TV Review: Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 2 “Bait” (USA, 2015)

After last weeks hour length debut of Ash vs Evil Dead, episode 2 has commenced the standard of half an hour episodes going forward. That isn’t to detract from from the show at all. It’s merely a PSA. In fact the show runners of Ash vs Evil Dead have seemingly accepted this a challenge to cram as much blood and humour into its shortened time frame. Yes, they overcame that challenge.

Bait picks up literally where the first episode ended. Painted in a fresh coat of red as a result of their fight with with a couple of Deadites, Ash, Kelly and Pablo strategise their next move. Ash wants to get the Necrinomicon translated in an effort to banish the evil horde he has unleashed but before he can make a move, Kelly makes a dash – with the book – to save her father from her newly resurrected mother.

Ash and Pablo hitch that disastrous trailer up to the Oldsmobile Delta 88 (Yes, that one!) and set out to save Kelly from what Ash is sure is a Deadite posing as Kelly’s mum.

You couldn’t pick a better concept for an episode of an Evil Dead show. Bait beautifully marries laughs a minute with graphic violence and never sacrifices an organic narrative. It also introduces (to those who haven’t seen the films or need a refresher) an integral tactic of the Deadites – the ability to appear human and pray on the emotions of loved ones. Ash vs The Evil Dead is still in the phase of establishing – and re-establishing – staples of the franchise and Bait handles so much with confidence.

Ash and Pablo’s former-boss-now-turned-deadite attacks the two in their car on the way to Kellys and the way they dispatch him is not only funny but so fantastically gruesome. Blood soaks the car as Ash repeatedly stabs him in the neck with a broken bottle and spouts a killer one liner before ending him; something that Pablo absolutely swoons over.

Once they arrive at the house they find that everything is fine and join the family for dinner. This is the episodes highlight. Ash spends the dinner with his shotgun firmly strapped to his back, querying Kellys mother in an attempt to get her to slip up and unveil her true form.  Writing about it is actually making me laugh all over again as the exchange ends with Ash giving in to his impatience and socking her right in the face.

Bruce Campbell plays Ash in such a blase manner, a veteran who has seen some shit and doesn’t really get shocked anymore. What’s so great about Bait is that it encourages you to accept Ash vs Evil Dead for what it is. Ash and Pablo break the door down, covered in blood, Ash holding his boomstick and chainsaw hand and Pablo wielding his broken bottle and following a small inquiry as to who these strangers are, everyone is calm and relaxed. Its absurdity is very ingrained and it is so perfectly self  aware. And yet, despite this, the dinner scene is still tense as we wait to see when the proverbial poop is going to hit the fan.

And it does. She turns evil and drives a fork into her husbands eye, effectively taking his character out of the equation. Ash not only sees right through the Deadites manipulative ways (in tears she hugs Kelly) but we see Pablo get his hands dirty yet again as he tries to forcefully display his commitment to this crusade and at the same time win his way into Kellys heart.

Once again, Bait utilises every second of screen time it gets to lay a foundation for the upcoming season and it does it effortlessly. It even continues Amanda’s (the officer who happened upon the cabin and is off work for supposedly killing her partner) sub-plot as she investigates the trailer park where Ash lived. It looks like she will always be one step behind and I can’t wait to see how their stories intersect. Will she be a foe upon finding out that it was Ash who brought this plague to life? Or an ally who teams up with the group to fight against it?

Bait is just one of those episodes that does everything right. Its funny – Pablo not being able to comprehend Ash’s convoluted metaphors are a treat; it’s action packed, fits in character development, establishes tropes of the universe in which it’s set and never seems to lull. Ash vs Evil Dead has done what a lot of shows have failed to do in the past and that is captivate an audience in its second episode, when its big directors and blockbuster action have moved on.

Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights:

      • Packed so much into a shorter time frame
      • Dinner scene was magic
      • They are sparing no expense with the gore
      • Stuck to The Evil Dead mythos
      • Bruce Campbell is just going to keep getting better isn’t he?

Lowlights:

        • Episodes are now half an hour

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