Sunday, 13 December 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E07 - 'Fire in the Hole'

The first season of Ash vs Evil Dead is only going to be ten episodes long - so, it feels like it is well past time that some sort of focus. Thankfully, Ash's realisation that he would need to return to that original cabin in the woods, in the previous episode, did manage to give us a clearly defined end-point, at least. And, although this episode was, essentially, little more than another in a series of largely episode encounters with demonic creatures, it did have the benefit of context. Ash's desire, here, was the reach out to some potential allies, and secure some much needed new weaponry, as he prepared for that final confrontation at the cabin - so, while this was all simply another detour, it still managed to feel like one that actually had a sense of purpose behind it.

Here, Ash and his growing support team (with Pablo and Kelly being joined by Amanda) made their way out to secluded militia camp briefly mentioned in the previous episode - believing that Ash's old buddy, Lem (Peter Feeney) would be able to introduce them. Unfortunately, by the time they actually arrive Lem has already been possessed by a Deadite, and he has made his own way to the militia camp. Currently under attack by a creature that they don't understand, this group of backwoods survivalists are even less inclined to trust a group of outsides than they might have been, otherwise.

Soon enough, Ash and Amanda find themselves locked away in a bunker with the Deadite - handcuffed together and forced to depend on each other. Kelly and Pablo, meanwhile, managed to escape - only to find themselves forced to contend with the militia's efforts to hunt them down. Then, of course, their already dire circumstances take another complicated turn with the realisation that Lem isn't the only militia-member to be possessed by a Deadite.

Splitting the team up like this does, admittedly, feel like a fairly conventional way to add a little extra element of drama and tension to the episode (and, of course, to pad things out, a bit) - but, it does work in the episode's favour, here. Ash and Amanda prove to be a very capable team, even hand-cuffed to each other - and, Ash's shamelessly cheesy attempts to hit on Amanda, even as they are being hunted by a Deadite, are both entirely in-character for Ash, and genuinely hilarious. Even funnier, though, is the obvious indication that Ash's efforts are actually working - with Amanda seem to warm up to the man she left lying face first in a urinal trough in the previous episode. That transition from antagonist to willing ally that we saw at the end of the last episode may have felt a little sudden, but it is also a development that has already done wonders for Amanda, as a character. She has already begun to feel like an important part of the team - and, Bruce Campbell and Jill Marie Jones are proving to be genuinely entertaining when they are on screen together.

Kelly and Pablo, meanwhile, remain just as entertaining together as they have always been. After the death of her parents, and her own first-hand experience with demonic possession, Kelly seems to be following Ash's example of shameless bravado as a good coping mechanism - even going as far calling out the Deadite that has all of the militia terrified. On a more serious show, Kelly's behaviour might be worrying - but, considering how well Ash's attitude has served him, it's probably exactly what she needs. Pablo, on the other hand, remains as endearingly goofy as ever - though, he clearly desperately wants to be 'bad-ass', too. With Ash already have his chainsaw and 'boomstick' combo, and Kelly announcing that she wants a flame-thrower, Pablo's efforts to decide what his own 'signature weapon' should be was probably one of the best 'Pablo' moments, so far.

Overall, this episode (along with the previous one, which make up a 'two-parter' directed by Michael Hurst) was fantastic. There were great character moments, some fantastic action, and plenty more examples of the gore-fuelled black comedy that has become the signature style of the Evil Dead franchise. Honestly, the only real issue I had with this episode was with Ruby Knowby, whose apparent death in the previous episode was quickly revealed as a misdirection. The shot of Ruby emerging from that burned-out bonfire, naked and covered in Ash but, seemingly, completely unharmed was great - and, it is just the latest, though the most impressive, in a series of hints that point toward her being more than she seems. But, the issue is that she still feels so far removed from everything that is happening - and, we still don't actually know anything about her. With only three, very short, episodes left in the season, I'm starting to worry that her part in the show might amount to a long and drawn-out build-up, ending with a rushed resolution.

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