Ash Vs Evil Dead – Season 1, Episode 5: The Host

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As we approach the halfway point of the first season of Ash Vs Evil Dead, we finally get our first real sense of the show’s glaring Achilles heel – that of sustaining an intriguing season arc while building upon it’s core characters. For literally any other show, these things are imperative to keep things moving for an invested audience, but the Evil Dead franchise has never really been one for such things (unless by character development you mean getting progressively coated in yet more blood and slime) and in some cases fans might even consider them a detriment. At one point in the previous episode Ash coins a hastily constructed mantra that goes “Shoot first, think never.” and it not only turns out to not only be his most enduring catchphrase since pretty much everything he says in Army Of Darkness, but it sums up one of the most noticable traits about the entirety of the show…

When we last left Ash and the hastily named Ghost Beaters, the Eligos possessed Kelly had managed to convince Pablo and his Witch Doctor uncle that it was in fact Ash who is the one possessed and while she stinks around, ready to cause some lethal mischief, Ash is bound and is about to undergo some painful demon removal surgery. Suggesting the removal of a section of the brain the mind demon likes to nestle in, the Brujo casually claims that one of the side effects are merely that he’ll lose all sensation in his erogenous zones much to Ash’s understandable horror. But while he ponders the deadening of his little boomstick, Kelly breaks away to prey on the sweet, trusting Pablo who has not only loved her or from afar, but chooses this particular moment to shoot his shot. While she attempts to seduce him in order to get him to smoke weed out of Ash’s loaded shotgun (it’s what all the demonically possessed kids are into nowadays), the Brujo finally starts to cotton on that maybe Ash isn’t the corrupted one after all.
Elsewhere, the recently formed team of eternally confused police detective Amanda Fisher and the supernaturally endowed Ruby contine on their mission to head off Ash and the Book Of The Dead with the help of his twitching, severed hand that he sawed off thirty years ago. Her claims that Ash is going around America, conjuring demons and killing people is obviously false (sort of), plus she has the power to overpower and torture Deadites at will, so what’s her real agenda?

Noticably the weakest episode by far, it’s to Ash Vs Evil Dead’s credit that The Host still  manages to entertain, but the main problem of the episode seems to be that the filmmakers are still unaware how to take the usual mechanics of episodic drama and funnel it through the Evil Dead filter in order to not make poignant moments seem jarringly out of place.
I’m saying that the lead characters shouldn’t care about each other and Kelly’s near-death possession is necessary to bring some plot points to the surface (Pablo’s crush is finally addressed full on here) and bond the Ghost Beaters like never before – but the result is an episode that doesn’t feel particularly Evil Dead-ish enough in both it’s tone and pace.
Oh sure, we get a resolution on the Eligos plotline (and it’s a shame to see such a cool creature get turned to blue goo) and we get more insight into Pablo’s spiritual youth which will undoubtedly come to fruition later on, but only a show as strange as Ash Vs Evil Dead could feel like it’s spinning it’s wheels when it’s actually taking the time to wrap up major plot lines or character drama. When the show’s creators manage to balance genuine drama with the careening, gonzo humour Evil Dead is known for, then the show will have it made, but as it stands in this episode, slightly sober moments like Ash actually showing genuine concern seems weirdly out of character without a tasteless joke thrown in to ruin the mood.
Another issue that’s still to be addressed is that of Jill Marie Jones’ Agent Fisher who, despite being teamed with a major player in the form of Lucy Lawless’ relentless Ruby, has now gone from being someone who was desperately seeking answers to someone who now has them and simply won’t accept them, which, needless to say, has turned her from an unnecessary character to an irritating one. Why we need another voice of reason when Pablo and Kelly’s incredulous reactions to everything that’s going on around them is beyond me but they have got to figure this out one way of the other because she feels like padding in a notoriously tight show.
With all that being said, while the gonzo energy does die somewhat, The Host does have some cracking moments with Kelly’s murderous seduction and subsequent exorcism being remarkably tense while being darkly funny. This just goes to show how vital the two characters have become to the Evil Dead universe in only five episodes and is a rare moment when the goofiness and drama actually gel. Campbell gets to deliver some good muffled comedy when he’s bound and gagged and begging for the sensitivity of his manhood at the beginning of the episode but his embrace of that line I mentioned earlier (“Shoot first, think never!”) is perfect, not only for the show’s idiotic genius, but basically explains everything you need to know about Ash summed up in four simple words – plus he gets a bitching robot hand (which, of course, he immediately uses to flip the bird).

I may begrudgingly admit that a bit of gravitas at this juncture probably helps cement the bond between the three members of the Ghost Beaters as we plunge into the second half of the season, but it does leave the show feeling like it’s awkwardly split in two – something that Ash usually does to his inhuman victims…

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