When crafting a so-called legacy sequel for a modern audience, call backs are essential. Be it virtually anyone who ever so much as farted near a Karate Kid movie turning up in Cobra Kai to Karen Allen being one of the few worthwhile things about the fourth Indiana Jones, sometimes a good callback is key to nailing the nod from old time fans. Drinking hungrily from this spring of profitable nostalgia for past fifteen episodes of Ash Vs Evil Dead, we’ve had encores from such franchise staples as Ash’s possessed hand, the disembodied head of old girlfriend Linda, the Delta Oldsmobile, the cabin and even the sight of an evil Ash duplicate, but possibly nothing tops Trapped Inside when it comes to Ash Vs Evil Dead’s deepest cut so far (so to speak). Hiya Cheryl, it’s been a while.
Ash and his motley band of Ghostbeaters managed to barely escape the first assault of the paranoia demon Baal with their lives, but they didn’t get away Scott free. After being holed up in the Elk Grove Sherriff’s station as Baal used his mind twisting talents to turn everyone against each other, the bitter Sherriff Emery is in a prime position to fall further under the demon’s thrall as his wife and daughter left with Ash, convinced that the egotistical dumbass is their better chance of survival. However, while Baal influences him to stir up a Lynch mob from the various rednecks that make up the town, there’s the more pertinent problem of Pablo’s gradual merging with the Necronomicon. Writhing in unimaginable pain as the blisters forming on his body turn into Sumarian writing, Ruby comes up with a risky plan: let the transformation continue until the spell they need to send Baal back to hell manifests on poor Pablo’s torso and then try to stop it. It’s certainly better than Ash’s plan, which entails somehow snagging Baal with a pet tracker so Ash can blast him if the demon changes forms again, but his uneven train of thought has a far more troubling problem to deal with in the form of a resurrected Cheryl, his sister that, in the words of her suspicious brother: “Died after you got branch-banged by a demon tree about 30 years ago.”
As Ash and childhood buddy Chet try to subdue the return of cinema’s very first Deadite and Ruby and Lacey Emery try to help Pablo, Kelly and Linda Emery tool up to keep a murderous mob from storming the house and ruining everything – can Ash manage to finally find a platform to prove to the people of Elk Grove that he isn’t the evil, gore soaked, dimembering idiot they think he is and show them once and for all that he’s a good, gore soaked, dismembering idiot.
For those who don’t know their Evil Dead history, the return of Cheryl Williams is a big deal as not only is she an integral part of Ash’s past, but she’s also the recipient of some of the more iconic moments of the first film – for it was she who was raped by a tree in The Evil Dead’s most notorious moment, it was she who is the first to transform into a Deadite and whose face leers from the trapdoor in it’s most familiar image and it was she who spectacularly melts into a puddle during the movie’s climax.
However, bringing back this character after all these years is made even more impressive by the fact that original actress, Ellen Sandweiss has returned to don the Deadite makeup to lay some overdue pain onto her onscreen brother and it’s a wonderful experience to see her go through the Deadite motions once again. In fact, it’s so good to see her and Bruce Campbell go toe to toe once again, it manages to counteract yet another example of Ash Vs Evil Dead’s nastiest reoccurring habit – that of slaughtering a cast member for shock value before they’ve had a chance to live up to their promise, so it’s a bloody buh-bye to Ted Raimi’s Chet who checks out before the character managed to have a point.
On the other hand, Trapped Within manages to pull off the nifty trick of lining up a whole bunch of dangling plot threads and addressing them one by one. Giving much more attention to the collapsing Emery family as they choose sides in the wake of Baal’s latest spot of mind fucking, the episode also has the people of Elk Grove belatedly getting in on the action as a vengeful mob and the way that the final dispatching of Cheryl ties in with the town finally embracing Ash as a hero is just too fucking sweet. In fact, the episode acts fantastically like a board clearing line in the sand that tidirs up a lot of stuff and sets the season up for a change in direction for it’s final four episodes and a much needed full stop for the town of Elk Grove.
Another thing that’s strongly evident in Trapped Inside is that our resident “powerful vagina” Pablo obviously isn’t going to get a character thread this season that doesn’t involve him screaming, writhing and throwing up black goo and while that’s a shame for actor Ray Santiago, it works because you genuinely feel so bad for the guy because it all looks pretty horrible (for both Pablo and Ray). Still, the fact that everyone is showing genuine concern for the little guy (even Ash in his own particular way) sells his ordeal like gangbusters and the promise of a Neronomicon-empowered Pablo is certainly an enticing one.
While the episode is definitely a high point of the season, after watching a rematch over thirty years in the making it’s somewhat of a relief that the cliffhanger ending suggests that Ash Vs Evil Dead may be treading some much needed new ground as we enter the final straight.