As Run-D.M.C. once warned us, “Something strange goin’ on/ Something is wrong.” Nine episodes later, this series isn’t so much Ash Vs. Evil Dead anymore as it’s Ash Vs. Ruby Vs. Evil Dead. There are now three very different parties—Ash and the Ghost Beaters; the Deadites; and Ruby Knowby—with three very separate agendas for us to follow with anticipation: one wants to destroy the book, one wants to destroy the world, and one … well, it’s still unclear what exactly she wants, but we officially know she has zero good intentions. “Of course I know what I’m doing,” Ruby spits back at a panicked and befuddled Ash. “I wrote this book.” In the meantime, Pablo is offering up one hell of a Stanley Ipkiss impersonation for Kelly, a wounded Heather is having a wild panic attack on the couch, Deadite Fisher is running around somewhere in the woods, and The Force is angrily scorching the earth and trampling the cabin.
Needless to say, “Bound In The Flesh” packs a number of punches and most of them are manic, overwhelming, and uncompromising. It’s telling how veteran TV producer and writer Rob Wright (Grimm, Charmed) blasts his way through last week’s Two Ashes plot device—he doesn’t have any time! Instead, he has way too many threads to contend with, from helpless campers to dismemberment by Bill Withers to Fisher’s ugly possession to Ruby’s strange return, which explains his economical, touch-and-go approach to the episode. It’s an admirable decision and he does a serviceable job shuffling things around to the best of his abilities, but he still can’t shake the pacing issues that huff and puff and leave us reaching for the inhaler. Which says a lot given the traditionally swift nature of this series and the franchise as a whole.
When Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert, and Bruce Campbell originally set out to make horror films way back in the late ‘70s, they did their homework. In fact, since Raimi wasn’t initially a huge fan of the genre, he studied the architecture of the films, and tried to understand the beats. As he once told The New Yorker, “I would watch the suspense build in a picture, and it would be released, and the audiences would jump and scream, and I thought, this is kind of fantastic; they are being brought to a level here, and how long can we sustain that level? And should we break it with a scare, or should we bring it down gradually, or should we end the scene on a high note? I began to understand that making a horror film was like writing a piece of music; it’s like watching the work of a composer.” That musicality, for lack of a better word, is part of the reason why The Evil Dead won over audiences decades ago, and still does today.
What makes the transition to television so difficult, however, is not only sustainability and efficiency, but also limitations. As such, the half-hour format might not always be conducive to the musicality that The Evil Dead spirit insists upon. Up until this point, it hasn’t been a pressing issue. The respective threads have been disparate enough to afford itself the allotted time in any preceding episode, but now that everything is coming together, it’s become even more of a bewildering juggling act for the writers to accommodate the show’s spiraling list of characters—and the seams are showing. It’s no coincidence that Ruby literally drops from the sky midway through this episode. Sure, she has a purpose—to save Pablo from Fisher’s deadly clutch—but this sweeping move only highlights the ADHD rhythm this show has to run on in order to tell its story.
Naturally, we’re used to these hack and slash speeds, but they’re not very sufficient at a micro-level, which is why some of the interactions feel muted from time to time. We’ve previously addressed our confusion over Fisher’s forced relationship with Ash, and the same applies to her curious bond with Ruby. “Amanda was my friend, too,” she says to Pablo, Kelly, and Heather following her Spider-Man swoop. But wait, what? Save for a couple interactions, and those were mostly action sequences, there hasn’t been much to suggest that the two were anything more than passing allies. All we know is that they carpooled together. (Well, that’s not all, there was a little sexual innuendo on Ruby’s part when the two were waiting at that fork in the road way, way back, but that was hardly substantial.) And while this may seem like small potatoes, collectively, it speaks to how such time limitations have thwarted the drama at a macro-level.
Because really, Fischer’s possession and Ruby’s treachery should hit us a lot harder, especially the latter. Judging from all that goes down in “Bound In The Flesh”, Ruby may be the greatest threat that Ash has ever encountered. Her confession that she’s, in fact, the writer of the Necronomicon only confirms what was inferred back in the sixth episode, “The Killer of Killers.” If you recall, there was a lot of spooky stuff lingering around the Brujo’s ranch when Ruby arrived, from the jarring Tooth Fairy ghost in the hallway to the Brujo’s possessed skeleton. There was also something ominous about what that ol’ bag of bones said to her: “You double crosser! We’ll never let you get the book for yourself and nor will I!” At the time, I speculated that Ruby was a “design of the demons” and would serve as “the playful antagonist a la Evil Ash in Army of Darkness.” Now, we have our answer, and it’s not good.
Not for Ash, not for the Wolfpack, not for Heather, and, yes, not even for the Deadites. It’s now apparent that Ruby has a roguish agenda that doesn’t exactly jibe with those pesky Kandarian demons. We don’t know the specifics right now, but it’s gonna be a sight for sore bones. Though, what it could lead to is an imperfect union between Ash’s wolfpack and a Deadite army to fight against whatever chaos Ruby conjures up. Don’t scoff, it’s not too far-fetched; after all, Pablo’s medallion and the Necronomicon’s face went all Zuul and Clortho for some ungodly reason. It’s anyone’s guess, but isn’t that another charm of the franchise? We’re always left in the dark, waiting to be dragged into the light. Sometimes it’s terrifying, other times it’s hilarious, and often it’s frustrating. “Bound In The Flesh” strikes all three notes in spades, but no matter how unwieldy the episode turns, most of us are more than willing to wait.
- Pablo once owned a cat named Notorious C.A.T. As Biggie would say, “Unbelievable.”
- Ash on Asians: “They give such incredible massages with such tiny hands.”
- “Chopping up my evil clone, maybe someday that’ll feel weird.” Director Tony Tilse offers up some choice scenes in this episode, but nothing tops the aforementioned chopping montage set to Bill Withers’ “Just The Two Of Us.” Genius stuff. May we suggest “Lovely Day” for future episodes?
- It’s a good thing that Pablo challenged Kelly about last week’s cockblock. Even better that Kelly has a savvier response, as she argues to him that it’s “not a good idea to get involved with someone out here.” Still, that doesn’t make the move any less conniving on her part.
- Speaking of which, what are the odds that Heather makes it out of the woods alive? Actress Samara Weaving has had very little to work with, but she’s clearly a survivor. Granted, that disgusting flesh wound doesn’t bode well for her, but we’ve seen past heroes prevail with far worser ailments. What do you all think? Is there room in the cabin?
- “Chatty Cathy” Necronomicon: “If you bury me, you stop being a superman and go back to being a stockboy.” It never occurred to me that the book, or possibly the evil itself, might be responsible for Ash’s heroics. When you think about all that Ruby can do—yes, the previously discussed tree jump—it does make you start second-guessing their reach.
- Fisher is the only Deadite this week, which automatically makes her this week’s Top Deadite, but it’s doubtful any other ghoul could top her merciless murder spree. The way she uses Brad and his good-natured wife as a puppet is grotesque, humorous, and over-the-top in all the ways we expect from this franchise. Try this on for size, Jeff Dunham:
- There’s a short, quiet moment with Ash outside the cabin, before Ruby and the wolfpack arrive, that harkens back to simpler times, when all it took was clever angles, a little wind, and some footsteps to chill the bones. You would think Raimi was behind the camera. Blink and you’ll miss it.
- “I’m gonna say a lot of dumb things.” He wasn’t kidding. After all that hype, the first back-and-forth between Campbell and Lucy Lawless proves underwhelming. Think back to his earlier exchange with Mimi Rogers and how fresh and witty he sounded. By comparison, he appears stunted here. Then again, that might have been intentional, perhaps as a way to make Lawless’ Ruby seem more authoritative. Whatever the case, here’s hoping they saved their best barbs for later.
- Sadly, we’re almost at the end of this season. The good news is that we still have one more episode to enjoy and it’s called, “The Dark One.” Is that a reference to Ruby or Pablo? We’ll see next week, baitfish. Happy Holidays!