This review has massive spoilers from the latest episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead. Trust us, you should really watch episode 8 before continuing. You’ve been warned!
“Ashes to Ashes” was the most dramatic installment of Ash vs. Evil Dead to date, simply by proving Ash (Bruce Campbell) right. The only thing waiting for Team Ghost Beaters at the cabin from Evil Dead is death, taxes, and more death…And Ash doesn’t pay his taxes. By the end of this episode, one of Ash’s friends is quite dead, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t rise again as a Deadite.
Unfortunately for Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), it’s her number that’s up in “Ashes to Ashes.” Amanda only lasted two episodes on Ash’s team before she was killed off. As a shock, it was definitely effective. A major character death like this is usually reserved for the season finale. The problem with placing Amanda’s demise at this point in her trajectory is that she hasn’t had enough screen time to fully develop. Amanda was basically a sidekick to Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and a potential threat-turned-ally for Ash. The only time that Amanda really existed on her own terms was in the first episode, right before she encountered her first Deadite.
Ash vs. Evil Dead has been a very strong show, but it came up short when it tried to immediately turn Amanda into Ash’s love interest. Jones and Campbell have good chemistry together, but that’s still asking the audience to suspend a lot of disbelief about their interactions. And yet Ash’s farewell to Amanda was moving and effective. If only the rest of their would-be relationship had been handled as well.
The episode completely glossed over how Amanda found Ash in the first place. But it made up for that by splitting the story’s focus between Ash’s reunion with Linda (Rebekkah Farrell) and Amanda’s fight against Evil Ash. The shot of Ash’s severed hand growing an arm with its own eye may have been the series’ creepiest visual to date, but I loved it. By the time that Evil Ash appeared, it was pretty obvious what was happening. Campbell doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to be menacing, but he really outdid himself here…especially with his “cleavage” line.
If this is Jones’ last full episode as Amanda, then at least she left on a high note. Amanda’s demise intentionally evoked the impalement that her partner suffered in the first episode. That leaves the door open for Amanda to reappear as a Deadite, which is a good way to literally and figuratively twist the knife into Ash.
Strangely, Ash spent most of the episode locked in a shed with the severed head of his ex-girlfriend Linda, and it was still really compelling. As much as Ash pretends to be an “alone wolf,” he’s never really stopped grieving for Linda. Forcing Ash to deal with Deadite Linda’s talking head was darkly funny and even a little sad. Because of their shared history, Ash’s scenes with Linda carried more weight than his flirtations with Amanda.
Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) were really superfluous in this episode as they spent most of their time lost in the woods and playing off more victims for the Deadite grinder. It was as if this show’s casting director decided to stop trying to hide the fact that the series is shot in New Zealand by hiring three Kiwi performers as the trio of tourists. But their presence was almost completely pointless. The only notable thing that occurred with the Kiwis came when Kelly shut down a girl who expressed interest in Pablo.
The ending of the episode appeared to put Kelly and Pablo in a position to distrust Ash after they arrived at the cabin and saw Amanda’s body. Ash did himself no favors in his attempt to explain what happened, before ending up in brutal battle with Evil Ash. Somehow, Campbell was even funnier when he was playing off of himself. The “my trick knee” line was particularly hilarious. Of course, neither Kelly nor Pablo actually saw Evil Ash, and the episode jarringly ended just as the two Ashes were choking each other to death. That was a little too abrupt.
Aside from the issues of Amanda’s character development, “Ashes to Ashes” was the first episode to really sell the stakes of Ash vs. Evil Dead. It’s always been a comedy, but now there’s some actual drama as well.
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Image Credits: Starz/Renaissance Pictures