Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ash vs. Evil Dead - Apparently Dead

Don't judge a book by its cover, unless it's the Necronomicon.

Everyone has their lines, and as it turns out the third episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead's third season crossed one for me. So far this series has shown me that I can take things like morgue-set fights where feces spews and a dead man's penis dangles in the face of hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), and I can take a fight in a sperm bank that has semen being thrown all over the place. But something in 'Apparently Dead' did get under my skin - the desecration of a funeral, where the proceedings are disrupted by the casket falling over, with body parts falling across the floor, splattering embalming fluid. I just take the setting too seriously; I've been brokenhearted at too many funerals to get a laugh out of the idea.

The unease that moment brought me didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the episode, though. The disrupted funeral was being held for Candy Barr, Ash's former (and very brief) love, the mother of his recently discovered teenage daughter Brandy (Arielle Carver-O'Neill). There's actually a clever set-up for that disturbing disruption: the demonic Deadites can be killed by bodily dismemberment, and since Candy was decapitated Ash figured she was safe was possession. Unfortunately, the funeral home re-attached her head for the viewing, allowing the forces of evil to inhabit her body and use it to torment Ash.

The Evil Dead franchise has always drawn inspiration from the Three Stooges, and there's a fun Stooges touch to Ash's casket-bound fight with Deadite Candy - it ends with a moment that had me laughing out loud.

I knew the title of this episode before I started watching it, and it took me about 6 minutes - not long before Candy's casket went tumbling over - to realize it was a goofy pun concerning a dead parent. That became even more a(p)-parent later on, when the evil Ruby (Lucy Lawless) resurrects Ash's late father Brock (Lee Majors) as part of whatever long con she has going on with the teenager - she's been undercover as the girl's high school guidance counselor for two years, and now wants the girl to bond with an evil version of her dead grandfather. When Ash finds Brandy and Brock hanging out, father and son do not have a happy reunion, but I was happy to see Brock back on the show. I was surprised when Majors was taken out of the equation way too soon after his introduction in season two.

I won't say what happens to him in 'Apparently Dead', but I don't expect to see much of Brock in season three, either.

Speaking of introducing a character and then killing them off shockingly soon after, that trick is pulled again in this episode when an unexpected fate befalls a character (in a way that calls back to Evil Dead II) we just met in the pilot episode. I thought this person was going to play a big role in this season, they seemed to have an important story that hasn't really been explored at all yet, so I'm interested to see how the ideas they brought to the table will be explored without them.

'Apparently Dead' was directed by Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes, and appears to be a pretty big break for the duo. Their only previous credits are a handful of shorts and an episode of a show called No Seasons. Getting to direct an episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead is quite an honor, and is made even more so when you take into account that the Meza-Valdes were tasked with bringing a script by Ivan Raimi to the screen. Ivan is the brother of Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi and co-wrote Army of Darkness, the third film in the franchise with his brother a couple decades before developing this TV continuation with him. Ivan co-wrote the first episode, 'El Jefe', with Sam and Tom Spezialy, then co-wrote the season one episode 'Fire in the Hole' and wrote season two's 'DUI'.

Ash vs. Evil Dead has featured great music from the start, but I have to note that there has been a really excellent use of music in season three so far. In the previous episode "Take On Me" accompanied a standout moment, and in this one I enjoyed hearing Joan Jett's cover of "Crimson and Clover" play over a sequence.

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