Week two of STARZ’s continuation of The Evil Dead more or less centers around a single awful family dinner.
Let’s bitch it out…
Last week’s premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead was a supersized episode designed to (re)introduce the premise, set the tone and establish the primary characters. As a follow-up, ‘Bait’ more or less revisits these ideas, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s a fairly easy episode to get into; if nothing else, its accessibility is driven by the fact that the majority of the action takes place in a single location with only a few characters.
Following the re-emergence of the Deadites last week, Ash (Bruce Campbell), Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago) were united as a crime fighting triad. That union is dissolved pretty quickly here when Kelly announces her intentions to head home to check on her dad, Dan (Phil Peleton) in contrast to Ash’s desire to deal with the larger issue of sealing the Necronomicon. As any good crush would, Pablo lies that she has the book in order to protect her, which sets up the remainder of the episode as everyone descends on the Maxwell house for a very uncomfortable dinner.
The suggestion that Kelly’s mom Suzy (Mimi Rogers) isn’t actually a Deadite is a tantalizing one. The moment we saw Suzy reappear in the cellphone footage last week, it seemed like a given that she was an agent of evil. ‘Bait’ complicates this assumption by introducing enough reasons to make us pause and wonder if Ash is simply overreacting. Sure, we know that Deadites keep their human visages as camouflage, but Suzy seems fairly genuine. The fact that Suzy is played by Rogers adds to this effect because Rogers does kindly maternal very well. Yes, Ash sees disturbing bloody images throughout the dinner, but it’s fairly clear that he’s hallucinating since no one else reacts (Kelly even calls him out for being creepy).
Of course it is only a matter of time before Suzy is eventually revealed to be a Deadite (via Ash’s patented blow to the face). The rest of the episode is a bit of a predictable fight sequence that eliminates both Dan and Suzy, leaving Kelly without a family to complicate her hero arc (and inevitably leaving her and Pablo covered in blood). Regardless of how drawn out the dinner scenes are, Suzy’s reveal was forecast long before Ash set foot in the house – the telling slow creep of the windmill and the ominous storm clouds are visual cues that darkness has descended on the farm. Still, in those brief moments when it simply seems like Ash and Pablo have crashed a peaceful family reunion, Ash vs Evil Dead excels at subverting our expectations. It is almost a disappointment when it reverts back to form to pile on the gore and chainsaws.
- The pre-credit action sequence features an attack by Mr. Roper (Damien Garvey) inside Ash’s car. It’s a fun sequence that expertly balances comedy and gore – the sheer amount of blood that results from Ash repeatedly jamming a broken beer bottle into Roper’s neck is hilariously over the top, made only more amusing by how much ends up on poor Pablo’s face. If this is a recurring gag (evident in the fact that it occurs again when Suzy is dispatched), I’m fully on board with it.
- Roper’s attack is capped off with a decapitation by passing car and a quip by Ash before the smash cut to the title card. Expertly done.
- A quick, but memorable gag: Ash uses a towel to clean Roper’s blood off his face, then hands Pablo a wet nap. It would have been even funnier to have teased this out a bit longer, but as a quick capper to the action, it’s pretty solid.
- Not much happens in Amanda’s (Jill Marie Jones) story line this week: she identifies Ash after tracking him back to the RV camp and then follows the clues to the bookstore where he’ll bring the Necronomicon. If ‘Bait’ is the model for future episodes, it’s evident that the thirty minute episodes will be so action packed that there won’t be much room left for characters outside of Ash’s story line like Amanda and an MIA Ruby (Lucy Lawless).
- Kelly (when Ash insists his gifts are his, not from God): “Very humble.”
- Pablo (when Ash insists he’s only ready to fight when he takes a hit to the chin): “You’re like an expert because it looks like you’ve taken a bunch” Jokes about Campbell’s prominent chin are always welcome
- Pablo (after Ash gives him the broken bottle as a weapon): “Um Jefe, I don’t think it’s a very good weapon. You had to stab Roper like 50 times.” Ash: “I was just sharpening it for you.”
- Ash (trying to explain the blood on their faces to the Maxwell family using the poor excuse about hitting a deer): “We had to cut it up with my chainsaw…arm”
- Ash (when Pablo tries to rationalize the reappearance of Kelly’s mom): “Yeah, I remember when I was just like you: young, dumb, and full of…conflicting emotions.”
- Ash (when Dan interjects in Ash’s questions for Suzy): “This ain’t about you, Dan”
- Ash (after Kelly admits she hates the evil that killed both of her parents): “Yup, that was my take-away, too”
- Ash (when Kelly asks him if he knew her parents were Jewish): “I, no, I did not. I wish you had said something before I made those dumb crosses.”
Your turn: were you missing Amanda and Ruby? Did you like the simplicity of focusing most of the action at Kelly’s house? Does the recurring gag involving Pablo and blood work for you? Did you ever believe that Suzy wasn’t a Deadite? Sound off below.
Ash vs Evil Dead airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on STARZ