecting the series to continue heading in a different direction.

With Kelly, Pablo, and Ruby finally tracking Ash and Baal down to the abandoned asylum (by, hilariously, using Ash's ridiculous 'pet tracker' plan, mentioned a couple of episodes ago), it was definitely interesting to finally get some 'behind the scenes' details about exactly how Baal's plans for Ash actually worked. It was interesting, for example, to finally meet the 'real' crazed inmate who Ash had imagined as Kelly – and, to learn that Linda's appearance was actually the result of blackmail, since Baal currently held her daughter, Lacey, hostage. There had been some lingering uncertainty, at least for me, over whether the events of the previous episode were actually real, or if they were taking place entirely in Ash's head – so, it was interesting to learn that the answer actually seems to be a bit of both.

The abandoned asylum, itself, also proved to be a fantastic setting for what soon settled into a 'haunted house' style plot – as, the team soon found themselves separated, and forced to wander its dark corridors, and hunted by a surprising variety of threats.

Lacey, a character who had seemed set up to become important after surviving her first encounter with the forces of evil, put in a final appearance has an especially crazed Deadite – and, there was a definite sense of morbid fun in her time on-screen. Lacey hadn't been an especially memorable character, previously (if only because she simply hadn't been given much screen-time) – but, as with so many others who have had to opportunity to play possessed Deadites, Pepi Sonuga seemed to be having a great time in her final scenes on the series.

Lacey's time on-screen also resulted in the violent death of another character – her father, Sheriff Thomas Emery. While the town's sheriff had mostly been used in an antagonistic capacity, in his time on-screen, it was difficult not to feel at least a little sympathy for him, here. Finding himself firmly in over his head, in trying to protect his family from Baal, he clearly seemed more horribly misguided than he did genuinely antagonistic – although, that distinction clearly wasn't enough to save him.

At the same time, though, the tragic death of these two minor characters seems to have also been the catalyst for Linda Emery to step forward into what seems like a much more important role – so, there is that, at least. Michelle Hurd did a great job portraying the mix of grief and anger, and the stubborn desire to fight back, that her character felt in response to everything that Baal had done to her family – and, the prospect that she might join the team, in a more official capacity, is one that I am genuinely interesting in. Assuming that she survives the rest of the season, of course.

Then, there was Ash, himself – who, it seems, is now firmly under Baal's control. With his focus firmly set on Pablo, there was a very obvious, and likely very deliberate, similarity to characters like Jason Voorhees or Mike Myers, as he stalked the dark corridors like a classic movie monster. And, it was great. Bruce Campbell, it turns out, is perfectly capable of putting in a genuinely intimidating performance.

Of course, the true high-light of the episode is a fight-scene that I was certain was being reserved for Ash, himself – as Kelly found herself locked in a room with the demonically possessed 'Ashy Slashy' puppet, from the previous episode. Kelly's gradual evolution, as she seems set on following in Ash's footsteps, has been one of the more consistently entertaining elements of Ash vs Evil Dead – and, seeing her forced to fight that possessed puppet definitely seemed intended to bring Ash's conflict with his own possessed hand, from way back in Evil Dead 2, to mind. It was also genuinely hilarious.

Unfortunately (especially so, after the previous episode), it soon become apparent that the weakest element of this episode was, once more, Baal, himself. The episode's revelation that Ash had, basically, was never really under Baal's control, and that he had been faking it the entire time, was fun, sure – or, at least, it was until I considered how effectively this development undermined Baal, as a villain. The previous episode had been the first point in which Baal had seemed to become a genuinely effective villain – so, having that be so effectively stripped away, here, was something that I actually found to be genuinely disappointing. Of course, given the tragic cost involved in actually sending Baal back to hell, it is difficult to argue that the team's ultimate victory was 'easy' – though, the manner in which they reached that point certainly proved to be.

So, with the end of the eighth episode, it seems as though Baal has been defeated. And, with a coupe of episodes still to come, I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what is next, for the series. Baal might have proved to be a somewhat disappointing villain, overall – but, the genuine sense of uncertainty left by his departure is genuinely interesting.

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