Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E06 - 'Trapped Inside'

The second season of Ash vs Evil Dead has had a pretty impressive run of consistently strong episodes, so far – and, the reason for that would have to be, at least partially, a result of the decision to delve so deeply into the past of its central character, Ash Williams. The franchise's mix of blood-soaked horror and absurd comedy has been as entertaining as ever, of course – and, the supporting cast have been as consistently entertaining a presence as they have always been. But, overall, it has been those moments in which Ash Williams (a character who does, admittedly, occasionally feel like a bit of a caricature) has been allowed to confront his own past, and evolve as a character, that have stood out the most.

We have already met Ash's father, for example – and, the moment in which they seemed so close to reconciling is probably the most genuinely emotional the Evil Dead franchise has ever been (even if this moment was almost immediately undermined in a hilariously morbid fashion). And, with the season's sixth episode, we have the opportunity to meet Ash's sister, Cheryl (played, notably, by Ellen Sandweiss – returning to the franchise for the first time, since the original film) – brought back to 'life' through the power of the Necronomicon, currently working through Pablo.

At the same time, though, a rapid crowd, led by Sheriff Emery (who, in turn, seems to have fallen entirely under the influence of Baal), has gathered outside of Ash's childhood home, determined to dish out their own brand of violent 'justice' on the man they all believe to be a murderer. While Kelly and Linda try to hold increasingly violent crowd at bay, Ruby struggles to understand what is currently happening to Pablo – and, to determine how his strange connection to the Necronomicon can be used to send Baal back to hell.

Naturally, this is a lot of ground to cover in a half-hour episode – but, as it so often has in the past, Ash vs Evil Dead seems to be perfectly capable of juggling its various plot-lines. Kelly and Linda's efforts to hold back the rapid crowd provide some great moments of comedy – with Linda's increasingly overwhelmed reaction to everything taking place around her forming an entertaining contrast to Kelly's hilariously over-the-top antics. Honestly, with the great lines she is able to toss out, here, Kelly is quickly evolving to become the second most entertaining character on the series – just behind Ash, himself.

Ruby and Pablo, meanwhile, find themselves drawn into much more genuinely horrific scenario – as they come to realise that the strange 'merging' between Pablo and the Necronomicon needs to be allowed to continue, if they have any hope of being able to stop Baal. It's a little strange to think that, on a series that so often seems to treat its supporting cast as somewhat disposable fodder, the potential death of a character could be treated as anything other than the punch-line to a rather morbid joke – but, it does work, here. Pablo may not be the most consistently entertaining member of the core cast, but he is certainly the most likable – so, seeing him in such genuine distress, here, is genuinely tough.

Of course, it is Ash's surprise reunion with his long-dead sister, Cheryl, that serves as the true high-light of this episode. Sure, Ellen Sandweiss might give exactly the same sort of hilariously over-the-top performance that we have seen from Deadites so often, before – but, it is difficult to deny that there is a genuine personal element to this conflict which makes it especially memorable. It is also difficult to deny that Ellen Sandweiss is gives a very entertaining performance, here – tapping in to the perfect blend of horror and comedy that has served the franchise so well, over the years (there are even some rather morbid joke references to her character's fate in the original film, which strike a great balance between being hilarious and a little uncomfortable). Of course, in the end, the true high-light of the episode is the fact that Cheryl's return ultimately serves to provide Ash with the opportunity he needs to truly emerge as a hero in the eyes of the people of his home-town. And, the moment in which he is able to do so would have to count as one of Bruce Campbell's greatest moments, in the role of Ash Williams.

Overall, this is just a fantastic episode, in a variety of ways. Just about every member of the cast receives a great moment in the spot-light – even Linda and Lacey, who are relegated to simply reacting to the mayhem taking place around them, receive some entertaining moments. Chet, who turns up in Ash's home in the same hilariously 'out of nowhere' manner as his appearance in a prison cell in the previous episode, also receives a handful of truly hilarious moments (even if it does all end in tragedy, in his case).

The only weak-point, for me, is with the characterisation of Baal. It's not an issue with Joel Tobeck's performance, of course – but, rather, with the simple fact that we still haven't seen anything to suggest that Baal is the truly formidable threat we were led to believe he would be (unless, of course, we are meant to assume that Baal was the one actually responsible for riling up the angry mob – which, I suppose, would count for something).

That's only a small weak-point in a very entertaining episode, though – and, honestly, if the rest of the season can find the time to actually show us something of what makes Baal so dangerous, then it is a weak-point that can be very easily resolved.

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