Ash vs the Evil Dead has been capable of doing many things that the original Evil Dead films really didn’t touch. An extended narrative, sexual intercourse and, as seen in this week’s “Brujo”, drug implications. Despite a premise where a group of teenagers get away to the woods, The Evil Dead isn’t a film that deals with much in the way of illegal materials. The closest the universe has managed to get in terms of tackling such substances before the marijuana fueled kick off to “El Jefe” is the 2013 remake Evil Dead, where Jane Levy’s character was having serious withdrawals following an unspecified addiction that initially causes her friends to think the Deadites are mere results of her DTs. However, Ash vs the Evil Dead decides to mainly keep its drugs in the realm of the psychedelic, allowing Ash to go on a full on trip like he’s literally never gone on before.
Before any of that can happen though, we finally get to know the true identity of Lucy Lawless’ character. As Amanda Fisher is about to be attacked by the Deadite possessed corpse of Books from Beyond owner Lionel, Lawless comes storming in to impale him on a pole. Immediately, Fisher questions who Lawless is and how she knows about the Deadites, giving us the answers we were mulling over. Turns out, Lawless is Ruby Knowbly, the previously unseen other daughter of Professor Raymond & Henrietta Knowbly and sister to Annie Knowbly from Evil Dead 2. Now, Ruby is out to find Ash and properly punish him for unleashing the Kandarian demons that destroyed her family.
While the cards were previously laid out before us, the picture for the continuity and thematics for Ash vs the Evil Dead has become completely clear. Army of Darkness has pretty much been completely thrown out of any sort of spectrum, leaving the events of most of Evil Dead 2 (aside from the bit involving knights and such) to serve as the official 30 year point and the Knowbly’s suffering as a major catalyst for Ash’s potential downfall. Ash vs the Evil Dead is all about the past coming back to haunt our titular protagonist thanks to his careless actions. Now in addition to Deadites, he must contend with a vengeful person who was directly affected by his doings. Hell, even his severed possessed hand is coming back from the dead to search for him, looking just as gnarly as ever.
Meanwhile, Ash and company are on their way to Pablo’s Uncle Brujo’s house. Their excursions is briefly interrupted by the presence of a wandering waling spirit that we’re used to in this universe, which Ash can’t avoid even with the assistance of Nitrous. As the Oldsmobile breaks down from this get away, The “Ghost Beaters” arrive at Brujo’s bizarre estate, strewn with animal skulls and unsettling sculptures that the team find intimidating. The production design on Ash vs the Evil Dead shines pretty bright here for designing these pieces perfectly for the sake of visual distortion, especially for the close ups that would follow. Said close ups are directly related to Kelly, who finds herself getting splitting headaches and hearing strange voices in her head as soon as she gets to Brujo’s compound, all of which are the result of her actually being possessed by the Eligos demon from last week. The eventual reveal that comes of this is a bit obvious, even with the solid visual of shorthand of Kelly looking into a mirror. Kelly seems to be the odd duck out on the show in terms of a specific role within the ensemble, but I hope it isn’t just to be a vessel. Dana DeLorenzo is a nice low key find for the series, someone who could balance off the more manic personalities of Pablo and Ash with an Aubrey Plaza-esque demeanor, but the last two episodes have mostly sidelined that major aspect of her personality in favor of this Eligos subplot.
As all of this is going on, Ash is being trained in the spiritual arts by Brujo (Hemky Madera). Brujo initially scolds Pablo for his lazy ways and reads Ash as a similarly wired slacker through his ancient voodoo. This introduction is yet another fun example of how the show manages to balance these personalities off of each other, with Ash & Brujo as two older men of completely different disciplines (or in Ash’s case, lake thereof) and their diverging influence on the impressionable Pablo. Just from the brief interaction between Pablo & Brujo, you get a sense of what would attract Pablo to be the mentee of the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants style badassery of Ash as a counterbalance to the more dismissive upbringing he had. Plus, Ash’s clueless nature continues to produce laughs against Brujo hilariously, particularly the “flickering flame” business.
At a certain point, Brujo tells Ash that he must take an ayahuasca trip in order to find the supposed “inside the origin of man” prophecy from last week. Ash is initially excited by this prospect, until Ash’s trip goes seriously bad and involves him having his eyes sewn shut, his head stuck in a jar and Brujo eating an eye. All of this stuff is a major highlight of the entire episode, showing off Ash’s internal struggles and referencing the Linda specific events from Evil Dead 2 through all sorts of creative visuals that do what the show does best in terms of adapting Sam Raimi’s style to a new context.
It becomes even more hilarious once Ash finds his peaceful place; Jacksonville, Florida. As a native Floridian, the idea of Jacksonville being a heavenly paradise is perfection for Ash, adding a frame of reference to the events of Evil Dead 2 in a way that fits firmly with Ash’s meager goals in life. The fact that he’s contented to sit on a dock with two beers, his now talking lizard/spirit guide Eli and the view of Jacksonville denotes how Ash is willing to stay stagnant and rest on the past. This immediately transitions into Ash fighting off the Eligos demon in his head, which is intercut with Ash in reality choking the Eligos possessed Kelly.Brujo manages to save Kelly at the last second and knocks Ash out, leaving us wondering where Ash’s spiritual journey will go from here. The entire sequence is well edited and Bruce Campbell’s Frankenstein-esque lumbering walk towards Kelly is amusing in its own right, but it’s a definite step down from how Eligos was used last week and makes me worried about how this demon will be used on the show from here on out.
Overall, “Brujo” is a solid episode of Ash vs the Evil Dead, but continues the slightly lacking streak from last week. Campbell is still on point, there are some fun visuals and more forward momentum on Lawless is intriguing. Yet, both Amanda and Kelly still seem to be floating around in a state of paused confusion as to whether or not they can exist beyond being mere plot vessels with untapped potential. Still, we can all agree that it’s nice to hear Parliment’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” over the end credits as we wonder about the series’ remaining six episodes.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: Lionel’s severed talking head squished under Ruby’s boot.
Best Ash Line: “Brujo, I have two hands! I need two beers!” The simple pleasures.
Next Week on Ash vs the Evil Dead: “The Host”, which will involve Ash, Pablo and Brujo facing off against Kelly’s inner demons with a bit of help from Amanda and Ruby.
One More Thing: “Time to go back to Kansas” followed by “SURRENDER ASH” in the clouds? Solid dual Wizard of Oz references.
Ash vs. the Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 4 “Brujo”: (3.5 / 5)