January 2nd, 2016, 9PM, Starz
Flanderization (n): The act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character.
With Ruby’s true colors now revealed, Ash learns that she’s lured the team to the cabin so she can get rid of Ash and use the Necronomicon (and poor Pablo, still wearing the book’s cover) to release every evil in the book so she can rule the Earth as a supreme dark one. She takes him into the basement to rewrite history and Ash follows; the force locks him in, leaving Kelly with injured hiker Heather looking for a way to break in.
There’s a lot wrong with this week’s edition of Ash vs Evil Dead, though there are definitely things that it manages to get right. Tone, direction and lighting work in its favor; in those ways it feels a lot like a Evil Dead movie in miniature, claustrophobic and darkly lit. The Deadite creatures we’re introduced to feel original and derivative at the same time, like little aliens rolled in dirt. There are only four decent gore moments for those fast forwarding to the more bluntly violent moments the series has to offer, one of them hilariously phallic in nature, the others at least providing a minor thrill. There are even laughs to be had, occasional one-liners and comments landing (The best of these is Ash’s request of Ruby: ten thousand dollars for his trouble. She balks. “Gas money?” he asks).
But oh are the flaws enormous. The biggest problem is Dana DeLorenzo’s acting. It’s impossible to ignore how weak her performance is when placed alongside the rather stellar performance of Ray Santiago, who holds the episode together, projecting pure agony and demanding pure sympathy, as Pablo. Plain awful as she kicks at a head and awkwardly celebrates an attempted burning of the cabin. The dialogue isn’t’ the problem – it’s the performance that shrinks it. Every word that passes her lips sinks through the ground like a lead shot.
And then there’s hitchhiker Heather. Think she was being saved for a particular purpose, maybe to work as a spoiler for Kelly and Pablo? Nah. She’s there as nothing more than spare meat for the journey, an extra body to throw nails at. This is so heavily lampshaded that it comes close to being funny; operative word being ‘close to’. In the end it’s a waste of audience time. Her death isn’t even creative, providing another injoke, and the feeling that the audience is wasting their time watching the show. If you were hoping for some kind of romantic solution for Kelly and Pablo, you won’t get any here – their romance stays up in the air.
And then there’s Ash. The show has struggled all season to properly develop him into a full character, and here he bounces between being uncaring, humorous, serious – close to Evil Dead 2 Ash, but no cigar. Then he makes the episode’s final choice and the whole thing goes to hell – in the context of the show and the context of any sort of forward motion his character might have been making.
And the end result is frustration. Ash vs Evil Dead remains the most strongly disappointing experience of my reviewing year. Hopefully the second season will improve upon this year’s mediocre results. Study hard, Raimi and company. Study hard.
- This episode was directed by Rick Jacobson, who’s likely best known for his cult film Bitch Slap.
- The episode was written by show co-runner Craig DeGregerio.
- Big plothole of the week: So why were the hikers necessary again?
- Your jukebox soundtrack: as aforementioned: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC; .
- Freddy Kreuger’s glove is still in the basement. Initially placed there as a fond jab in the ribs from Raimi to Wes Craven, and part of an exchange begun when Raimi included a ripped “The Hills Have Eyes” poster in the basement of the first movie’s cabin to indicate that The Evil Dead was a much scarier movie than THHE. Craven replied by including a clip of Evil Dead in a Nightmare on Elm Street and the film conversation went on from there. It’s worth noting that the glove seems bladeless, perhaps to skirt copyright issues.
- The show’s second season will apparently surface sometime around Halloween once again.
All of the components are there – but they never manage to come together in a satisfactory fashion.