Airdate: November 7, 2015
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Showrunner: Craig DiGregorio
Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, & Tom Spezialy (written by); Nate Crocker, Zoe Green, & James Eagan (staff writers)
After last week`s fast-paced gorefest, you might expect Raimi and co. to slow things down a little, let us get to know the characters a bit more. But no – Raimi knows exactly who his audience is, and we`re all plenty familiar with who, exactly, Ashley “Ash” J. Williams is (bet you didn`t know his last name!). And to be honest, who really needs to know Ash beyond his smarmy smile, his rock-hard chin, and his ridiculous one-liners? Click through for my take on Episode 102.
<<Spoiler Alert: This review will give a synopsis and opinions about tonight’s episode, Ash vs. Evil Dead Episode 102, “Bait” – read through at your own risk!>>
Clocking in at just under thirty minutes, “Bait” is about a third shorter than last week’s premiere, which makes sense given that we’ve got all the set-up out of the way. We know that Ash has, typically, screwed things up, reading from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis while trying to impress a girl, unleashing the Deadites once again on an unsuspecting world.
We pick up tonight right where we left off last week, with blood still dripping from his chainsaw arm. Kelly is insistent that they go to her father’s house to check up on him (and her mom, who has apparently returned from the dead), but Ash has no interest, wanting to get the Necronomicon translated and the deadite invasion stopped in its tracks. Ash goes outside to prepare the car and trailer for the trip. While he’s doing so, we see that Mr. Roper, Ash’s manager, has shown up – he’s in full deadite mode. He creeps up on Ash, but before he can attack, Pablo’s bike goes shooting by – Kelly’s taken it, and Pablo tells Ash that she’s taken the book with her, forcing Ash’s hand. His left one, of course.
We get a good dialogue between Ash and Pablo, with Ash giving one of his typical pep talks (“You’ve already done better than most people. Most people die the first time they face a deadite”) to Pablo. Pablo’s very angsty about being able to fight the Deadites, but Ash reassures him that after the first punch to the face, everything becomes a lot easier. Pablo has a good line here about how Ash looks like he’s taken a few punches, which naturally causes Ash to preen in the rearview mirror. Cue Mr. Roper, who’s sitting in the backseat of the car. He pulls Ash back over the seat, and they struggle, as Pablo tries to keep the car on the road and out of oncoming traffic. Roper’s personality comes through a bit (“I’ve always hated you!”), and Pablo, trying to help Ash, hits Roper in the head with a beer bottle, smashing it. This only angers the deadite, who smashes Pablo’s head against the dash, and returns to strangling Ash.
Ash, seeing the broken bottle, grabs it and starts stabbing Roper in the neck. Blood is everywhere, spraying on Ash, spraying on Pablo, soaking the interior of the car. He stabs dozens of times, but Roper won’t go down. He does weaken, however, and Ash is able to push him back up. Roper says, “You sad old failure. You’ll never defeat evil.” Ash replies, “Yeah? Thanks for the head’s up” – as he pushes Roper’s head into the path of an oncoming vehicle. As they drive away, decompressing, Pablo asks Ash if this is what it’s like to be him. Ash tells him it is, and Pablo tells him he’d never been so scared. “But then it was so cool when you said, ‘Thanks for the head’s up,'” he says. “At first I was like, ‘Did he mean it like that?’ and then I realized, ‘It’s the Jefe. Of course he did.'” Pablo’s well on the course to full-on idol worship, which should work well with his position as the clear comic relief.
Once they get to Kelly’s father’s house, Pablo is beginning to get his deadite senses on. “Something’s not right here,” he says, noting the wind shifts and darkened skies. They make a plan – Ash will take the boomstick and his chainsaw, and Pablo will take the broken bottle. “But Jefe,” he says, “You had to stab Roper like fifty times.” Ash deadpans, “I was sharpening it for you.”
They burst into the house, breaking down the door – only to find the happy family sitting and chatting. Turns out that Kelly’s mother (played by the wonderful Mimi Rogers) had amnesia, and has returned. Ash doesn’t buy it for a second, but Pablo pleads with him to not attack the woman. He agrees, and they’re invited for dinner. Ash brings his weapons to dinner, much to everyone’s chagrin, but he’s in typical oblivious mode. He starts to see things – blood on his plate, blood all over Kelly’s mother’s chin, not to mention a few random flies landing on her and buzzing around – but no one else can see the signs. Fed up, Ash just lays one on her chin, knocking her to the floor. Everyone is shocked, and don’t notice that she’s clearly turned into a deadite as they’re yelling at Ash. When he sees that she’s dropped her facade, he says, “Good, I was starting to think I was an asshole.”
She smacks Kelly’s dad’s head down onto a fork, driving it through his eye, and then fights with Ash. He can’t get a good shot off, and she takes off, hiding in Kelly’s room. She tries to convince Kelly to help her, and when Ash and Pablo come in, she stands between them and her mother. She thinks they can help her, that she’s fighting off the Deadites, and she embraces her mother. “Baby. There was no accident,” her mother says. “I drove of that bridge on purpose,” her voice deepening into a deadite growl, “to get away from you!” Just as Ash has his failings (ego/cowardice in equal measures, and a pure obliviousness to the impact he has on the world), the Deadites have theirs too, having to inflict maximum psychological pain rather than going for the simple kill – inevitably giving Ash an opportunity to make them pay.
Pablo and Kelly end up in the closet, while Ash fights. He misses with his first shot, and the deadite climbs on his back, nearly forcing the second shot up into his chin. He swings the chainsaw wildly, and it lodges in the wall, sticking. Pablo takes the kitchen knife he brought into the room (an upgrade from his bottle), and stabs into the deadite’s skull. She turns away from Ash, and slowly pulls the knife out, advancing on Pablo and Kelly. Ash finally gets the chainsaw started again, and rips it from the wall.
Kelly’s mom turns to face him, and he sticks her right through the gut, and then slowly, ever so slowly, decapitates her. It is absolutely, gratuitously, ridiculously slow, and once again the blood streams forth in liberal sprays, hitting everyone and everything in its – and out of its – path. It’s a veritable bloodgasm.
Cut to morning, and Ash, Pablo, and Kelly stand around two newly dug graves, as Ash thrusts the second of two makeshift crosses into the ground. They talk – Kelly is surprisingly calm after the events of the evening prior – and they decide that Kelly should come with them. Ash tells her that she’s just like he was when he first faced the Deadites: “Deadites ruined your life, and you’re hot as hell.” She agrees to come along for the ride. As they’re about to head off, she tells Ash, “You know they were Jewish, right?” He looks momentarily taken aback. “I…I did not. I wish you could have said something before I made those dumb crosses but…okay.”
Interspersed with the action, we get to see a bit more of our favorite State Trooper on suspension, Officer Amanda Fisher. She’s at the trailer park, where other officers are getting a description of Ash. His neighbors don’t much care for him (“He was always an asshole to us”), and are quite happy to sell him out. Fisher notes one of the deadite arms left on the ground is clearly pointing at something – it’s a business card for the rare bookstore Ash is heading to. She pockets the card, and at the end of the episode, we see her walking across the road to the store’s front entrance.
A thirty minute episode was just about the perfect length for this sophomore effort. We didn’t need any more character building, as that was effectively done last week, so we were able to get a look at a couple of important details about how things work in this world. To understand this, we first have to understand that Pablo is the viewpoint character of this series. Yes, it is Ash’s story, but Pablo is to Ash what Nick Carraway is to Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby – not only an observer, but a commentator and occasional participant. This allows Raimi and the other writers to use Pablo as a shortcut to exposition. As he discovers things, so do we, allowing an audience that may not have seen the Evil Dead trilogy to “get it.” (And if you haven’t yet watched the trilogy, but are reading this review – and hence have likely seen the show – get out there and watch the damned movies!) What we learn tonight is that Deadites can read minds, pulling on emotions in order to fool us, and to cause pain; they are somewhat infected/affected by the personalities of the host they inhabit (hence Roper’s particular hatred for Ash); and they are pretty bloody stupid. They’d rather inflict that extra ounce of psychological pain than take simple actions that would ensure their survival beyond the two minutes it takes Ash to dispatch them.
Bruce Campbell is clearly the star of the show, but that doesn’t mean that the supporting cast shines any less. Damien Garvey’s Mr. Roper was played with just the right amount of managerial douchiness, and his fight and death scene with Ash were solid (too bad he’s gone after just two episodes). Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly seems to be the right mixture of overwhelmed vulnerability and burgeoning capability that should challenge Ash’s overwhelming misogyny at some point soon. But it’s really Ray Santiago as Pablo who steals scenes all the time, with his combination of sheer shitting-the-pants terror and hero-worship. That’s not to mention the fact that he looks and plays like Rick Moranis’s illegitimate lovechild, almost like Santiago is channeling a more likable Louis from Ghostbusters. I’m a huge Bruce Campbell fan (hell, I have a copy of Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way on my bookshelf), but Santiago is clearly the breakout star of this show. It’s still too early to make judgement on Jill Marie Jones’s Amanda Fisher, but she seems promising; and while Lucy Lawless has had a total of two lines so far, I have every confidence that she’ll be a fun addition once her character gets more screentime.
In addition, the inclusion of quality guest-stars like Mimi Rogers bodes well for the long-term health of the show. Playing Kelly’s mom could have been a throwaway part, but by bringing Rogers in, DiGregorio and co. show an attention to detail and quality that means they want this to be more than just a ten episode bloodfest. Rogers plays Kelly’s mother with sympathy, enabling us to feel all the more sad for Kelly when it turns out the whole thing is a Deadite lie – one that ends up killing her father, too.
We’re only two episodes in, but I’m having a lot of fun watching this show, and couldn’t be happier that Raimi and Campbell have managed to resurrect the franchise. Hopefully they can keep the same frenetic pace up in the weeks to come.
Steve’s Grade: A-
Another fun romp full of one-liners and ridiculous amounts of gore and blood. It only gets the minus because I would have liked to have another 42 minute episode instead of 30.