TV Review: Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1, Episode 4 “Brujo” (USA, 2015)

“Well that was different” I exclaimed as Woodstock-esque music accompanied the credits of this weeks episode of Ash vs Evil Dead.

Four episodes in and the horror/comedy series has decided to wreak havoc on its tried and true formula and just dive head long into crazy town. I know, for a review of an episode of an Evil Dead show, making mention of that is notable.

Let’s recap Brujo though before we discuss the bizarre. When we left Detective Fisher last week, Ash had one upped her and cuffed her to a shelf in the Books From Beyond. Seconds away from being murked by the newly deceased but still very alive and evil book store owner, Lucy Lawless’ character saves the day. We finally learn her name and who she is exactly. The sister to Evil Dead 2’s Annie, and by extension daughter of Raymond (the voice on the tapes and original researcher of the Necronomicon) and Henrietta (the older woman in the cellar), Ruby is hunting down Ash to exact revenge for the death of her family. Oh and she is totally riding around with Ash’s detached hand that has recently started twitching.

Meanwhile, The Ghost Beaters (nobody mentioned that but I’m keeping it alive) go to see Pablo’s estranged uncle who he has recently explained is a Sharma and might be able to help with sending the dead back. Instead Brujo launches straight into ritualistic chants and ancient herbs as Ash goes on a journey to find himself.

Brujo gets whacked pretty fast man. It foregoes its usual dependence on gore – aside from Ruby slicing that poor saps head off and crushing it beneath her heel – in favour of some off hand, straight out of left field attempts at humour. Ash voluntarily drugs himself and enters a plane of existence where he sees visions of pro wrestling and playboy covers before waking in a grave with his eyes sewn shut and surrounded by demons.

Honestly, the entire episode was straight up weird but in its own twisted and peculiar way, it gave us an insight into Ash that we haven’t seen in 30 years of the Evil Dead brand. There is a scene where, still in his dream state, he has regained his hand and enjoys two bruskies while looking out over the cityscape of Jacksonville, Florida. He tells of his plan to go there but instead opted to take his girlfriend to a cabin in the woods “and things haven’t been the same since”.  For all of his goofiness and emotional vacancy, its sweet to see an Ash that harbors guilt and longs for a normal life.

Regardless, while this may have been a very Evil Dead way to do things, it still felt very out of place and I can’t help but feel that my predictions were spot on. That eventually an episode would air where the paced dipped and due to its rapid fire predecessors, it would look that much worse by comparison.

Things pick up at the end however. While Kelly recovers from a seemingly harmless concussion, we learn that she has in fact been possessed by Egolis (that amazing looking but creepy as hell demon from last week). After electrocuting Pablo while he tries to build Ash a new hand from a Nintendo power glove (now that’s Evil Dead people!) she gets Ash alone in his slumber and attempts to take him out. Ash, seeing only Egolis in his vision chokes Kelly damn near to death before Pablo knocks him out. And then the episode just ends. Because it wasn’t already completely insane.

It’s an interesting addition to the fold. The only issue now is whether this will be drawn out because as this very youthful show has illustrated, it certainly likes to jump the gun with intriguing plots. They did it with how quickly Amanda caught up with the gang and again by divulging Ruby’s story. It would be nice to see the producers of Ash vs Evil Dead take advantage of their break from the big screen and leave a little mystery in the air.

I’ve said it a bundle of times but Brujo was bizarre, even by Evil Dead standards. Pablo’s uncle helping Ash find the “Jefe” within himself was a pretty neat touch. After all, this man’s life has been a cluster-fuck since he watched his friends get murdered, cut off his own had and traveled back to medieval times; so it’s nice to have some exploration into Ash’s psyche as the show acknowledges this aging hero.

There were some nice references to the films too. A great tracking shot of the evil chasing the oldsmobile at the beginning and during Ash’s trip-fest, footage of the original film is shown, specifically of his girlfriend. Add to that Ruby’s story and you have yourself some wonderful fan service and  a big wink that says “we know where we started and we’re not moving away from our roots”.

It isn’t that Brujo was bad, we haven’t reached that point yet. It’s just that the first three episodes sat us down, eased our concerns and let us settle in and this week we were shaken out of our comfort zone and fed something we weren’t prepared for. Maybe Brujo will just become another loony little entry into the Evil Dead cannon and I’ll eat my words but for now, I’m just not ready for experimentation, especially when it comes in the way of Ash talking to his pet lizard.

Highlights:

      • Nice to see an emotional side of Ash
      • Kelly being possessed
      • Great references to the films
      • Ruby is pretty bad ass

Lowlights:

        • Bizarre and jarring episode
        • Pace dropped dramatically
        • Failing to capitalize on intriguing stories by rushing them

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ash vs Evil Dead is streaming now on Stan.

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