After last week’s “he’s back, baby!” re-introduction, Ash vs. Evil Dead lurched forth with its own plot—and the blood-and-quip-filled “Bait” offered all reassurances that the first episode wasn’t a fluke. This. Show. Is. AWESOME!
“Bait”—only 30 minutes long after the extended-play pilot—picks up exactly where “El Jefe” left off last week, in Ash’s smashed-up trailer. To recap: the Deadites are back, they’re pissed, and Ash is their target. “We are way past danger,” Ash surmises. But before Ash can take the Book of the Dead to be properly translated, and maybe reverse some of the damage he’s done after 30 years of supernatural-free living, Pablo convinces him to chase after Kelly, whose mother has mysteriously returned from the grave.
Well, actually, Pablo hides the book and tells him that Kelly took it before zooming off on his bike. Otherwise it’s doubtful Ash would pitch in. But away they go, in Ash’s classic Delta 88, Airstream chugging behind. “For your first time, you did great. Most folks just end up dead,” Ash tells Pablo. Pablo’s second time ain’t far behind, because it turns out their undead discount-store boss, Mr. Roper, is lurking in the back seat of the Oldsmobile ... bringing forth one of the best car fights ever to grace the small screen.
Hell, make that one of the best car fights EVER. Thank goodness Ash drinks and drives, supplying all kinds of beer-bottle weapons when his chainsaw isn’t within reach. “You sad old failure. You’ll never defeat evil!” the Deadite growls at Ash. “Oh yeah? Thanks for the heads-up!” Ash retorts, before guiding the ghoul to an appropriately cranium-crushing end. The resulting blood splatter oozes off the screen to reveal the show’s logo. Nice touch.
Finally, they get to Kelly’s house. Despite Ash’s plan (“We bust in there, fight through the carnage, and bail with the book!”), things are... weirdly normal, aside from the two weirdos who burst in covered with blood from, uh, an “exploding deer” they claim to have hit on the road. Kelly’s mother (played by guest star Mimi Rogers) explains she survived her car accident but had amnesia, and has only started to remember her life. Kelly is fully convinced.
Ash—who assures an anxious-to-impress Pablo that “I’ll be polite... right up until I’m rude”—is totally NOT convinced. Still, he agrees to stay for dinner. The dinner scene is reminiscent of the Frog Brothers trying to out Max as a vampire in The Lost Boys, as Ash (extremely rudely) goads Mama into showing her true colors. She puts on a good front, until he gets impatient and socks her. That’s all it takes for this to happen:
“Oh good,” Ash says, relieved, though you can tell he never really doubted himself. “I was starting to feel like a real dick!”
And with a “Let’s tango, bitch!” it’s ON! Kelly’s mom is pretty badass in evil form; she also proves a master of mindfuckery, crooning the Deadites’ favorite lullaby (“Hush little baby, don’t say a word...”) to her freaked-out daughter. Fortunately, scaredy-cat Pablo steps up to distract Mama when Ash’s arm is briefly stuck, because there’s no better ending to a dinner party than chainsawing your host’s head off.
Poor Kelly, reeling from the horror of losing her mom (again) and her dad (thanks to her Deadite mom), is understandably shell-shocked. Ash admits he’s no grief counselor, but having killed and buried loved ones before (“a bunch of times, actually”), he knows what she’s going through, and he’s glad to have her along with Pablo to fight the forces of evil. “You’re kind of like a young me,” Ash tells her. “Deadites ruined your life, and you’re hot as hell.”
Meanwhile, Michigan state policewoman Amanda Fisher, who had her own close encounter with those pesky Deadites last week, has taken an interest in Ash’s activities. Having found a blood-stained business card for Books From Beyond in Ash’s trailer park, she heads there to get more answers, mostly for her own personal sanity. Will she join forces with Ash in fighting the Deadites, or will they be foes? (The former seems more likely, though she has a right to be angry at him for bringing the dead back in the first place.) Next week’s episode is called “Books From Beyond” so clearly that’s where we’ll be going next.
Other observations: even without Sam Raimi directing, and with a shorter running time, this show kills—the pacing, the dialogue, the generous splatter. There was no Lucy Lawless this week; there are only 10 episodes in the season, so that reveal will surely be coming soon. And inspired musical choices seem to be a theme for Ash vs Evil Dead. In particular, this closing-credits jam was ON POINT:
Is it next Sunday yet?