First of all, apologies for the double review for the final two episodes of Ash vs the Evil Dead. I got caught up in New Years plans and work, forcing me to combine these two into one article. Plus, as I was trying to write about “Bound in Flesh”, I honestly couldn’t find too much to say beyond it serving as a decent enough build up to the final episode of the season. There were a few interesting elements, such as the sawing up of Evil Ash by Ash, displaying an interesting duality for the character as he metaphorically tries to leave behind the former self who dealt with Deadites. That’s something constantly being thrown back at him by the now sentient Necronomicon, which is revealed to be written by Ruby and has managed to take over Pablo’s body via Jim Carrey’s The Mask style wrapping around his face. Those are honestly the most distinctive highlights, given so much of the time was spent prattling along with the obvious future victims from episode 8 and actually giving something for Jill Marie Jones as Amanda to do… but only after she turned into a Deadite. Her little puppet show display was probably the most interesting thing her character did throughout her run on Ash vs the Evil Dead.
So, as the previous paragraph or my previous recaps would probably indicate, Ash vs the Evil Dead often oscillates between being highly enjoyable and frustratingly underwritten genre fare. It’s become increasingly clear to me that the television format is both a blessing and a curse for the Evil Dead universe. Sure, we get a weekly dose of over the top gore or Ash being the dimwitted dolt that we loved about from the previous three films. Yet, we also get a very uneven sense of development that we’d need for a serialized format. Sam Raimi knew his films were light on story, so he cut to the chase for the sake of increasing the oddness of everything to eleven and never really stopping for a second glance at how flimsy the arcs might be, which is far harder to pull off in a serialized format. Stuff like this indicates that Ash vs the Evil Dead would have worked far better as a much shorter show, with 6-8 episodes being more fitting for the amount of story or character they had. But instead, we got the 10 episode ride that was mostly pleasurable yet had its fair share massive disappointment potholes during its first season.
Now, with all of this being said, the big finale “The Dark One” is the first episode to bring back to consistent charm we originally saw in “El Jefe.” It helps that one of the first actions in the episode is Ash finally killing off Amanda, serving as more of a mercy killing for the completely misused Jill Marie Jones than anything else. Once she is cast aside via some penetrative imagery, “The Dark One” sets off on a whirlwind journey of action, gore, comedy and – most crucially – genuine character development for our cast of “Ghost Beaters.” Key among them is Ash, managing to tow the line between the hedonistic asshole of old and the patriarchal protector a new. As we see Ash fight a small demon boy, face off against Ruby or even come across Jake’s skeleton from Evil Dead 2, we are seeing a different man than the one who fought off the bloated corpse of Henrietta in that same fruit cellar decades earlier. The titular Ash of Ash vs the Evil Dead is one who wants to help out those who have changed his life and doesn’t want to be controlled by the forces of evil. Yet, in true human fashion, one can’t take the idiot out of the warrior as Ash makes a bone headed mistake, but one that actually comes from the heart. It’s the perfect type of forward momentum for Ash; one that moves him down a new path, yet one he takes one step back on due to his deep seeded head strong ineptitude.
Aside from the Boomstick man himself, we get a bit more dimension from some of the side characters we’ve met along the way. There’s Pablo, who went from a know-nothing department store electronics guy to a key magnet for supernatural happenings. Given his uncle, it runs in his blood. Yet, that supernatural connection is something he’s discovered over the course of the season, only to get him in a bind as a pawn for Ruby when his inexperience makes him unstable. In many previous episodes of Ash vs the Evil Dead, I’ve complained about how limited a role Dana DeLorenzo has had despite how fun a presence she could be. Here, we see Kelly full realized as a capable member of the group, though not one without some form of struggle as she tries and fails to save the backpacker Heather. Yet, that doesn’t stop her from trying her best to save the people she come to care for: Ash and Pablo. Plus, notice that all of this is done without Kelly being contrived into a love interest role for either of them… unlike certain other characters this season. Even Ruby finally gets something to do, revealing her unique position of trying to be a sort of middle man for the evil of the world. It’s not thoroughly explained, but it’s still the most she’s given to do for the entire run of the show so far. Here’s to hoping we get a bit more of Lucy Lawless kicking ass in the season to come.
Although this finale wasn’t directed by Sam Raimi, “The Dark One” certainly has a solid creative drive that recalls the director’s work. The fountain of blood coming from the cabin, the little demon boy being birthed from Pablo’s mouth, the apocalyptic escalation of the ending’s implications. There’s so much of Raimi’s touch here from veteran Xena Warrior Princess director Rick Jacobson and showrunner/writer Craig DiGregorio. The sense of invention and wonder was something slightly missing from the many episodes in Ash vs the Evil Dead‘s first season, as DiGregorio and his crew seemed to be feeling around for how exactly its cast of characters would develop in between bouts of blood. Yet, with “The Dark One”, we get that right mixture of gore dripping genre triumph and uneasy cynical worry from where these characters are. None of our Ghost Beaters are in a great place by the ending, but it’s a place that’s appropriate for a show spun off from The Evil Dead film series. Despite some major missteps, the creative team behind Ash vs the Evil Dead finally found a groove that works for the show overall; one based around the most engaging cast members of Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago and DeLorenzo being this awkwardly endearing family unit riding off in the Oldsmobile against the waves of demons together for better or worse. Let’s just hope the detours they find along the way don’t sink Ash vs the Evil Dead into a sinkhole sized mess of a second season.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: Heather by bloodbath.
Best Ash Line: “Too long and boring and not enough boobies.” – Ash’s review of The Godfather. A regular Ebert, this fella.
Next Week on Ash vs the Evil Dead: Nothin’. Season’s over, chumps.
One More Thing: Heather was played by Samara Weaving, niece of Hugo Weaving. One can tell that the furrowed brow runs in the family
Ash vs. the Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 9 “Bound in Flesh:” (3 / 5)
Ash vs. the Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 10 “The Dark One:” (4.5 / 5)
Ash vs. the Evil Dead Season 1 Overall Rating: (3.5 / 5)