Make no mistake, Ash vs. Evil Dead is Bruce Campbell’s show. But “The Host” was the first time that both Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo had a chance to demonstrate why Ash (Campbell) isn’t an “alone wolf” anymore.
At the climax of last week’s episode, Kelly (DeLorenzo) managed to convince Pablo (Santiago) and his Brujo uncle (Hemky Madera) that Ash was possessed. But in reality, it was Kelly who had the demon Eligos (Ben Fransham) in the driver’s seat of her mind. That gave DeLorenzo an opportunity to play up Evil Kelly’s bad side as she attempted to seduce Pablo and blow his head off with a shotgun bong…which is totally, not a good idea for a bong. But it did create some amusing tension as Evil Kelly tried to load a shotgun shell and take out Pablo. DeLorenzo’s strongest work came late in the episode when Kelly/Eligos attempted to goad Ash into killing her. Although she was also quite good when Eligos was no longer hiding his presence in her body.
While Kelly spent most of this episode locked away inside of her own mind, the primary focus was on Pablo’s backstory and his new purpose in life. Santiago had some very funny moments as Pablo squirmed during Evil Kelly’s seduction scene, but he also pulled off the pathos of the closing minutes as Pablo said goodbye to his uncle. The ending also suggested that Pablo may have inherited some supernatural powers, which will surely come in handy later this season.
Amazingly, Ash spent a good deal of time sidelined during Uncle Brujo’s attempt to exorcise Eligos from his mind. The Brujo even knew Eligos by name, but his inability to initially recognize that Ash wasn’t actually possessed did make him look a little ineffectual. That said, Madera had a real presence in the role, and he served his purpose in the story by passing the torch…or amulet to Pablo even after his untimely demise during the climactic exorcism. That’s two potential allies that Eligos has murdered in his three-episode stint as the lead villain. Getting back to Madera, he also had some genuinely warm scenes with Santiago that made their relationship resonate.
Of course, Campbell shined in the episode once the gag came off and Ash reentered the fray. There’s something about this role that always brings out the best in Campbell, including the small touches of Ash’s annoyance when a shotgun blast went through the roof of his mobile home. One thing that Ash doesn’t always show is real emotion, but Campbell nailed Ash’s concern and his conflicted response when Kelly begged for her death. The callback to Kelly’s Jewish background was another clever way to make the audience and Ash realize that it was just the demon attempting to trick Ash.
During the final confrontation, Ash embraced his inherent chaotic nature: “shoot first, think never,” which allowed him to finally dispatch Eligos. Additionally, Pablo presented Ash with his new hand, and I was shocked that the episode didn’t go for an Army of Darkness callback of Ash saying “Groovy.”
After their alliance in the previous episode, Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) and Ruby (Lucy Lawless) were kind of superfluous in this week’s story. They had only a single scene as they waited for Ash’s real right hand to literally point them in the right direction. Lawless was entertaining during Ruby’s non-explanation about how and why Ash’s Deadite possessed hand would work. But the episode really didn’t need Ruby or Amanda this week, and their scene only served as a reminder that they were still out there instead of moving their story forward.
That was the only weak moment in an otherwise strong episode. Half way through the first season, Ash vs. Evil Dead has been everything that I could have hoped for: fun, hilarious, and entertaining. Bring on the rest of season 1!
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Image Credits: Starz/Renaissance Pictures