Five episodes into the second season of Ash Vs Evil Dead and if there’s anything missing so far (aside from anything even remotely resembling restraint) it’s a strong, central villain. Enter Baal, a demon dedicated to paranoia and discord due to his ability to employ mind control to seduce his victims and an unnerving habit of flaying his prey in order to wear their skins in order to spread even more distrust.
Now that Lucy Lawless’ Ruby has shifted over to the side of the angels – well, sort of – a new central big bad is arguably essential in order to give the chaotic series something to keep it focused and so we get Confinement; a bottle episode designed to show us exactly what our next antagonist can really do.
After Ash has defeated his possessed car and Pablo managed to send the Necronomicon back to hell by conjuring up a portal, it seems that maybe things might finally start calming down in the town of Elk Grove – oh what am I talking about, there’s literally no chance of that happening! Not only has the creature managed to escape from the hell portal located in the Oldsmobile’s trunk the same demon who is father to Ruby’s demon children but Ash has to deal with the police in the wake of the gruesome massacre he left in the bathroom of his local bar. Getting slung in jail by Sherriff Emery, a guy who’s hated Ash since childhood, Ash cools his heels with his old drinking buddy Chet who is also behind bars for soliciting a prostitute – a class act is our Chet. However, after the police station fills up with various players such as Ruby, Pablo and Kelly, not to mention Emery’s wife and daughter Linda and Lacey, it becomes apparent that one of their number is actually the demon Baal who has messily taken the identity of one of their number.
Deploying mind games and paranoia to make every primitive screwhead in the building start pointing fingers at each other, Baal aims to test the mettle of the so-called chosen one, Ash while simultaneously voicing his displeasure to Ruby at her recent culling of their demonic children and in no time at all he’s leeches out everyone’s dislike and mistrust of each other to have the entire building at the throat of “Ashy Slashy”.
However, while these events occur, some secrets come to light with the first being that Ruby has long since lost her immortality and has been hiding the fact that she’s now a mere human from her new ally Kelly – but far more disturbing than this is the effect that continued exposure to the Necronomicon has had on poor Pablo and that the welts and blisters forming on his body are far more than the STI Ash suggests it is…
Slamming on the brakes after the last episode had Bruce Campbell fighting a car, Confinement attempts to bring a more subtle brand of horror to Ash Vs Evil Dead by introducing its villain much in the same style as John Carpenter’s The Thing. Locking up a group of people whose opinions of each other could hardly be considered glowing and presenting the fact that one of them is a malevolent demon is usually a nice way to change things up and while at times the episode maybe edges too far away from Evil Dead’s usual format, it’s still a nice breath of fetid air.
Making Baal a creature who plays on the mind of the weak is a smart movie, especially considering that rational thinking isn’t exactly Ash’s forte (remember, shoot first, think never is his motto), but it also jump starts a few plot lines that the season has kind of let fall by the wayside so far. A major issue brought up by Ash’s return to his childhood town was that ever since the massacre of his friends and sister in that cabin thirty years ago, he was treated as a pariah by everyone and while it has been brought up here and there, it hasn’t really been the main focus of the show thus far. The fear that the folk of Elk Grove have of Ashy Slashy finally gets some real air time in the form of the bitter Sherriff Emery, a man who not only has married one of Ash’s numerous sweethearts (he really seems to have a thing for women called Linda) but whose child was recently saved by Ash after being captured by a killer car. The only issue the episode has is that we know that all the major players are going to be relatively fine and therefore we always know who Baal is actually inhabiting at all times which, sort of defeats the purpose of a paranoia episode.
Still, it’s still fun and fast paced and Bruce Campbell punctures not only the tension with some prime Ash one liners – ridiculously chiding Pablo for being racist against whites and constantly thinking that Baal’s name is Bill – but he also punctures the body of a spectacular skinless Deadite that looks like it padded over from a Hellraiser movie.
However, the most important part of Confinement, ends up not actually being the introduction of Bill – sorry, Baal; Ash’s ignorance seems to be catching – but with Pablo’s plot thread finally coming to some sort of peak. After numeroys run-ins with the Necronomicon that includes merging with the cover and banishing it to Hell after following its instructions, it seems that with the painful looking appearance of Sumarian text bursting out all over his torso, it seems that the long suffering Pablo is becoming the Book Of The Dead and I can’t wait to see where this goes – probably nowhere good for the Ghostbeaters…
At times it feels like Season 2 has been spinning its wheels a little bit, but that’s probably because the first season was an ever moving road trip and this one has been based chiefly in Elk Grove, but aim of the makers to try and switch things up has kept things progressing quickly, if not smoothly.