Subtlety isn’t a strong suit of Ash Vs. Evil Dead. As we’ve learned, if there’s a meat slicer or a busted pipe nearby, it’s going to be used in the bloodiest possible way. This isn’t a fault of the series, it’s a necessary evil of traditional storytelling, no pun intended. As Anton Chekhov advised over a century ago, “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Don’t get too hung up on the “loaded rifle” analogy—although that certainly applies to this series on a literal level more often than not—just know this argument can apply to anything. In this particular quote, Chekhov’s criticizing a superfluous monologue of a friend’s play, arguing that it’s unrelated. So, why the hell are we talking about a Russian playwright? Because sometimes the “gun” can backfire and that’s exactly what happens in “Fire In The Hole.”
Over the years, the idea of “shipping” various characters has become a Chekhov’s gun in itself. If one principal character expresses interest in another principal character, it’s only a matter of time before they start hearing Marvin Gaye and do the hippity-dippity. For the most part, it’s a cheap dramatic tool used to lure in viewers each week with the “will they, won’t they” question that persists from endless sexual innuendo and stumbles through rote hurdles. Depending on the generation, you’ll likely hear critics and fans refer back to Sam and Diane (Cheers), or Mulder and Scully (The X-Files), or Jim and Pam (The Office). You know this already. For Ash Vs. Evil Dead, it’s been a Pablo and Kelly tug-of-war, and that’s been totally kosher. The glittery chemistry between Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo is addicting, and there’s a palpable tension with the friend-zoned angle that neatly ties into Pablo’s need to be a bigger hero.
But we really need to talk about Ash and Amanda Fisher. For weeks, we’ve watched the two square off against each other, mostly due to an understandable communication breakdown, only to see them unite in “The Killer of Killers” to fight the Deadites side by side. And we know Ash has always had a “thing” for Fisher, but to be fair, Ash has a “thing” for anyone with a nice pair of legs and, to quote Maury Ballstein, a nice rack of lamb. However, it’s at least been inferred (or overstated?) that this “thing” for Fisher goes beyond the love he traditionally shares for, say, Nancy the waitress or the local townie he whimsically brings to the bar bathroom during last call. If you couldn’t tell from his shameful breast-gazing and sleazy daydream last week, not to mention his borderline man-handling, Ash is all about Fisher. So, it’s funny and true to the show’s blunt sensibilities that they’d skip all the shipping and go straight to the lovin’.
The problem, though, is that Fisher hasn’t been all about Ash. In fact, she hasn’t really been all about anything. All we know about Fisher is that she’s an honest cop looking for answers. And until now, she’s been sidelined and relegated to tag-a-long sidekick for Ruby Knowby, who, by the way, is back from the underworld and reunited with her Dodge Challenger. No, the nagging Fisher Conundrum has quietly plagued the show for awhile, and now that she seemingly has a stonier place in the story to stand on, her underwritten blemishes are starting to shine. For instance, it’s a little bizarre that she’d speak so highly of Knowby, enough to border on hagiography, having only known her for a couple of days. “I’ll always be thankful she was honest with me,” Fisher tells Ash. “She taught me there is more out there than any of us realize.” Those are kind words considering she previously shrugged off her supposed death and simply drove off.
Yet they’re also telling. Fisher’s whole spiel about Knowby, who she believes was “just a normal person that got tangled up into something that was so much bigger, something beyond her control,” is misguided in that we’re literally watching Knowby emerge from the ashes as Joseph LoDuca’s ominous score sizzles through. In other words, Fisher’s own misinformation could potentially catch up to bite her in the ass. Now, given those dangerous prospects, it makes strategic sense that the show would attempt to make Fisher and Ash something of an item. After all, this entire episode is bookended by Ash’s own reasonable anxiety that he’ll lose the people he loves at the cabin, and let’s be honest: Do we really, really think they’re going to kill off Kelly and Pablo? Probably not. Granted, this is all rampant speculation, but why else would they forcibly shoehorn in the Ash and Fisher thread? Simply put, they need to raise the stakes.
Of course, knowing any of this doesn’t make the coupling any more believable. It’s also not on the actors; Bruce Campbell and Jill Marie Jones happen to play off one another well. The fault, instead, lies in the execution, which again goes back to how they’ve fleshed out Fisher’s character. She’s only been cold, cunning, and reserved. Sure, she’s shared some witty banter with Ash, but not enough to sell the idea that the two of them would ever exist outside of Ash’s crude daydreams. So, it’s jarring to see her melt under Ash’s gaze when he says that he would “destroy her in the best possible way” and “happily blow [her] doors off.” Not even Embeth Davidtz made it that easy in Army Of Darkness; she had to go to hell and back before she finally fell under Ash’s spell. It’s just odd to see something so forced and rushed when the show’s been doing such a natural job on the other end with Pablo and Kelly.
As expected, the exploits of our two other Ghost Beaters steal plenty of minutes from the episode. Watching the two escape the militia’s compound offers some thrilling moments, specifically the brilliant sequence on top of the pickup truck involving a pinned Deadite, a blood-soaked helmet, a frantic Pablo, and a larger-than-life machine gun that Kelly eventually learns to grasp. It’s a tense and electrifying scene that’s also hilariously inventive, speaking to the ingenuity of the episode’s trio of writers: Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes, and, yes, Ivan Raimi. By now, all three are readily familiar with Ash’s two go-to partners, which is why their scenes click in an orthodox fashion and the dialogue’s ever fluent. There’s a great bit about Pablo’s urge to find a weapon that speaks to him, resulting in one of the episode’s best lines (“I wish I had my rusty chain, yo”) and funniest sight gags (“I think I’ve found my own boomstick”).
Actually, aside from the eye-rolling romance between Ash and Fisher, “Fire In The Hole” is an ideal episode. It’s almost Carpenter-esque in the way Clements, Dierkes, and Raimi localize the action and horror to the military compound, and the basement sequence recalls the claustrophobic terror of the fruit cellar in Evil Dead 2. Returning director Michael Hurst manages to keep things fresh with lush overhead shots that allow us to breathe before we’re tossed back into tight corridors and running away from fiery Deadites in the dark. (Come to think of it, have we ever seen a more practical Deadite? Lem raised the bar considerably by using the fuel.) Still, one hopes that Fisher isn’t just easy dramatic fodder for what’s undoubtedly going to be an epic season finale at the cabin. Contrary to what Chekhov once professed, it’s not always wrong to break promises you never intended to keep. Here’s hoping the “loaded gun” stays on the shelf.
- Was Kelly’s Voodoo Lounge shirt a coincidental omen? Love was very strong this week, apparently.
- “We’re basically family now.” Ash is getting more and more paternal.
- Did anyone else laugh manically at how fast things escalated before the titles splashed across the screen? It was so manic.
- The topless military pinup on the wall was a cheeky touch. I was waiting for Ash to kiss it like McClane does in Die Hard.
- Pablo’s a man of his words and more: Ash’s new hand not only has a laser pointer and a screwdriver, but also a flashlight. Here’s hoping it has GPS.
- Cool glove box trick, Ruby.
- “I’m gonna get you pregnant later.” “Save your lies Hilary.” The militants were total assholes. It’s no wonder why they had the most vicious deaths. That truck hitch pummeling? Glorious.
- This week’s Top Deadite goes to the lovable Lem, who demanded top-notch choreography and all sorts of fireworks:
- Once again, the choice of music was on-target. Bootsy Collins’ cover of The Chamber Brothers’ 1968 hit, “Time Has Come Today”, closes us out as Ash’s possessed hand crawls toward the cabin. Lyrically, the song startlingly sums up Ash’s quest: “I’ve been loved and put aside/ I’ve been crushed by the tumbling tide/ And my soul has been psychedelicized.” Guys, uh, that’s my job.
- But … the cabin! Let’s not get too excited, we’re not there just yet, but Ash should arrive relatively soon, which makes me wonder: Now that he’s ditched his wolf pack in an effort to spare their lives, might we see an Ash-less episode coming up? Or possibly an episode with just him? Exciting times, baitfish. Exciting times, indeed.