Sunday, 3 January 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S01E10 - 'The Dark One'

Things got pretty tense at the end of the previous episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. The face that had always graced the cover of the Necronomicon had been cut off as part of a ritual that Ruby had claimed would allow the book to finally be destroyed - only for that same face to attach itself to Pablo. Ruby, who had made a good show of being on the side of 'good' up until that moment, had promptly revealed herself to be the original writer of the Necronomicon. And, Ash and Kelly were left stunned - with Ash seemingly powerless against Ruby and the Necronomicon, while Kelly attempted to remove the disturbing 'mask' that had attached itself to Pablo. Meanwhile, Heather (the only one of the three hikers to have survived to this point) is left with little option other than panic.

With such a great cliff-hanger as the lead-in to this final episode of the season, I have to that I was a little worried that the series would fumble, at the end - and, that it simply wouldn't be able to maintain that same exciting pace. Thankfully, though, that didn't actually happen - but, before I get into any of that, I should take a moment to warn you that I do intend on discussing the episode's various plot-points in depth. So, consider yourself warned.

That wonderful moment of tension that the previous episode ended on was quickly broken by Amanda's sudden reappearance - with her providing Ruby and Pablo the opportunity to slip away into the cabin's basement as she and Ash engage in an entertaining, if perhaps too brief, fight. Pablo, meanwhile, finds himself under the control of the Necronomicon 'mask' that has attached itself to him - leaving him entirely at Ruby's mercy, as he is forced to take part in her plans.

That ritual which Ruby performed in the cabin's basement, with Pablo's reluctant assistance, would easily rate as one of the most effective moments of grotesque horror that Ash vs Evil Dead has offered up, so far, too. Under the 'mask's' control, Pablo is essentially forced to 'give birth' to an increasing number of disturbing demon children that Ruby seems set on summoning, as they force their way out of his mouth. What role these demon children were intended to have in Ruby's plans is never really made clear - but, the design of the strange little creatures, themselves, is another stand-out moment for the show. Also, the brief fight that Ash has with one of the them, as he works his way through the basement, provides another great moment of the franchise's signature blend of horror and comedy.

There were plenty of other great moment's in this episode, too. Kelly's increasingly aggressive attitude toward the forces of evil, as she seems set on following Ash's own example, continues to be entertaining - providing some great moments with Heather, in particular, as she steam-rolls over the other woman's more rational fear. Heather, herself, is also given the opportunity to add a few moments of humour, before the end - with her shell-shocked reaction to the horrors she has seen, during one of the episode's few quiet moments, providing a fun contrast to that of the hardened and cynical veterans. Also, there are those genuinely disturbing moments when it becomes obvious that the cabin, itself, has taken on a life of its own - first, with the fantastically surreal moment when an eyeball appears in the cabin's wall, then with the more disturbing moment when it launches a direct attack against Kelly and Heather. And, finally, we also had that fascinating moment where Ruby revealed that Ash had, at some point, been added to the pages of the Necronomicon - with an image that seems to provide a tentative link to Army of Darkness (perhaps indicating that the bizarre copy-right issues which prevented the franchise's third film from being directly referenced have been resolved?)

It did, admittedly, feel like a bit of a waste to have Amanda survive the previous episode only to have her be promptly dispatched by Ash in the opening scene, here - though, that being said, the fight scene between them was a fun one, and her (second) would have to rate as the most spectacularly over-the-top of the season. One a similar note, it was also a bit of a shame to see Heather also die so soon - meeting her end in an impressive, if disturbing, sequence that veered back toward more serious horror as the cabin, itself, turned on her.

In both cases, it simply felt a bit like wasted potential. Amanda had turned out to be a very entertaining villain in her brief time as a Deadite - and, I wouldn't have minded, at all, if she had managed to survive this episode in order to become a recurring threat in the next season. As for Heather - with her being the only one at the cabin who was not a part of the show's main cast, her death simply felt a little too predictable. Personally, I think it would have made for an interesting twist to have either Pablo or Kelly die, and to have Heather go on to become part of the main cast in the next season - though, of course, that would have meant losing either Pablo or Kelly, who had both grown into entertaining characters over the course of the season. But, with the show ultimately proving reluctant to kill off anymore more of its main cast (after Amanda's death), that simply wasn't to be.

The most interesting aspect of this episode, though, would have to be Ruby, herself - who, by the end, has fully embraced her new role as the show's primary antagonist. Her plan, it seems, was to use the Necronomicon to take direct control of all of the evil that it is capable of summoning - and, it is very interesting to note that she still seems insistent that her plan would serve some greater good (since having all of the evil that the Necronomicon can summon under her control would have to be preferable to letting it run free). But, there are still plenty of unanswered questions concerning exactly who, or what, Ruby truly is - and, what it is she truly intends now that she has, effectively, won.

Because, that is exactly what happened by the end of the episode. On two separate occasions (and, two fantastic scenes between Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless), Ruby offered Ash a truce - offering to let him live out the rest of his life in peace on the condition that he stop fighting her. The first time, Ash rejects her offer - set on fighting her until the end. But, the second time, with Pablo and Kelly's own lives added to the deal, Ash ultimately accepts. And, this is where the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead comes to its surprising, and deliberately anti-climactic, end - with the final shot of Ash, Pablo, and Kelly setting off for Jacksonville, even as all evidence seems to suggest that Ash might have just made a terrible mistake.

It is a bizarre way to end things, certainly - yet, at the same time, it is oddly fitting. The season began with Ash's bone-headed decision to read from the Necronomicon, while high, in order to impress a woman he was hoping to sleep with - so, it makes sense that the season should end with another bone-headed decision from Ash. With a second season of Ash vs Evil Dead already confirmed, it is only a matter of time until we get to see exactly how bad of a decision this truly was.

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