Ash vs. Evil Dead: In “Brujo” the show’s women continue to be short-changed

This week brings another shift in pace and tone for Ash vs. Evil Dead, and “Brujo” is an entertaining half hour of television. It’s nice to see the show mixing things up a bit and avoiding following a formula from episode to episode. While I haven’t loved every piece of the show so far, they’ve all been enjoyable in their own way and I could easily see this being a show that ends up being greater than the sum of its parts in the end.

The episode begins with Amanda Fisher, who is attacked by the not-quite-dead bookstore owner from last week after being left handcuffed to a ladder. Fortunately, Ruby arrives right in time to rescue her, and the two women are now teaming up and combining their quests to find Ash. This is a positive development, especially for Amanda, who the show hasn’t seemed to know what to do with since the first episode. It’s a little disheartening just how wrong both Amanda and Ruby are about what’s going on, and I’m concerned by how little screen time they’re getting when it feels like they’ve got so much to learn.

Obviously, the show is Ash vs. Evil Dead, not Amanda and Ruby Fight Evil, and with only a half hour per week it would be easy for the show to lose focus if it spent too much time with these secondary characters. Unfortunately, I feel like the show is doing Ruby and Amanda a disservice by moving their stories along so slowly. Ruby may benefit from a bit of mystery, but Amanda continues to suffer from lack of characterization and just not having a lot to do when she is on screen.

All that said, I’m not entirely convinced yet that Ruby isn’t evil herself. At this point, it’s early speculation on my part, and I could be wrong—goodness knows, it would be nice if the show wouldn’t do the expected thing and make her secretly evil all along—but carrying around a severed hand of sinister provenance seems more than a little suspicious.

There’s relatively little actual action in this episode, but there is a short sequence while Ash and company are on the road to Pedro’s uncle’s house where they find themselves being chased by a huge, roiling cloud of evil. Unfortunately, this bit feels a little overlong and doesn’t manage to be exciting, scary, or funny. Instead, it serves mostly to allow us to see that Kelly is having a decidedly weird headache that she can’t seem to shake. It gave me a bad feeling about how things were going to go for her in the rest of the episode, and I was correct to be apprehensive.

While Ash is getting high and exploring his trip to try and learn how to undo the evil he’s summoned, and Pedro is working on building a new prosthetic for Ash, we learn that Kelly has been possessed by last week’s demon. I hate this so, so much.

I wasn’t thrilled last week with Kelly being cut out of most of the action, but I suppose someone had to keep an eye on Amanda. The week before that, Kelly was effectively made into a damsel in distress, but I forgave it because it seemed to work as the beginning of her character arc. However, in “Brujo” Kelly starts off incapacitated by debilitating headaches and ends the night still possessed by a demon. With the lack of attention paid to the other women in the show, it’s beginning to feel like they’re all being actively sidelined in favor of exploring Ash as an anti-hero and developing Pedro as Ash’s loyal sidekick.

The worst part of all of this is that the show began its run with a lot of promise, and I had high hopes that it might utilize women in interesting roles that defy some of the more irritating genre tropes. In fact, that seemed to be part of what the show was explicitly offering with its promotional materials and trailers. There might be plenty of episodes left in which things might improve, but right now things just get worse and worse each week for the show’s women. It’s not a deal breaker for me, yet, but it’s definitely gotten grating already.

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