Monday, 12 December 2016

Review - 'Ash vs Evil Dead', S02E10 - 'Second Coming'

With the previous episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, we had a situation where it seemed as though just about anything could happen as the second season came to an end. There was a very genuine, and very interesting, feeling of uncertainty surrounding Ash's exploits, back in 1982 – as the team's time-travel adventures threatened to significantly alter the events of the original films. We had Professor Knowby making his first proper appearance in the franchise, and the surprising return of the deadite, Henrietta – drawn straight out of Evil Dead 2. Beyond that, the episode even ended on a rather tense cliff-hanger – as Ash and Professor Knowby's student, Tanya (Sara West), found themselves locked in the cellar, while the Professor fled with the Necronomicon.

It was a great way to bring the second season's penultimate episode to a close – and, it definitely promised a very entertaining finale. It's really just a bit of a shame that it felt as though much of that potential was squandered, as we move into the finale, itself.

There was an incredibly odd feeling of rather blatant 'course correction' taking place, as the episode opened – which, now that I know a bit about the issues taking place behind-the-scenes (a show-runner leaving, and a final episode being hastily rewritten, at the last minute), actually makes perfect sense. The feeling that I had, in watching the episode, is that the writers seemed set on brushing aside everything that had been set up, in the last episode, as quickly as possible – with the intent on moving on to something new. Despite his apparent importance, Professor Knowby is dead before we even see the episode's title-screen – and, both Tanya and Henrietta follow soon after.

Ash's defeat of Henrietta seems to have altered things enough that his missing hand, cut off when it became possessed back in Evil Dead 2 – only for him to lose it again, before the end of the episode. The ultimate goal of their plan, to bring back Pablo, seems to work – only for it to be revealed for this to have all been part of some last-ditch plan of Baal's, who had been hiding inside Pablo's mutilated corpse all along. And Ruby, who had become a genuine ally since losing her immortality, was promptly killed off by her younger self – who was disgusted by what she saw as her future self's weakness.

Now, I do have to admit that some of those sudden developments bothered me significantly less than others – but, I still couldn't quite get over how strange it all felt to see the season's final episode suddenly change direction so abruptly. The reveal that Ash's initial decision to travel back in time had actually been motivated by Baal, who had successfully manipulated our hero into bringing him back, made for an entertaining moment (even if it didn't make a lot of sense, on reflection). Also, the idea of Ruby's past self making an appearance, only to brutally murder the version of Ruby that we have come to know over the course of the season, actually made for a genuinely great twist – even if it does leave us with a character who, much like Ruby back in the show's first season, feels rather one-dimensional, by comparison. Also, the Lucy Lawless managed to do a very impressive job of distinguishing the past and present versions of Ruby from each other – something which was especially noticeable in the scene that they shared.

Unfortunately, even with that in mind, there were still elements of the episode that I found to be somewhat problematic. For one thing, the action sequences which made up so much of this episode just felt a bit off, in a manner that is difficult to define. The scenes felt slow and sluggish in a way that none of the action sequences we have seen on this series have, before now – as though the staging, editing, and choreography of each sequence was rushed. This was especially apparent in Ash's final confrontation with Baal – though, even the much more entertaining confrontation with Henrietta, which opened the episode, seemed to suffer from this problem. Given how much of the episode was taken up by these sequences, the fact that they were so underwhelming proved to be a fairly significant problem, for the episode.

I also have to question the logic behind some of what took place, in this episode. The whole idea that Baal would agree to a final duel against Ash, just because Ash taunted him a bit, left strange – even if he did always intend to cheat. I mean, at that point, Baal and past-Ruby had, basically, already won – and, there is absolutely no reason why he would have agreed, beyond the possibility that the people behind the episode simply couldn't come up with any better way to get Ash and Kelly out of such a difficult situation.

Also, while the moment in which Baal seemed to take on the form of people close to Ash was entertaining, I'm still not sure what the make of Brock's reappearance. It was great that Lee Majors would be able to put in one final appearance, of course – but, the nature of his scene just didn't make any sense. If, for example, we were meant to assume that his appearance was a vision created by Baal (like Chet and Cheryl had been), then we are left with the question of why Brock seemed so set on genuinely helping Ash. If, on the other hand, we were meant to assume that this was really Brock, then we are left to question the though-process of the writer who chose to have Brock's body turn into a chainsaw that Ash could use against Baal. It felt like a moment of dream-logic – but, one which, as far as I could tell, took place in the real world. And, it made no sense.

All of this leads us to another of the episode's underwhelming elements – that being the season's final moments, in which it seems as though everything works out just fine for our heroes. Pablo returns, alive and well, after all – and, the three, somehow, manage to make their way back to the present day, where Ash is treated to a heroes welcome by the people of Elk Grove. I do have to wonder if there is more to these final moments than there initially appears to be, though – since, As Ash says, himself, it does all seem to be a little too perfect. Of course, while some sort of twist could serve to, retroactively, make the final moments of the second season a little more interesting, we aren't going to find out, for sure, until the third season begins.

As things stand, at the moment, what we have is a very entertaining second season which, unfortunately, seems to have stumbled in its final episode. The season finale still had its share of genuinely entertaining moments, of course – but, it was definitely a disappointment when compared to everything that led us to this point.

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