This week, Ash might not be the man he thought he was. And I’m not talking about his fight to the death with his evil clone… Well, I’m not just talking about his fight to the death with his evil clone. (Really, there’s nothing like a fight to the death with an evil clone to put your sense of self into perspective, is there?)
Anyway, Fisher is dead, Ash is trying to kill himself (if you know what I mean), and Kelly and Pablo face a classic dilemma: which Ash is the real Ash? Which is the bad Ash? This scene is one of the high points of the episode, as Bruce Campbell tries to out-Bruce Campbell himself, and Kelly and Pablo have to quickly figure out which Ash is which by (lol) discerning the authentic quality of Ash’s “subtle” racism.
Eventually, they make the right choice when Ash tells them to just get it over with and shoot both Ashes. Kelly instantly recognizes the real Ash: the guy who wants to take the easy way out. (That’s increasingly Kelly’s entire role on this show—shoot first and ask questions later. I’m not complaining or anything. She owns it.)
At the worst possible moment, just as Team Ghostbreakers is discussing how best to chop up a cabin that’s rapidly filling up with bodies, the
cannon fodder innocent hikers (Ido Drent, Indiana Evans, and Samara Weaving) show up. Ash and Pablo improvise some really, really bad lies about how they’re chainsaw-wielding hunters/veterinarians. Fortunately, these hikers have wandered straight out of (or into?) every bad slasher movie you’ve ever seen, and they believe pretty much everything they’re told. Ash tells Kelly and Pablo to lead the hikers back to civilization before the Evil can possess/kill them in various pun-tastic ways.
Back at the cabin, Ash sets about dismembering his evil clone’s corpse. “Maybe someday that’ll feel weird,” but, for now, it’s just a day in the life, you know? As an episode, “Bound in Flesh” contains a lot of jokes and a lot of gore, but it frequently feels like it’s not quite funny or not quite shocking enough to be really great horror-comedy.
Fortunately, Ash’s evil-self-dismemberment scene is an exception to this often by-the-numbers episode: it’s gratuitously gross and squishy, and it’s got a great soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Ash accidentally gets some blood on the Necronomicon, and the book starts talking to him. This effect is neither as funny nor as scary as it really should be. But I’ll give this talking-book subplot extra points for character development. It starts growling at Ash to “use” the book instead of burying it. After all, if he gets rid of the book and defeats the Evil, he’ll have to give up being a stockboy by day, superman by night… and end up being just a stockboy.
This is really an idea that I wish this episode—this whole season, really—had explored a little more. Ash doesn’t find the evil book’s argument particularly compelling, which is fine. But this is actually a crucial point about who Ash is: he’s insanely confident about his exceptional abilities, but he’d really just like to be normal. More specifically, he’d just like his whole nightmarish, multi-decade trial to end—by any means necessary. He’s not one of those (ubiquitous) grimdark heroes who’s defined by the evil they fight, who’d be lost without his enemy. Ash would be perfectly happy drinking beer and screwing up in various Michigan trailer parks for the rest of his life.
Again, this is a big character moment, but “Bound in Flesh” just kind of shrugs it off. Ash stashes the Necronomicon in the fridge (beside a carton of Fresh Milk that I’m preeeetty sure is thirty years old, natch), and then realizes that Fisher’s body has disappeared. Whoops.
Meanwhile, Pablo starts to confront Kelly about the weird tension between them. Why did she tell cute hiker Heather that he had a girlfriend? Is Kelly jealous? (Spoiler: yes.)
This awkward conversation gets interrupted by some scary noises… most of which are caused by Fisher, who is now very evil, very dead, and very murder-y. She rips into the two non-Heather hikers (Do they even have names? Who cares?), who get impaled, shot, and turned into literal puppets in a humorously short period of time. I mean, I’m using the word “humorous” here, but this scene is an example of what I was talking about earlier. It’s not smart enough to make me laugh, and it’s not stupid, gross, or violent enough either.
Say it with me, kids: Horror-comedy is more than horror that’s so bad it’s good. At it’s best, it’s a transgressive, deeply post-modern genre that’s so anarchic, disturbing, and disorienting that all you can do in response is laugh. And it’s disappointing that Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t delivering quality horror-comedy because its first couple of episodes were such masterfully-made, perfectly-paced examples of the genre. Damn.
Anyway, evil!Fisher is about to kill Heather, Kelly, and Pablo. But then Ruby crouching-tiger-hidden-dragons herself through the trees and rescues them! That’s right: Ruby’s back from… the dead? Hell? The fire-pit where bad CG effects go to die? She’s got a Kandarian dagger and she’s mad as heck. (She’s also clearly a little bit in love with Fisher, but I’ll leave that be for a second.)
As the episode concludes, everyone returns to the cabin, and we learn more about who Ruby really is. She’s a supernaturally-gifted badass who claims to have spent the past thirty years “cleaning up [Ash’s] messes.” While she chops up the dead hikers (Yes, there’s a lot of chopping in this episode. Deal with it.), Ruby tells Kelly and Pablo some hard truths about Ash: “It doesn’t matter what Ash’s intentions are. As long as he’s got that book, a trail of dead bodies is going to follow.” She convinces Team Ghostbreakers that they shouldn’t bury the book after all—they should cut off its face and then give it to her so she can destroy it permanently.
Basically, Ruby is everything that Ash isn’t. She’s got a better plan, better fighting skills, better weapons (RIP Moe and Larry), and a better poker face. She even smells better, for Pete’s sake. Why wouldn’t you trust her?
So, Ash cuts the book’s face off and—reluctantly but not that reluctantly—hands his “burden” over to Ruby. Ruby says some magic words, the wind picks up, the earth opens, and the cabin starts coming alive. Most importantly, the book’s severed face reanimates and attaches itself to Pablo’s face! And Ruby drops the horrifying truth-bomb that’s been nine episodes and a weak-ass subplot in the making: she wrote the book! And now she has it back!
Image courtesy of Starz