Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E08 - 'Ashes to Ashes'

Whatever the end-point for this first season of Ash vs Evil Dead is intended to be, it seems as though the series took a significant step in that direction with this episode, as Ash finds himself back at the cabin where all of his troubles began. It was something that the audience must have suspected was coming from the very beginning, of course - after all, to not revisit the iconic setting of the first two films would have felt like too much of a wasted opportunity. It was something that many fans probably would have argued simply needed to happen - and, that fact seemed to have been confirmed by the show, itself, as Ash learnt that the cabin was exactly where he needed to go to undo the damage that he had unwittingly caused.

So, Ash's eventual return to that secluded cabin was all set to be a big moment for the series. And, it is definitely treated in that regard in the episode's opening moments, as Ash seems to display hesitance, and genuine fear, for the first time. Of course, it turns out that, despite his best efforts, Ash wasn't going to be alone at the cabin for long.

With the previous episode making such a big deal out of Ash's surprisingly selfless decision to leave his team behind, in order to spare them the gruesome deaths that he had every reason to believe would come for them at the cabin, it did feel like a bit of an anti-climax to have Amanda turn up so soon after Ash, himself. Honestly, the way that whole sequence played out was strange - with Ash only just arriving, and reaching the cabin's front door, before turning to find Amanda just behind him. It gave the, somewhat implausible, impression that she had actually been trailing along behind Ash, without him noticing, the entire time - and, left me suspecting that her sudden appearance might have actually turned out to be a Deadite trick, of some sort. It seemed like such a strongly hinted at development, in fact, that I actually found myself feeling a little disappointed when it soon became obvious that this wasn't going to be the case - and, that this was really Amanda.

But, still, the entertaining chemistry that the two had been able to establish in the previous episode is still evident, here - so, there is still fun to be had in watching Bruce Campbell and Jill Marie Jones interacting. Sure, the clear indication of a genuine mutual attraction between the two might feel a little sudden - but, I suppose that can be attributed to Ash just being Ash.

Of course, it's not all fun and games for the pair. There is still the matter of Ash's plan to banish the Deadites - a plan inspired by the vision he had had earlier in the season, and which will seem to require a trip down into the cabin's basement, so that the Necronomicon can be buried. With Ash heading out to a shed, outside, to find a crowbar, the two find themselves separated as the Deadites launch their attack. Ash finds himself trapped in the shed with the severed, though still possessed, head of his old girl-friend, Linda - who seems perfectly happy to play on his lingering guilt over her death. At the same time, Amanda finds herself confronted by an evil copy of Ash, who seems to have grown out of Ash's severed hand (that, it turns out, had also managed to make its way to the cabin).

Pablo and Kelly, meanwhile, find themselves caught up in a sub-plot that seems entirely pointless, and which only really serves to waste some much needed screen-time. Having separated from Amanda in their efforts to cover more ground as they searched for Ash, the two find themselves lost in the woods - and, eventually, come across a group of hikers who are able to point them in the right direction. There are some good elements in their interaction with these seemingly hapless, though well-meaning, hikers, at least. Finding themselves confronted by the obviously heavily armed Pablo and Kelly, the trio are initially left to assume that they are about to be robbed - much to Pablo and Kelly's own confusion. Also, there are subtle hints at some gradually developing relationship between Pablo and Kelly, as Kelly finds herself compelled to lie to the hiker who had shown an interest in Pablo - telling her that he already has a girlfriend. Overall, though, this entire sub-plot felt unnecessary.

I can only assume that the trio of hikers will be reappearing, in some form, before the end of the season - either as innocent victims in need of rescuing, or as possessed Deadites in need of slaying. It's really the only thing that would make the time wasted on introducing them, here, feel worthwhile.

Tonally, I do have to admit that this episode feels a bit messy. Early on, the episode seems to be aiming for more straight-forward horror, as Ash and Amanda explore the cabin - and, it does an admirable job of establishing a sense of genuine dread and uncertainty. Ash's clear nervousness, particularly at the sight of that chained-up trap-door, is almost enough, all on its own, to convince the audience that this isn't a good place to be - even for those who might not be familiar with the original films. And, to top it off, the cabin, itself, is just a wonderfully effective setting for this type of story (there is a reason why the secluded cabin seems to have become a horror cliche, after all). Eventually, though, elements of comedy begin to work their way back into the episode - and, for perhaps the first time in the season, the humour actually feels a little out of place.

While Amanda's struggles with Ash's evil double is a genuinely unnerving moment in the episode, Ash's own confrontation with Linda feels much more like the typical dark humour of the Evil Dead franchise - even if Ash does seem genuinely disturbed by the encounter. The eventual confrontation between Ash and his evil double, too, is well-staged, and very entertaining - but, coming so soon after a moment of genuine drama (which I wont spoil), the element of violent slapstick in their fight just feels like too sudden and drastic a change in tone. Similarly, Kelly and Pablo's sub-plot feels like an entirely unnecessary distraction - especially when you consider that Ruby, a character whose appearance would have been warranted, is entirely absent from this episode.

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