Even though most of us had a favorable hunch that Ash vs. Evil Dead would be a smashing success, there was still a question mark looming over episodes not directed by Evil Dead patriarch Sam Raimi. Well, the moment of truth has arrived in the form of an episode directed by Michael J. Bassett, and looking at his portfolio tells me he was responsible for the steaming pile of shit that was Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, so excuse me if I was a bit pessimistic going in.
Thankfully however, the show works even when Sam Raimi isn’t steering the ship (he did still scribe the episode however) and terrible film directors are given the reigns. Maybe Bassett has improved his craft, but taking into consideration that Bruce Campbell was obviously on set for the whole production, it surely spelled good results for the final product. Bruce also seems like the type of guy willing to pitch in ideas and guide the direction helpfully as much as possible to help these inexperienced youngsters.
Regardless, whatever happened on set paved the way for pure fucking magic, as “Bait” ramps up both the humor and shocking levels of bloody violence. There isn’t a single wasted moment in this episode, or a moment where audiences could possibly lose interest. Some of this is due to the perfectly calculated decision to go the route of 30 minute episodes, meaning the pace can be kept energetic and frenetic, but it’s also just a strongly written and directed episode.
“Bait” picks up right where “El Jefe” left off quite literally, with Ash, Pablo, and Kelly debating over what their next move should be. Ash is more concerned with the bigger picture and saving the whole city, while Kelly is desperately eager to use his Deadite slaughtering expertise to check on the well-being of her father, whom recently received a visit out of the blue from his presumed dead wife. Naturally, since Pablo is lovesick, he tends to lean towards the side of Kelly, although she runs off with the book to her parents’ home knowing that Ash will follow as he needs it to reverse the spell. This all leads to a somewhat minor predictable plot point, but it’s revealed so soon that the effects are inconsequential anyway.
Anyway, what ensues can be described as nothing more than chaotically gory action punctuated by the minute with memorable one-liners. There’s a blood-drenched battle against a Deadite in a vehicle during the journey, alongside a palpably tense and hilarious stand-off at a dinner table between Ash and Kelly’s mother, who is of course playing possum manifesting herself as a living person rather than an undead. Of course, Ash knows this is bullshit (as does the audience unless they are new to the lore), allowing the family dinner scene to have some side-splittlingly humorous exchanges. There is also a fantastic subtle touch of flies swarming around the mother, alluding to the fact that she is indeed a rotting corpse in disguise.
When shit does hit the fan; let’s just say that this is the first time of the series where the twisted humor from Sam Raimi surely comes alive. Shifting between demonic and human forms, the mother really gets to emotionally and psychologically mindfuck Kelly by stating some truly disturbing things that you’re not sure if you should laugh at or be terrorized by.
Spliced between the episode are a few scenes of the police officer Amanda in hot pursuit of Ash. One of my favorite scenes in the episode is when the neighbors of Ash draw up a sketch and mention that “he looks dumber in person”. Nevertheless, it does seem that the two characters are about to converge sooner than later. We also still don’t know who Lucy Lawless is playing, but given her dialogue and interactions with Angela, it seems that she is someone important, and that we possibly could be finding out soon.
Rating: Last week’s episode got an 8, and since this episode was both funnier, bloodier, and more horrifying, I’m going to give “Bait” an 8.5. It’s strong reassurance that the show can maintain its quality without the directorial presence of Sam Raimi (writing remains to be seen), and a great episode period. If the quality of episodes can keep steadily on an incline, we may be looking at one of the greatest television shows of all time.
Grooviest Moment: The entire scene where Kelly’s mother transitions from a lovable nursery rhyme singing parent to demonically admitting that she killed herself to get away from Kelly. It’s obviously probably not true, but those are the sick mind games that Deadites play, and with the right execution in writing you can achieve a wonderful tonal balance between horror and dark comedy, which is what the series is known for excelling at. Plus, our new supporting heroes learned a thing or two about properly fighting evil; if something is too good to be true, it probably is.