Ash vs Evil Dead, Season 1, Episode 9, “Bound In Flesh”
Written by Rob Wright
Directed by Tony Tilse
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on Starz
There’s no time for grief or reflection on the latest episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, “Bound In Flesh.” Last week featured a somewhat shocking moment when Jill Marie Jones’ series regular Amanda Fisher found herself on the wrong end of some deer antlers. Amanda’s death was framed in a particularly brutal, mournful way, which makes the fast-paced, goofball tone of this week’s episode all the more jarring.
Ash (Bruce Campbell) has no time to grieve Amanda, nor does he even have time to deal with his newly born evil doppelgänger, because before the opening title card has splashed across the screen, Bad Ash is dead, blown away by Kelly and Pablo after an amusing back-and-forth to determine who is the real Ash. It’s all much too breezy; why even set up Bad Ash if he is going to be instantly vanquished? And why have Amanda’s death seem tragic one moment, then the very next moment have Ash cracking particularly tasteless jokes about sneaking a peek at her breasts before he dismembers her dead body with his chainsaw? The rushed nature of all this is likely due to the fact that this is penultimate episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, and writer Rob Wright has to cram in as much as he can before a finale. What this results in is the return of Lucy Lawless’ Ruby, a Deadite-version of Amanda, the brutal deaths of two of those hapless hikers from last week, and the Necronomicon suddenly learning to talk. It’s a lot to take in, and on top of all this there’s more relationship development between Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago) before the final moments of the episode, which finds the face cut from the cover of the Necronomicon attaching itself to Pablo like a mask.
“Bound In Flesh” keeps the red stuff flowing and features some particularly memorable gory moments: Ash dismembers Bad Ash’s body while “Just the Two of Us” plays, and later, Deadite Amanda slams her hands into the back of two of those hikers’ heads to work them like giant human puppets. The latter scene is amusingly gruesome at first, but it goes on for an interminable length, with Deadite Amanda even making the corpses kiss each other, all while she cracks dumb jokes. Okay, we get it, can this scene please end already?
Ash vs Evil Dead has spent its whole season building towards the moment when Lawless’ Ruby comes face to face with Ash, and when it finally happens here it’s slightly disappointing. Campbell and Lawless have both been great on their own this season, but for some reason, when they’re together at last, there’s a spark missing from the scene. The actors should be able to bounce off each other much more successfully than how it plays out here. Perhaps there was more to the scene that got cut from an already overwhelmed episode.
It’s been obvious for a while that Ruby is not letting on who or what she really is, and “Bound In Flesh” gives the audience the shocking revelation that she’s the one who wrote the Necronomicon. It’s a nice touch, and the prospect of Ruby as the series’ Big Bad that Ash has to take down is rife for potential, but the reveal comes mere seconds before the credits roll, and with only one episode left, there’s a considerable lack of weight to the twist. Longer episodes might not have solved the pacing and development issues of Ash vs Evil Dead, but a genuine retooling of how the story has been unfolding certainly would’ve helped.
On a positive note, “Bound In Flesh” continues to expand the character of Ash, giving him his own “Frodo and the ring” moment, where he seems reluctant to give up the Necronomicon once and for all, as if he can’t resist its power. He’s had the thing for thirty years, and when the book inevitably learns to start speaking this episode, it puts the notion into Ash’s head that maybe the only thing that’s ever made him special, and also kept him alive while everyone else dies, has been the book itself. The book is no doubt lying just to save its own human flesh hide from destruction, but this is an intriguing new angle for Ash. Sure, all his loved ones have died and his life has been filled with failure, but maybe the one thing keeping him from being a total loser is his connection to that book, bound in flesh and inked in human blood. If Ash vs Evil Dead achieves nothing else in its uneven first season, it at least has done a good job of expanding a mostly one-note character like Ash into someone more well-rounded.