Ash vs Evil Dead, Season 1, Episode 5, “The Host”
Written by Zoe Green
Directed by David Frazee
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
Ash takes a step back and Pablo takes the lead in “The Host”, the latest episode of Ash vs Evil Dead. This turns out to be a mixed blessing. On one severed hand, Ray Santiago’s performance as Pablo has been consistently enjoyable since the series began and seeing him receive more focus this week doesn’t disappoint. Yet on another demonic hand, this show needs Bruce Campbell’s Ash. No matter how hokey or uneven Ash vs Evil Dead can become, Campbell never fails to elevate things with his performance. Indeed, Campbell seems to have a better handle on the Ash of Ash vs Evil Dead than he ever had in the Evil Dead films, almost as if all the years of waiting to play the character again instilled a new confidence in the actor.
Last week’s episode ended with the reveal that Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) was possessed by that coffee-jitters demon Ash was foolish enough to have summoned in “Books of Blood.” “The Host” starts off with Pablo and his uncle Brujo (Hemky Madera) convinced by Demon Kelly that it’s Ash who is possessed, and Brujo wants to exorcise the demon. And if that doesn’t work, there’s the option of performing a lobotomy on Ash.
As Brujo goes about his fruitless ritual, Demon Kelly attempts to seduce Pablo while also tempting him to smoke pot through the barrel of Ash’s shotgun. Her plan is to quickly insert a shell into the gun while Pablo is distracted and blow his brains out when he takes a hit. Luckily for Pablo and his brains, he catches on and soon he, Ash, and Brujo are attempting to get the demon out of Kelly while the demon follows the trademark demonic possession movements: cussin’, bodily injury on its host, and yes, projectile vomiting. Apparently practical special effect vomit wasn’t in the budget, though, because director David Frazee opts to use terribly distracting CGI vomit.
There’s nothing strictly wrong with any of this, but it’s all too predictable to fully enjoy. While it’s slightly interesting to see an attempt at exorcism in the Evil Dead universe, there’s nothing new brought to the proceeding to make it stand out. The best element of all of this is that that DeLorenzo is clearly having fun playing the demonic Kelly.
The more successful moments of “The Host” come from Santiago’s handling of Pablo’s emotional journey through the episode. Pablo left Brujo behind years ago, dismissing his uncle’s beliefs as nonsense, but now he knows that Brujo was correct. Pablo feels guilty that he shrugged all of this off, but Brujo consoles his nephew by pointing out that Pablo still recognized that there’s a brief flicker of hope buried deep inside Ash. Santiago gets to be more than just comic relief because of all of this, and by episode’s end he’s given more than one emotional moment to shine. Speaking of emotional moments, Ash apologizes to his two new friends when the dust and blood has settled, and it’s a believable moment of contrition. Ash is continuing to grow as a character, and this is a well-handled moment to remind the audience of that. It’s also interesting that while both Kelly and Pablo acknowledge that most of this is indeed Ash’s fault, they’re not holding a grudge.
The same can not be said for Lucy Lawless’ still-mysterious Ruby Knowby. Ruby and Officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) are still in pursuit of Ash, using Ash’s severed demon hand as their guide. This happens in the briefest of brief moments and feels arbitrary, as if the producers were worried if they didn’t throw in a quick scene in with Ruby and Amanda we might forget they existed. Here’s hoping Ruby and Amanda catch up with Ash and the gang sooner rather than later, so the two ladies feel less marginalized.
“The Host” is another mostly disappointing episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, coming across less as its own beast and as more of a conclusion to last week’s “Brujo”. But it’s hard to stay mad at a show with so much silly charm, and as Ash and his Ghost Beaters hit the road to the blasting notes of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold”, you can’t help but want to continue on the journey.