The half-hour limit really hampers this week’s episode of ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’, which ends on a cliffhanger it really can’t justify.
At the end of the prior episode, Ash was captured and knocked unconscious by Baal and Sheriff Tommy. This week, he wakes up in the dankest and dirtiest hospital you’ve ever seen. It’s immediately clear what’s happening and where this story is going. Sure enough, the place is a loony bin, Ash is a patient, and a creepy psychiatrist (a guy calling himself “Dr. Peacock”) tries to convince him that he’s had a psychotic break. He tells Ash that he’s been incarcerated there ever since he murdered his sister and friends in the cabin, and that his memories of fighting demons were all just delusions. None of them ever happened.
To his credit, Ash pretty much instantly figures out that he’s being Total Recalled and that the doctor (he assumes it’s Baal) is just fucking with him. Nevertheless, the storyline plays out for the whole episode anyway. Ash sees his friends in the asylum, all playing new characters in this fantasy. Ruby is a stern nurse, Pablo is an abusive orderly, and Kelly is a very deranged fellow patient. Because he’s still an idiot, Ash takes a very long time to catch on that these aren’t his friends. He assumes that they’ve come to bust him out and are just playing along with the doctor.
Dr. Peacock gives Ash electro-shock therapy and insists that the only way to end the delusion is to symbolically destroy the ‘Necronomicon’ book. Funny, destroying the ‘Necronomicon’ is exactly what Baal wanted him to do too.
Ash steals an access card, springs Kelly and tries to make an escape. On the way out, they’re blocked by Pablo the orderly and Kelly kills him. The access card doesn’t work and alarms go off. Ash turns around and finds Kelly dead too. The next thing you know, he’s in a straightjacket and Dr. Peacock makes Ash watch security camera video of himself murdering both Pablo and Kelly. The doctor tells Ash that he can’t help him anymore and will have to transfer him to another, even less pleasant facility. Before that happens, Linda stops by and claims that she’s been visiting Ash here in the hospital for the past 30 years.
As the episode ends, Ash says that he understands it was really him in the video. He confesses to all the murders he’s committed and agrees with the doctor that he needs to destroy the book.
The “You’re in a loony bin and everything that’s ever happened has been a lie” plot of this episode is not the most original concept for a fantasy show. I’ve seen it numerous times before, from ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Buffy’. TV Tropes calls it a “Cuckoo Nest” and of course has a whole page full of examples. Given that this is not the season finale (much less a series finale) of a show about Ash fighting demons, I doubt that anyone in the audience expects this to be a legitimate plot twist. We all know that Ash will debunk the fantasy and get things back to normal soon enough.
With that said, the episode has a little fun with it. The funniest parts involve Dr. Peacock’s attempts to try puppet therapy with Ash. He gives him an Ashy Slashy puppet to talk through his issues with, and of course the thing talks back to him and goes homicidal. A bit where the hospital walls go topsy-turvy during Ash’s escape is also pretty neat for the brief moment it happens.
I can deal with a big plot cliché like this for one episode, but I’m disappointed that that writers think they can stretch it out for another week. This should have all gotten wrapped up this week, even if it took an extra ten minutes to do it. Starz doesn’t have strict time limits on its episode lengths, and previous episodes have overrun the half-hour.