The penultimate episode of Stan Against Evil season 3 brings back the mythology in a big way, and I love it.
Nubbins and Vampire Creek were two of my favorite standalone episodes from the series, but the connective narrative across the season is really my bread-and-butter. Intensive Scare Unit dives right in, with Stan wandering a nightmare-like hospital, with various characters in voiceover dropping lines that catch us up on the story.
Stan’s journey this season has been all about doing something conclusive, something unexpected that would get some results against Eccles and all the evil in the town. Something that would redeem him to himself, so that he can feel worthy of the sacrifices his wife made for him.
I was especially impressed with this episode by John C. McGinley’s handling of Stan’s character turn. Stan spends almost the entire episode wrestling with himself about whether to accept Haurus’ deal, and we come to really understand the weight on him these three seasons. He’s a tough man who has been sitting with the fact that he was routinely saved by his wife, who finally sacrificed herself for him. McGinley makes that arc feel true, as this character pushes himself through personal growth to arrive at a decision that will cost him everything.
Also, Haurus’ use of vernacular when talking to Stan is a highlight… all demons should cuss.
That brings up the winning combo in this show – the blend of humor into other formats, be it drama or horror. All the actors bring a depth to their characters that could be easily lost in the jokes, but their skill keeps the balance perfectly. The musical stings in this episode are silly when they need to be, and scary where it counts. Special guest Maria Bamford is hysterical as one of Shadowham County hospital’s nurses, but then her makeup as part of Haurus’ nightmare world is some of the most effectively horrific work on the entire show. Stan Against Evil has never rested on any one genre. It does too many things too well for that.
The structure of the episode is classic ‘dreamworld’ stuff, with Stan’s unconscious body taking damage as his mind wanders around Haurus’ psychic plane. While he’s lost in green-tinted hallways with mutilated orderlies and a scared girl, Evie and Denise bring the laughs with an entire Weekend at Bernie’s subplot. Drinkwater makes only the briefest of appearances, but still gets in a great visual gag.
As we approach the final episode for the season, the show is clearly stepping up the emotional rapport between our characters. Evie and Denise have bonded more across season three, and the final scene of this episode has some of the finest work Janet Varney has done on the show. Her emotions toward Stan feel so real that her performance takes the show up a notch instantly. We’re left with a great stinger setup into the finale, knowing the game has changed.
I couldn’t be more ready. Shovels up for the next episode…