Ash vs. Evil Dead: “The Host” has finally forced me to call a spade a spade

I have such mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a nice bit of nostalgia programming that, on an uncritical level, I find deeply enjoyable. On another level, I recognize it as technically well-written and –produced, with genuine humor and often lovely cinematography. At the same time, though, as a woman I find that the longer the show goes on, the less I feel included—and, therefore, the less I feel like tuning in week after week.

In “The Host” our heroes have to deal with Kelly’s demon-possession, which effectively prevents any character growth for Kelly, though it’s a great episode for both Ash and Pablo. We also see even less of Ruby and Amanda than we did last week—just one brief scene where they are using Ash’s severed hand to locate him. Unfortunately, even though Ash and company don’t move on to a new location this week, the two women don’t catch up to them. All in all, there’s very little going on in this episode, which is more than a little disappointing when they’ve only got to fill a half hour.

The thing that most strongly occurred to me in this episode, however, is the degree to which the early promotion of the show oversold its female characters. At halfway through the season, the early promise of the first couple of episodes has entirely dissipated, and all of the women have been relegated to decidedly secondary and tertiary roles that don’t put them in the way of either much interesting to do or any considerable character development. Instead, the men continue to take center stage, monopolizing screen time as well as demanding the greater part of the viewers’ emotional attention.

By far the worst sin of the episode is the utilization of the “possessed woman wants to do sex stuff she wouldn’t normally do” trope. At least the show had the good grace to write Pablo as such a mix of clueless and decent that he isn’t willing to take advantage of Kelly, but it’s still such a tired old device that I thought my eyes might roll out of my head. That Kelly’s violation is used entirely to provide an opportunity for showcasing Pablo’s goodness and puts her in need of rescue yet again isn’t terribly surprising, but it is disappointing.

It looks as if next week will finally see Ruby and Amanda catching up to Ash, Pablo, and Kelly, but my expectations are pretty low for the rest of the season. After five episodes where the treatment of the show’s female characters has only gone from bad to worse, I feel rather forced to admit to myself that Ash vs. Evil Dead is not really a show that is for me. I expect that I’ll keep watching it, and likely keep writing about it, but I feel now that I’ve got to accept it for what it is: a cash-grabbing exploitation of Gen-X and Millennial nostalgia that shamelessly goes through the motions of building a diverse cast but doesn’t care at all about being actually inclusive.

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