The team behind Ash vs. Evil Dead really hit it big with the first episode and it likely had something to do with the fact that Sam Raimi was back behind the lens. The Evil Dead franchise amassed a following courtesy of its very specific style and blend of comedy and horror so it’s hard not to be concerned about Raimi handing directorial duties over to someone else. The pressure was certainly on for Michael J. Bassett, but not only did he manage to rise to the occasion and deliver a second episode that feels very much in the vein of “El Jefe” and the Evil Dead franchise as a whole, but he also successfully takes small steps in new directions, suggesting that Ash vs. Evil Dead could have even more to offer than one might have hoped.
Episode 2, “Bait,” picks up right where “El Jefe” left off. Vivian’s (Sian Davis) severed head is laying on the floor, Ash is gloating about his Deadite-killing prowess, and Kelly and Pablo aren’t quite sure what to make of all of it. Even though Ash’s plan to translate the Necronomicon ASAP for the greater good makes sense, that doesn’t stop Kelly from rushing off to help her father (Phil Peleton). Ash isn’t particularly concerned when he spots Kelly zipping off on Pablo’s motorcycle, but when Pablo tells Ash that she took the Necronomicon with her, he’s pissed and has no choice, but to go after her.
During their ride to her parents’ place, Ash and Pablo are ambushed by their Value Stop boss, Mr. Roper (Damien Garvey), who’s now a Deadite himself. During a brilliantly shot mid-drive fight, Ash wrestles with Mr. Roper while Pablo attempts to man up and help him out. He doesn’t really make much of a dent this time around, but it’s clear that the series is paving the way for Pablo to be able to fight by Ash’s side, and there’s no doubt that his childlike glee about being Ash’s righthand man will help get him there – eventually.
Eventually they arrive at Kelly’s house. It seems nice and cozy, but the creaky windpump assures us that evil is coming. After a questionable pep talk, Ash and Pablo burst through the front door and find a totally normal, non-Deadite family spending quality time together. Apparently Kelly’s mom (Mii Rogers) wasn’t dead after all. Instead, she claims to have caught a bad case of amnesia, spent some time in a homeless shelter and, all of a sudden, remembered who she was. Sure it’s a touching story of survival, but Ash isn’t buying it and who can blame him given what’s going on?
While cleaning up for dinner, it’s revealed that Pablo had the Necronomicon all along, marking a major step forward for the character. Santiago would probably get along just fine playing Campbell’s super sweet, silly sidekick who dishes out solid post-bloodbath one-liners, but his decision to lie to Ash to accomplish something that he cares about starts to bring him out of Ash’s shadow and turn him into a far more interesting, dynamic character.
After that we get the crown jewel of the episode, an especially bizarre, passive aggressive family dinner. Ash is determined to prove that Kelly’s mother is a Deadite, but she’s got a reasonable answer to all of his obnoxious, probing questions. It’s a fantastically unique verbal sparring session that actually manages to keep you guessing. On the one hand, you’re nearly positive that Ash is right and eventually, Kelly’s mother will show her true colors, but at the same time, there are some brief moments of doubt, forcing you to stay on your toes.
Ultimately Ash doesn’t have to feel like a total dick because after sucker punching Kelly’s mom, we get the big reveal – she is, in fact, a Deadite. Kelly’s dad gets a little too close and winds up with a dinner fork in his eye, but Ash straps his chainsaw on in a flash and gets right into the fight. Kelly, however, makes a run for it and winds up all alone, a perfect position for a Deadite mom to get super sweet and try to trick her baby girl into thinking there’s still hope for her. Lucky for Kelly, Ash and Pablo step in just in time. Ash attempts to blow her brains out, but when he gets in a jam, it’s Pablo to the rescue and he jabs a kitchen knife into her head. But as we know, that won’t get the job done so Ash has to finish her off by lopping off her head with his chainsaw and showering poor Kelly in her own mother’s blood.
Making the events of the evening even more meaningful and memorable, our three heroes bury her parents together. Ash does a fair job semi-gently reasoning with Kelly, explaining that he too lost loved ones and now hates the evil responsible, putting them both on a very similar path. In fact, Ash flat-out says it; “You’re kind of like a young me. Deadites ruined your life and you’re hot as hell.” Clearly it’s a conversation that’s packed with Ash’s familiar narcissism and wit, but there’s also a degree of genuine and somewhat grounded heart to the whole situation, and that’s something that suggests this series can go the distance. Throughout “Bait,” you never forget that Pablo deeply cares for Kelly nor do you forget that Kelly’s life is about to change forever, however, Bassett approaches it all in a way that never takes away from the fun of the episode.
As for Amanda, she may not have seen any action this episode, but her mission continues to come into focus. While investigating the empty trailer park spot Ash left behind, she connects the dots and figures out that the Deadite she encountered at the mansion the other night is also the last woman Ash brought back to his trailer. But perhaps the bigger find is the “Books from Beyond” business card, the store Ash plans to go to to have the Necronomicon translated and, at the end of the episode, we see that she makes it there before Ash, Kelly and Pablo.
Episode Rating: ★★★★
Extras and Ashisms:
- “And I’d say it’s a gift from God, but that would be giving the man upstairs a little too much credit. This is all me, baby.” – Ash
- “Just stay behind me, let the boomstick do the talking. If things get hairy, use your bottle.” – Ash
- “When it comes to evil, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” – Ash
- “Oh, I’ll be polite. Right up until I’m rude.” – Ash
- “Sometimes the whale needs his bait fish to remind him of where he is in the ocean.” – Ash