Happy Halloween, Grue Believers! But more importantly, Happy 1st Birthday, Ash vs Evil Dead! Yes, one year ago today “El Jefe” premiered and sent us on the wild ride that has been this series. Of course, like any one year old, Ash vs Evil Dead is celebrating it’s day of birth by skinning someone alive. At the start of “Confinement,” we get our first glimpse of Baal, the demonic entity that Ruby has been hinting at for the past several episodes. Baal is found by Officer Margie at the abandoned bar, stark nude and in full on seduction mode. Unfortunately, Margie doesn’t survive too long before her skin is peeled off for Baal to wear as a disguise. The biggest thing to note here is Baal’s finger nail, which was hinted at previously during Pablo’s vision in “The Morgue.” Thus, Baal has been a spirited factor in the proceedings this whole time, but now he’s after more specific goals; to be the lead villain on this season of Ash vs Evil Dead… and little else.
After thinking everything was resolved last week, Ash gets himself arrested by Sheriff Thomas Emery for murdering that deadite at the bar. Chet’s already there for drunk driving and soliciting a transgender prostitute… who is pretty much just there to be a transgender prostitute with STDs. It’s not as offensive as it sounds on paper, but there’s honestly not much of a reason for her to be there beyond a joke about Chet feeling ‘itchy’ and a gory death scene. Still, the station begins to get a bit more crowded as not only Pablo, Kelly and Ruby show up to get Ash out of prison, but Linda and Lacey are there to tell him about the events of tonight. Margie meanwhile sets events into motion, including giving Ash false hope of one phone call and putting the Kandarian dagger in the evidence locker. Suddenly, the power goes out and Margie’s skin flies from the ceiling, leading us to a game of “Who Killed Who” for Ash vs Evil Dead.
This sets up our sort of John Carpenter’s The Thing style tension for the episode. The tension the builds here is striving for something authentically taut. Stuff that can give us pause as we wonder who could possibly be Baal under a heavy skin covered guise. Yet, the tension doesn’t really amount to too much. We get that Ash obviously isn’t Baal, we where most of the other side characters have been. If anything, this is more an exercise in repeating the trust issues Ash has with Sheriff Emery and getting the Emery family to have a sudden distance from one another. That’d be all fine and dandy if there was much of any build up to how these characters interacted. How the Emery family as a unit worked before they broke apart. Instead, we see Lacey being briefly scared by Ash before being scared of her own father and Linda growing more vulnerable to Ash’s charm as Thomas grows more unhinged. The whole situation reeks of “audience knows things far before characters do,” which dilutes the tension rapidly. There’s some curious character interactions, mainly involving Pablo’s self doubt and Ash’s anger with Chet’s sudden betrayal. Even episode director Michael J. Bassett manages to throw in a few curious angles, particularly once shit hits the fan. Yet, it’s not enough to get us past the fact that this is mostly filler for Ash vs Evil Dead.
Then again, much of this is a backdrop for the real point of this particular Ash vs Evil Dead; introducing Baal. While the larger group is bickering, Ruby is trying to pry into the evidence locker to retrieve her dagger. Unfortunately, she falls for some rather rushed seduction from a random black lady cop. Of course, she turns out to be Baal in disguise, allowing Joel Tobeck to fully reveal himself. As he stands, Tobeck isn’t a bad matchup for Lucy Lawless in theory. Like her, he seems fully in charge of his own appearance and sexual energy… however much you can get from this meld of Michael Shannon and Tommy Wiseau. Yet, the idea that he could intimidate Lawless really seems disappointing. For all the faults I’ve had with Ruby’s character in the past, her main strength has been her will over others. To sell us on the idea that someone as capable as Ruby would be so easily turned into putty, we needed a more intimidating force. Instead, we get a mildly confident wolf in human clothing. Spouting the same on of “betrayal” and “killing demons” we’re more than used to. Hopefully, Baal advances beyond this over the next few episodes, but doubt is still firmly in place.
If anything saves “Confinement,” it’s the last few moments. After skinning them alive, Baal sends the muscle-ladened leftovers out to fight Ash, forcing our heroes to confront corpses of grinning tissue. Ash bouts with one for a while, getting Ruby to assist with a kill shot. After some slaying, Ash swoops in to rebound Linda from her sudden total abandonment of her sheriff husband and into Ash’s arms without a second thought. However, they’re no star attraction. No, the true star is the “rash” on Pablo’s chest. Something Ash dismissed as potential genital warts are turning into summarrian covered sores that are putting Pablo through the ringer. Probably something to do with their actions last week that both thought got them off the hook. Unfortunately, Ash vs Evil Dead can’t contend with such dark powers in one sitting, forcing us to wait on a cliffhanger as Roby tells Pablo that he could be the key to saving them from Baal. Let’s hope he’s also the key to saving Ash vs Evil Dead from potential plot stagnation. Even if it couldn’t save this from being the weakest episode so far. Not so spooky Halloween, I guess?
Kill of the Night: Ruby/Ash team up kill of the skinless deadite.
Best Ash Line: “Whoa, that’s a bit racist, Pablo.” Ash’s views on PC are a well of humor that never runs dry.
Next Week on Ash vs Evil Dead: “Trapped Inside,” which I assume will delve further into Pablo’s inner demons… literally.
One More Thing: Was “Officer Margie” a Fargo reference? Wouldn’t be surprised, given Bruce Campbell was in Season 2 of the TV show.
Ash Vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 5 “Confinement:” (3 / 5)