For a comedy series, ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ isn’t afraid to throw in some fairly disturbing content that’s scarier than most legitimate horror movies. Yet the show somehow still manages to be funnier than hell. That’s a very delicate balancing act that’s nearly impossible to get right. When it works, it’s magic.
Episode ‘Books from Beyond’ reminds us that Lucy Lawless was supposed to be one of the main stars of the show. That she’s had such limited screen time is a disappointment, but I hope it’s building up to something. In this episode, her mysterious stranger follows the trail of Deadites to Kelly’s house, but has missed Ash and the gang. She finds the graves for Kelly’s parents and digs up the dad, who’s now become a Deadite himself. She tortures him into telling her which direction Ash headed. That’s the extent of her part this week, unfortunately.
While our trio of heroes are en route to the occult bookstore where Ash hopes to get the ‘Necronomicon’ translated, Pablo suggests that they should come up with a team name. He offers up “The Ghost Beaters.” Ash responds, “That’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” Seriously, they’re not even fighting ghosts!
When they get to the bookstore, cop Amanda is already there. She recognizes Ash from the police sketch and tries to arrest him, but Pablo knocks her out from behind. He didn’t realize she was a cop and freaks out about that. They then handcuff Amanda to a shelf and get on with their business.
The store owner, Lionel, is practically giddy with excitement to see the ‘Necronomicon’ in person, much less to get the opportunity to touch it. He explains that the book was created by the “Dark Ones” and has the power to open portals between the Earth and the underworld. Yeah yeah, Ash pretty much figured that part out. Now he wants to find a spell that will send the Deadites back to hell.
Because Lionel isn’t able to figure that out himself, Ash comes up with the not-so-brilliant idea of summoning the weakest demon in the book to answer some questions for them. Pablo is scared and thinks this is a bad idea, but Lionel is very eager to try it out. He picks a demon who looks pretty small in the sketches and then uses salt to draw a mystical symbol on the floor. He explains that the demon will not be able to leave the circle so long as none of them break it.
Of course, it turns out that the demon they summon isn’t so little after all. It’s a very freaky thing with far too many teeth and not enough eyes, and looks like something Guillermo del Toro may have rejected from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ for being way too freakin’ scary. Ash is intimidated until he remembers that the demon can’t leave the circle. Then he gets cocky, as usual.
In the next room, Amanda talks Kelly into releasing her from the handcuffs. She says that she understands what they’re doing and wants to help, but she lied. As soon as she gets her gun back, Amanda rushes into the room and startles Ash into breaking the circle with his foot. Uh oh.
The demon gets out and is very powerful. As Lionel tries to find a spell that will send it back to hell, the demon kills him. Then it grabs Ash and Pablo and nearly sucks their brains out until Kelly whacks it with the ‘Necronomicon’, which seems to do the trick and causes it to disappear.
Ash handcuffs Amanda to the shelf again and leaves her in the store. With their mission a failure, Pablo suggests that they should go to see his uncle, who’s a brujo (basically, a black magic witch doctor). Ash doesn’t have any better ideas.
As they drive away, Lionel is resurrected as a Deadite and moves toward Amanda. The episode leaves off with that cliffhanger.
Once again, the show’s short length is both a strength and a weakness. The episode moves like lightning and doesn’t have time to linger on anything unimportant, but feels like it’s over before it barely began. I also think that some characters and storylines are being short-changed, especially Lucy Lawless.
Despite that, this is another hilarious episode. That “Ghost Beaters” line had me laughing for days afterward.
This fall has been a truly lousy season for new TV series. ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ is clearly the best of the bunch and is leagues above the rest.