Monday, 21 November 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E07 - 'Delusion'

For all the build-up that he had received before his appearance, Baal hasn't exactly been all that impressive, so far – and, he certainly hasn't seemed to measure up to everything we have been told about him. But, of course, that is likely a large part of the problem, as far as Baal is concerned – so far, we have just been told more about him then we've actually been shown. We know that he is dangerous because Ruby is afraid of him, but we haven't been shown why. We've seen some examples of his apparent talent for manipulation, but nothing that struck me as overly impressive (honestly, I can't imagine that turning the people of Elk Grove against the man they already believed to be a murdered really required much effort, on Baal's part).

Clearly, what Ash vs Evil Dead needs is an opportunity to show Baal at his most dangerous, and at his most manipulative – if for no other reason than the convince the audience that he actually is the threat we have been told he is. Fortunately, it seems as though the writer's happen to agree – as it soon becomes apparent that the season's seventh episode is intent on doing just that.

Captured by Baal, at the end of the previous episode, this episode opens with Ash now held in what appears to be a very dilapidated asylum – with Ash finding himself under the care of his 'psychiatrist' (who is, of course, Baal, himself), and presented with a scenario in which his life-long battles against the forces of evil was little more than a delusion. Of course, Ash isn't buying it – and, his first reaction is to try to fight his way out. But, when his initial efforts fail, Ash is left with little option but to bide his time, waiting for other opportunities – all while Baal continues to chip away at his confidence in what he believes to be true.

Not only is this, arguably, the least action focused episode of Ash vs Evil Dead that we have ever seen, but it would also have to count as the least comedic, too (although, it does still have its moments). Neither of this count as the negative that they could have been, though – as, the episode does a fantastic job of replacing the usual mix of gore and goofy comedy with a very real sense of tension and dread. There is, of course, never a point in which the audience is expected to believe that Ash might actually be insane (or, at least, 'insane' in the way that Baal is trying to convince him he is) – but, there is still a very real threat in the possibility that Ash might come to believe Baal's lies.

One aspect of this episode that stood out very clearly is the fact that Baal's portrayal of a vaguely sinister psychiatrist is a much more worthwhile use of Joel Tobeck's talents than the greasy, lanky haired, creep he has been playing over the past few episodes. Before, Baal just hadn't seemed all that interesting, as a villain – looking more like a somewhat 'one-dimensional' caricature, than a real character. But, here, the mix of calm confidence with a subtle sense of genuine menace manages to make him into a much more intimidating presence. Honestly, if Joel Tobeck had been allowed to portray Baal in this way, from the beginning, than I am fairly confident that he would have made a much stronger first impression.

Along with this, the season's seventh episode also provides the rest of the cast with entertaining opportunities to briefly take on other roles, as they appear in Baal's elaborate fantasy. Pablo's appearance as a security guard, and Ruby's as a nurse, are both entertaining enough – though, it is Kelly's appearance as a fellow patient that truly stands out. Dana DeLorenzo has already been very impressive throughout the season, as she has been given the opportunity to portray Kelly's continued evolution – but, her sudden shift into portraying a violently disturbed young woman, here, is fantastic. The episode even finds room to briefly bring Ted Raimi back, after his character's death in the previous season – as Chet, too, is used as part of Baal's efforts to break Ash down.

To top it all off, the episode also gave us the opportunity to see Bruce Campbell sharing scenes with a puppet, as Baal's methods take a somewhat unexpected turn. The appearance of the therapeutic 'Ashy Slashy' puppet would have to be the episode's most clearly comedic element – but, even this takes on a somewhat unsettling twist, as the episode progresses.

The episode's only real weak-point is the very notable, and very disappointing, absence of Ash's father, Brock, as a part of Baal's mind games – although, it is entirely possible that a reappearance from Lee Majors is being saved for a future episode. Overall, though, this episode's sudden shift into a much stranger, and more surreal, brand of unsettling horror is very effectively handled – making this one of the strongest episodes of the entire series, so far.

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