The first episode of the second season of Ash Vs Evil Dead found the series in a bit of a weird predicament. The show, renowned for its frenzied energy and high levels of uncontrolled chaos, had been building its side characters to the point that both Dana Delorenzo’s Kelly and Ray Santiago’s Pablo had become the sweet heart in the bloody centre of the awsome hurricane of gore and Bruce Campbell quips the first season threw out at a breathless rate.
But here’s the thing. When your show bases it reputation on barely giving their beleaguered characters (not to mention its audience) a single moment to breathe, how can it cram any character stuff that needs to stick when the majority of the incredibly tight, 26 minutes, is taken up by the highly inventive bloodletting that the show runners pride themselves on?
After fashioning yet another ridiculously fragile truce with Ruby despite Ash trusting her less than “a blind proctologist” and after her demonic children turned on her, Ash, Kelly and Pablo regroup at Ash’s childhood home, much to the disdain of his disgruntled father, Brock. Forming a plan in Ash’s bitchin’ old bedroom, Ruby reveals that the key to the demon’s mysterious masterplan is to get their claws on the Nerconomicon (which seems to be everyone’s masterplan at some point), but in an attempt to thwart them she hid the book first before drawing them away. Thanks to the fact that Deadites can’t sniff out the book if it’s close to human remains, Ruby stashed the terrible tome inside a corpse at the local morgue.
Splitting up, Ash and a raring to go Kelly head off to the morgue while Pablo volunteers to stay home and guard Ruby with the Kandarian Dagger, but he has an ulterior motive – if anyone can explain why he’s being plagued by prophetic visions after the Book Of The Dead fastened itself to his face, it’ll be Ruby; however, the answer might be worse than not knowing.
Meanwhile, while Kelly keeps watch, Ash plays an extremely messy game of “find the book” as he starts yanking out the guts of every body in the building in order to locate the evil macguffin. But after Kelly has a violent run-in with the suspicious Sherriff Emery and Ash fights for his life against the murderous gastric system of a possesed cadaver, they realise that the ladyfriend that Brock is expecting to come over for a spot of geriatric sugar is actually a Deadite posing in the elderly body of the town bike.
Can the Ghostbeaters kick some ass (in Ash’s case, that turns out to be disgustingly literal) and race home to cock block old Brock before it’s too late?
Where Home’s mix of action and plot was noticably off, The Morgue manages to get things back on track with a far more balanced episode that seems to realise that if the show is going to thrive it needs to take it’s character’s respective arcs a bit more seriously. As a result, Kelly’s surprisingly brutal assault of lame lawman Emery is marking a darker turn for the gusty Ghostbeater who’s internal rage and enthusiasm for Deadite pulping is noticably rising with every episode. Elsewhere, Pablo’s worry that his visions are only the start of bigger and nastier things are confirmed after he has a vision of a demonic Ruby smashing his throat with a talon the size of a kitchen knife. Also, being surrounded by a trio of tried and tested demon slayers is beginning to leave sweet, sweet Pablo feeling slightly inferior, a feeling that’s magnified by the realisation that being the birthing portal for Ruby’s creepy demonic kids technically makes him a vagina. Both plots bring a much needed progression to the characters after a season premiere that just treated them as the two kids who stand either side of of the star and truth be told, their arcs are far more interesting than Ash not getting on with his dickweed dad.
However, who the hell needs arcs when you have possibly one of the most astounding and hilariously vile comedy sequences in recent television history? The Morgue is a good episode – very good, in fact – but what makes it must watch tv is a legitimately spectacular slapstick gore segment where a corpse’s colon becomes sentient and expresses its displeasure by snaring Ash by the neck and dragging him, kicking and screaming, until his head disappears up the butt of the dead body until his horrified face peers from the opened up abdomen. Watching him stagger around the morgue with an entire naked man with a noticably sizable penis planted on his shoulders as he smashes into things and screams “I’M IN THE BUTT!” could possibly be the most extreme (and fucking funny) moment in the entire franchise to date and has had me literally rolling on the floor the numerous times I’ve watched this unholy fusion of Laurel & Hardy and Lucio Fulci.
After this beautiful moment of extreme gross-out artistry (“There’s only room in this town for one asshole. And that asshole is me!” is a kiss-off line of purest perfection) there’s a very real danger that the episode – hell, try television in general – has peaked, but thankfully it just about manages to hold its course to the end with a more traditional Ghostbeaters vs Deadite that contains no yawning anuses whatsoever. Shame.
There’s still some rather integral story details this season needs to address: more detail is needed in relation to Elk Grove’s citizens and Ash’s past history (long dead sister Cheryl is brought up in Evil Dead flashbacks), Lee Majors’ Brock still feels underutilised and the short-tern plot is still essentially “grab the book”, but a stronger focus on the sidekicks and that breathlessly amazing vision of Campbell butt diving like the consummate professional he is, lanches the episode into the stratosphere.
Despite the anal fixation, The Morgue is anything but a bum episode.