It’s no secret that the Starz horror-comedy series Ash vs Evil Dead is itself a sequel to the cult hit Evil Dead trilogy from decades ago. In fact, the show itself goes out of its way to remind us of its roots as often as possible, with Easter Eggs and homages dropped left and right each week. Sunday night’s new episode “Trapped Inside” has now one-upped all of these references, with a cameo certain to warm the warped hearts of Evil Dead fans everywhere.
The episode begins with Ash, Ruby, Kelly, Sheriff Emery’s Ex-Wife Linda and her daughter Lacey all carrying Pablo inside Ash’s house to deal with the effects of the demonic markings burning through his chest. He flails around the Williams’ driveway Exorcist-style, spitting up fire and speaking in tongues, before Ruby finally manages to subdue him enough to get him inside Ash’s room, certain that she can both save Pablo and use the markings on his chest to defeat Baal.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Emery is still struggling to hold control of his own mind, as Baal further tempts him toward darkness. An angry mob is demanding answers from the Sheriff. Baal instructs him to ignore the crowd, convincing him that he must either kill the protesters or enlist them to help kill Ash. Either way, Baal is 100% in control of this situation, and that can’t mean anything good.
Back at the house, Ruby sets Pablo in the center of a circle of salt, something we last saw in season one, to protect everyone outside of the circle from the demonic presence within. She begins the ritual to conjuring up the remaining markings on Pablo’s body, taking off his demon-deflecting medallion to allow the Necronomicon to complete its full possession of his body, with Lacey standing guard.
Downstairs, the angry mob has arrived, led by Sheriff Emery and a disguised Baal, and ready to kill Ash. A hilarious running joke/subplot of the episode is Kelly’s unconventional method of keeping the protesters from entering the house – blindly firing her gun into the gathering of misguided civilians. She and Linda keep up this crowd-control, as Ash hurries upstairs to make sure Ruby’s keeping Pablo alive.
Of course, Ash is sidetracked by the suspenseful spooky noise coming out of the abandoned bedroom of his sister Cheryl (who he killed in the original film). It turns out to just be Chet, Ash’s hard-partying friend, who apparently had a thing with Cheryl before her death, and frequently stalks her room as a method of coping. The two of them both turn to leave and rejoin the group, when suddenly Cheryl appears, played once again by Ellen Sandweiss – the actress from the original Evil Dead!
This is amazing to me, personally. As a super-fan of this franchise, I’ve loved all the winks back at the series history so far, but this is hands-down their most impressive. To date, only Bruce Campbell has returned to reprise his role in each passing installment of the Evil Dead franchise. Not only was it awesome to see Ellen Sandweiss return to a part she hasn’t played since 1979, but it was also amazing to see her iconic Deadite look be updated to the effects standards of 2016. The scenes of Ash fighting his returned demon sister made my nerdy little mind melt.
The now somehow reanimated Deadite Cheryl captures Chet, initially using him as a human shield from Ash’s chainsaw-hand and shotgun, but quickly deciding to kill him herself instead. This was genuinely surprising, both for the shocking and gruesome manner in which he died (literally ripping out his heart Temple of Doom-style) and for the sense of loss felt for the great comedic side character Ted Raimi had created. You will be missed, Chet.
“Trapped Inside” was yet another dark turn for the usually silly series. It’s the second episode in a row to focus more on straight horror, as opposed to comedy with some demon killings. Sure, Bruce Campbell still gets his cheesy one-liners, and his character’s big heroic plan is still ridiculous and ill-conceived (feed the demon a pet-tracking GPS device so we know where he is), but every subplot the episode explored had a much deeper sense of dread and suspense than previous moments of the series. I liked it, and I think it works, especially after the introduction of the new Big Bad - Baal, but it is a surprising tonal shift nonetheless.
Ash shoots his reanimated, demon-possessed sister out the front door and into the mob in the street, proving to them the existence of Deadites, and his own value as a hero. It was great to see Ash get to monologue to a big crowd about how great he is while fighting a demon, since he hasn’t really gotten the chance to do so since the trilogy’s conclusion Army of Darkness in 1992.
Back in the house, the final piece of the ancient Kandarian curse etches itself into Pablo’s chest, powerfully bursting through his skin, and sending the others in the room flying back. The fall badly wounds Ruby, who explains to Kelly that she can no longer “Wolverine herself back together.” Ruby’s demon children consumed her healing ability, making her mortal and weak after this injury.
Ash also meets bad news at the end of the episode, and his glory among the mob he saved is short lived. Sherriff Emery and Baal confront the now-redeemed Ash, and knock him unconscious as the episode concludes.
Overall, this was a pretty brilliant episode, with a lot to nerd-out over. The jokes were funny, the action was exciting, and the pacing was tight and fast without a single wasted moment. I’m a little turned off by the cliffhanger ending, which left more unresolved than any other episode this season. Also, the show continues to struggle with balancing so many characters. Lacey, for example, didn’t really get much to do this week other than watch Lucy Lawless try to free Pablo from the book. There are now so many characters involved in the plot, I just wish they all got equal opportunities to do cool things. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to see what they’re building to with all of this.