Okay, so we’re doing Carrie. In some respects, it’s not that surprising the Ghost Beaters would wind up at a school dance. After all, the entire third season has been promoted with high school imagery—namely, that monstrous Cougie, who died too soon—and, until now, the hallways and classrooms have been used sparingly. Nevertheless, the whole premise behind “Twist and Shout” comes off as incredibly perfunctory, like something The Simpsons might have parodied in the ‘90s (see: “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”). The way Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neil) simply walks downstairs in a gold dress, with news of the dance, and a whole plan to execute, is so flimsy that not even Ash’s bewildered reaction (“You wanna go to a school dance when evil is circling like sharks at a tuna rodeo?”) is self-aware enough to sell the idea. No, it’s just lazy.
But the problem isn’t conceptually—because, really, most of what goes down in this episode is quite surprising and gives Ruby (Lucy Lawless) a necessary edge as a villain—the problem is in the execution. Tonally, “Twist and Shout” is as indecisive as Brandy (more on that later), to the point where the gore even suffers and seems gratuitous. It’s the furthest from Evil Dead the series has felt so far, coming off more like a meandering CW drama—which is funny given that Riverdale also plans to ape Carrie—that’s fueled by high-stakes action too serious to be funny. Granted, some these feelings may be circumstantial, seeing how a bunch of kids being sawed to pieces at school isn’t something anyone wants to laugh about right now, but hey, that’s never stopped the horror genre from priding itself in gleefully massacring sex-crazed teens.
No, no, no, it’s all about the tonal inconsistencies. “Twist and Shout” comes in way too fast and never slows down, or at least long enough to plant a much-needed tongue in its cheek. Sure, Ash (Bruce Campbell) rattles off a few choice one-liners (“Ruby went to Kandarian Kinkos and this asshole popped out!”) and there’s even a couple of slapstick moments (a mirror breaks at Ash’s mug!), but the narrative itself is never called to task. Now, in the past, dubious premises and jarring left turns were something this series could sell with confidence. Remember when Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) literally rolled her eyes at the whole time traveling escapade in season two? It was like hearing Marge grumble at the end of the “Homerpalooza” episode. (Alright, Mike, time to leave Springfield.) That just never happens here; everything’s sold at face value.
Maybe if they had alluded to the dance in prior episodes? Or even had some sort of discussion about the plan after seeing a flyer? No, instead, Brandy simply goes from toasting Strawberry Pop-Tarts for her pops to a complete makeover a la She’s All That. To make matters worse, the episode treats her psyche like that scene from Hook when the Lost Boys run back and forth indecisively between Peter Pan and Rufio. She’s with Ruby, she’s against Ruby, she hates Ash, she loves Ash. To her credit, Carver-O’Neill does her best selling this exhausting indecision, but you can’t help but feel she needs some Dramamine from all the convenient twisting and shouting she has to endure. It’s also unfortunate because we literally just got over that hump, and this was a chance for her to do something other than look around angry and confused.
Similarly disappointing is how they’re treating Kaya like a chess piece. All season, they’ve been hyping her as this sequestered menace, but so far, she’s either served as a medium for exposition or a really, really bad shot. (Nope, that’s definitely not Kelly. Pablo would have been a goner.) Not surprisingly, DeLorenzo plays the evil manipulator with grace—the way her eyes refocus when Ruby challenges her is downright chilling—but you can tell she’s just dying to go nuts, Bruce Wayne-style. Maybe she will next week? For now, though, she and Brandy serve to empower Ruby, whose devious plan is on some kind of Alexandre Dumas-level of mischievous. And really, Lawless gives it her all in this episode, especially when she pulls herself into Ash’s chainsaw, which should be on a YouTube reel dubbed something stupid like “Ruby Hits.”
As expected, Campbell glides through his double performance, which isn’t surprising considering this is like, what, his fifth or sixth time playing an evil doppelgänger. Unlike past iterations, this demon clone comes off a little more restrained, but he has his moments, particularly when he marvels at his Spanish-speaking skills with Pablo. And while some might be upset that Ash takes him out so fast (“Hey good lookin’, get outta my jazz” is a killer line), this is actually one of the wiser moments in “Twist and Shout.” Besides, what do we need another matchup like this for? Haven’t we seen that enough? That arc would be as interesting as another trip to the cabin. So, kudos to writer Caitlin Meares for having the wherewithal to nip that idea in the
If anything, removing Ash’s demon clone is one less thing that Ash Vs. Evil Dead has to juggle this season, and that’s a good thing. Even now, there’s still too much going on: The father-daughter arc. Pablo’s upgrade. Kelly’s possession. Kaya’s mythology. Ruby’s post-offspring agenda. Whatever Zoë (Emilia Burns) might bring to the table. And, now, what the Knights of Sumeria refer to as the Deadlands, or what this writer will call an Upside Down Ripoff. Look, I’ve celebrated this series’ ability to subvert genre tropes and pieces of pop culture, but that final scene with Brandy waking up should have the Duffer Brothers scoffing. The angles? The crosscutting? The effects? That demon sounding strangely like a Demogorgon? Eh, it’s not a good look.
More importantly, it’s not Evil Dead.
- I still get a kick out of seeing all the blood smeared across the Williams’ household. It makes all the family conversations look so perverse.
- Kelly: “I’m pretty sure I’m dead.” No way, no how.
- The dance’s theme was “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”
- Someone needs to crack into Ash’s locker.
- Hey, give it up for Ash, guy knows his history. Michigan doesn’t have the death penalty; in fact, it became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish capital punishment in 1847. Nice.
- Gotta love that two years in Elk Grove is more of a sacrifice to Ruby than hundreds of years scavenging.
- Sadly, no Top Deadite this week, but that Evil Ash sure was an asshole. Guy was worse than Jason Voorhees when it came to being a literal buzzkill.
- If it were any other ending, I’d be rocking out to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” like Annie and Laurie, but I’d be lying if the song didn’t make it feel that much more like Stranger Things.
- Well, let’s hope things improve next week with “Rifting Apart.”