Tag Archives: Ash vs. Evil Dead

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.

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.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “Books from Beyond” is some yappening and not a lot of happening

I had very high hopes for “Books from Beyond,” so I was a little disappointed when this episode felt like a bit of a step back after the first two really excellent half hours of the show. It’s not a terrible half hour of television, but it’s not particularly scary, not as funny as the last couple episodes, and it doesn’t do as much as it ought to move the story along.

After a week without Lucy Lawless, it was nice to see her back in the opening minutes of this episode, although I think her scene might leave us with rather more questions than answers about her character. I had kind of expected her to play a bigger part in the action this week, as the preview for the episode seemed to imply she would, but she only has perhaps five minutes of screen time. It’s not quite a deal breaker, but it is irritating to feel misled by promotional material in this way.

What’s more unfortunate this week is that Lawless’s Ruby isn’t the only female character to find herself somewhat sidelined once Ash and company arrive at the bookstore. While Ash and Pablo deal with ancient book expert and obvious weirdo Lionel (Kelson Henderson), Kelly is left to keep an eye on a handcuffed Amanda Fisher, who’s got no idea what’s going on but is convinced that Ash is responsible for it. Kelly has almost nothing to do this week, and Amanda doesn’t have anything useful to do. Both women end up only hindering Ash’s efforts to find a way to stop the evil he’s unleashed, but the largest portion of their time is spent doing nothing at all. This would be annoying enough if all the interesting stuff was happening where the women aren’t, but that’s sadly not the case here.

You wouldn’t expect a demon-summoning to be boring, but this one somehow manages it. There are some funny moments, but there are even more missed opportunities. Aside from this episode’s failure to include Kelly and Amanda in most of the action, the summoned demon and the ensuing fight just doesn’t end up being particularly well-done on any level. The demon itself is dull-looking, the show has toned down it’s characteristic gore, and the huge number of creepy specimen jars that are shown over and over again throughout the episode are never used to their full possible effect. Considering how much the camera lingered on all those jars of pickled fetus-looking things, I kept expecting them to at some point end up out of the jars and attacking Ash’s face. Not having that happen is a major missed opportunity.

Overall, “Books from Beyond” is simply a much slower-paced episode than the last two. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t deliver on the promise of the episode preview. On the one hand, I’m not certain it’s reasonable to expect that the show could have kept up the level of energy and humor that characterized the first couple of episodes. On the other hand, I’m not sure the show works if it doesn’t somehow manage that. When you add in the fact that the show seems to have lost interest in its female characters, at least temporarily, “Books from Beyond” is layer upon layer of letdown.

Miscellaneous thoughts on the episode:

  • I did love Lionel’s costume, although I think his jacket really needed to have elbow patches.
  • They are seriously having Pablo get “friend-zoned”? I hate that trope so much. It’s the worst sort of low key misogynist bullshit.
  • I hate to harp on the fetus jars thing, but that really was an enormous disappointment. I know they already did Ash fighting a comically small opponent in episode one, but this would have been a whole bunch of exceptionally gross-looking comically small opponents, which is clearly an entirely different thing.
  •  Best line of the night: “Well, you two learned a very valuable lesson today: Cops don’t help.”
  • That said, I’m starting to get the feeling that the show either has a total disdain for Amanda Fisher or just doesn’t have any idea what to do with her. She’s clearly a tough, capable person, but this week in particularly she functioned as nothing but an obstacle to our heroes while also ending the episode worse off than she started it. I thought the show was moving towards having her join up with Ash and company, but that seems to not be the case. I suppose this may mean that Amanda is going to end up working together with Ruby (who is downright sinister at this point), but I’m not exactly holding my breath on that, either, after this week’s mishandling of her character. It is still early in the series, but Amanda deserves better than what she’s been given so far.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “Bait” is a perfect balance of humor, drama, and fake blood

This week, the show picked up right where last week’s episode left off and continued to deliver on the early promise it showed in its first half hour.

“Bait” is the first episode of the show without Sam Raimi at the helm, but I can’t see that it suffers for it. Director Michael J. Bassett retains much of the distinct style Raimi has created for the franchise, but he isn’t afraid to add a few of his own flourishes, either. It has the effect of making the episode feel both reassuringly familiar and refreshingly different. Ash vs. Evil Dead isn’t like anything else on television right now, and it’s shaping up to be something very special.

Anyone who has read my writings on Game of Thrones must know that I have a deep and abiding love for awkward family dinners (this probably also explains my love of Gilmore Girls), and “Bait” delivers a great example of the form. From the moment that Ash and Pablo burst in to “rescue” Kelly, every scene with guest star Mimi Rogers is perfectly handled. The dinner itself was riotously funny as Ash tried to get get Kelly’s mom to admit that she was evil, and the subsequent fight is wonderfully bloody.

I was a little disappointed that Kelly herself didn’t get much to do throughout and was essentially a damsel in distress once her mother was revealed as a deadite, but I actually think there’s a certain sense of realism to this. There’s some very real horror in what Kelly has to go through in this episode, and Dana DeLorenzo does a nice job of balancing drama and humor in order to bring Kelly to life as a character with, I think, the potential to be downright trope-defying. The real test will be how Kelly’s character is handled going forward as we see how she emerges from this crucible.

Kelly being damseled can actually be compared to Pablo’s slightly similar situation earlier in the episode. On the way to Kelly’s house, Ash and Pablo are attacked on the road by their old boss, and it’s quickly clear (and explicitly, verbally called out) that Pablo doesn’t know what to do in spite of Ash’s assurance that getting hit will trigger fighting instincts. Pablo does fight, but ineffectively, and he ultimately has to be rescued by Ash as well, which is what prepares Pablo to be more helpful later on in the episode. There’s a nicely devised symmetry to the character arcs of Pablo and Kelly in this episode that prevents Kelly’s brief damsel moment from being a sexist misstep, although I still contend that she could have been a little more involved in the action.

All that said, “You know they were Jewish, right?” was a perfectly hilarious line, shot with gorgeous irony in the beautiful morning sunshine. What I loved about this scene was that, while it establishes Kelly as a sort of wise-cracking character, it also allows room for her to show real emotion and grieve with dignity. This is something that isn’t often seen in this kind of entertainment, where film-length projects often rush around from action scene to action scene and don’t devote much time to these sorts of character moments.

While Ash and company are having the family dinner from hell, Amanda Fisher is investigating the trailer park attack, which strikes her as similar and perhaps related to her own experience. She is shooed away from the scene by the actual officer in charge, since she’s still not back to work, but before she goes she finds a business card for Books from Beyond. The end of the episode sees her arriving there, while Ash, Pablo, and Kelly are on their way, which sets us up for next week’s show.

I would have liked to see a little more of Amanda Fisher this week, but there just wasn’t time with only a half hour to work with. However, I think the thirty-minute runtime is an asset for the show rather than a detriment. It encourages smart use of the time and prevents overlong scenes of blood and gore. So far, the show has been an agreeable mix of its parts, and the pacing is pleasantly engaging.

All it needs is more Lucy Lawless.

Ash vs. Evil Dead: “El Jefe” greatly exceeded my expectations

Ash vs. Evil Dead is, so far, everything I hoped it would be. My expectations weren’t high for this show, but I have to admit that my hopes were, and Starz has delivered.

My biggest fear about this television adaptation was that, in a time where grit and grimness is highly popular, it would take the material far too seriously. Fortunately, that isn’t the case so far. In fact, in “El Jefe” I think the material was treated with exactly the level of seriousness it deserves.

That said, most of this first episode was devoted to introducing characters. establishing the show’s mythology, and setting up the initial crisis. All of these things are accomplished by the end of these first forty minutes, and the episode is tightly scripted, fast-paced, and hilariously entertaining.

Ash himself is less likable that I remember, although to be fair it’s been probably ten years since I last watched Army of Darkness, which gives a much better picture of Ash’s character than Evil Dead ever did. Still, Bruce Campbell is ridiculously charming, and he makes the most incredibly goofy faces. I could have done without seeing him grossly proposition a girl young enough to be his daughter, although Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) seems like a character who can hold her own with an old creepy. In any case, that bit of weirdness was basically entirely made up for by getting to see Ash smash a bunch of vases against his own face while fighting an evil doll—and the CG for that scene was perfectly terrible, by the way.

Ash’s sidekicks, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and the aforementioned Kelly, fit into the Evil Dead universe perfectly, and Ray Santiago could give Bruce Campbell a run for his money in the silly faces department. Pablo’s almost blind faith in Ash is endearing, and Kelly so far doesn’t fit neatly into any particular stereotypes. I also like that while Pablo may be smitten with her and Ash might leer at her, the camera treats Kelly with respect; I can’t think of any pervy shots of her, anyway, which helps to reassure me that Kelly doesn’t just exist to be ogled or end up a love interest.

The other major character that got a lot of screen time this week was state police officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), whose first encounter with the evil force Ash has awakened (in a scene that highlights the dangers of mixing drugs and ancient books of magic) ends with her having to shoot her partner’s head off, which earns her a suspension from the force and an internal investigation. Amanda’s introductory scenes are the only ones in this first episode that I think were at all scary, but they also felt very consistent with the tone of the old Evil Dead films, with a similar visual effects style that relies chiefly upon great gouts of fake blood. While Amanda is moping in a diner after her traumatic experience, we get to meet Lucy Lawless’s character, Ruby, the only main character who remains mysterious by the end of this episode.

Overall, this episode greatly exceeded my expectations, and I’m now legitimately excited about this show instead of just in it for the nostalgia factor. The next test for Ash vs. Evil Dead will be whether or not the show continues to hold up without Sam Raimi at the helm for every episode. Next week, someone else takes the reins, and we’ll find out. Hopefully, we’ll also get to see more of Lucy Lawless.

What I will be (and you should be) watching this fall

So, it took me most of a summer of watching light fare to recover from this last season of Game of Thrones, but I think I’m more or less ready for watching and writing about some new television this fall. I won’t be writing about everything I watch, obviously, and there are a couple of things I intend to write about that I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick with–that could end up like my watching and posting about Killjoys did this summer; I still haven’t watched the last two episodes of that show, I was so bored/frustrated with it.

Here’s the plan:

The Mindy Project – Tuesdays on Hulu starting 9/15. I honestly love this show, and I will watch it til the end of time, although I rarely write about it outside of a line or two on Tumblr. The first episode of season four is excellent, and the first three seasons are available to stream on Hulu as well so it’s not too late too catch up if you’re really dedicated.

Doctor Who – Saturdays on BBC America starting 9/19. Doctor Who is another show I just can’t quit. It’s also one that I intend to write about this year, although I haven’t had much positive to say about it during Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. I’m not making any promises about this one, though. Right now, my goal is to have my Doctor Who post up on Monday mornings, but I’m not going to destroy myself over this show the way I do over Game of Thrones. If it gets too insufferable, I will likely switch to just watching it.

Minority Report – Mondays on Fox starting 9/21. Frankly, I’m already bored by this series, but I’ll probably check out the first episode or two just to confirm my suspicion that it makes no sense. I’m pretty sure the whole point of Minority Report was that the whole pre-crime thing is a terrible idea and this show seems to be presupposing that–maybe it isn’t? Okaaaay.

Scream Queens – Tuesdays on Fox starting 9/22. This show is relevant to basically all of my interests. And it has Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m currently planning to write about this one on Wednesdays.

Heroes Reborn – Thursdays on NBC starting 9/24. This show is basically not relevant to anything. No one wanted or asked for it. But it’s a thing that is happening. Since I loved the first season of Heroes as well as anybody, I will be watching this, but I’ll only be writing about it if it’s really good or really comically terrible.

Bob’s Burgers – Sundays on Fox starting 9/27. Love it. Watch it with my family. Will almost never post anything about it except gifs of Tina on Tumblr.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Sundays on Fox starting 9/27. Also love, but also won’t write about unless something major happens.

iZombie – Tuesdays on the CW starting 10/6. The first season of this show was a little uneven, and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the way it ended, but I plan to tune in again this year and write about it some more. Depending on how things pan out, I may end up choosing between this and Scream Queens to write about, though. Just, realistically, I’m not sure I have it in me to write about more than one show a day, especially as I’ve got a lot of reading that I want to do over the next few months as well.

Jane the Virgin – Mondays on the CW starting 10/12. I won’t write about this show (mostly because it’s basically perfect), but it’s another one that we watch as a family and I can’t wait.

Supergirl – Mondays on CBS starting 10/26. I kind of dislike most super hero stuff, but this show looks completely charming. I’m currently planning to write about it.

Ash vs. Evil Dead – Saturdays on Starz starting 10/31. This show is definitely what I am doing on Halloween. I’m not sure if I will write about it or not. It depends on how good this show is and how bad this season of Doctor Who is.

Into the Badlands – Sundays on AMC starting 11/15. This show is almost certainly awful, but I’m kind of interested in it anyway. No plans to write about it.

The Man in the High Castle – On Amazon Prime starting 11/20. I haven’t read the Philip K. Dick novel this series is based upon, but the trailer for the show looks promising. I’m hoping to read the book sometime over the next couple of months, and then I might watch the show.

Jessica Jones – On Netflix starting 11/20. Another Marvel show. I’m somewhat looking forward to this one, but I haven’t even finished Daredevil yet, so there’s no telling when I’ll get around to it. I do really like Krysten Ritter, though.

Childhood’s End – On SyFy starting 12/14. I read this book over the summer, and I totally understand why it’s one of the great sci-fi novels. I also totally have no faith in this adaptation of it. It looks legit awful, and I’m a little embarrassed for SyFy about it. I’ll definitely be watching it, though. And I expect that I’ll write some about it, too. I think it’s going to be just that enraging.

The Expanse – On SyFy starting 12/14. I’m somewhat more optimistic about this show, although I haven’t read the source material (and don’t really intend to unless the show is really good). I’ve no idea whether I’ll write about it or not. It depends on whether I have any feelings about it strong enough to be worth sharing.

I’m really disappointed that the new shows that seem intended to capitalize on the popularity of Game of Thrones-esque, gritty, dark medieval European settings (The Bastard Executioner and The Last Kingdom) both look boring as shit. I’m actually a pretty big fan of the gritty medieval stuff, but I have no desire to watch shows that look to be almost entirely devoid of women. Game of Thrones might hate its women, but at least they exist there.

In all honestly, the shows I’m most looking forward to this fall are all returning favorites. The new stuff that’s coming out isn’t that exciting, with a couple of exceptions, and a solid half of it looks actively bad. I figure I’ll try a few new things, though. Worst case scenario, everything is terrible and I end up reading more books instead.