Welcome back, Delightful Deadites! Ash vs Evil Dead has returned to our screens with all the gore and glory we hoped for. Despite the little truce from last season, it looks like things have fallen through by the in media res start of “Home.” Right off the bat, Lucy Lawless‘ Ruby has her hands full with a couple of pale ghouls we saw at the end of last season who try to get their hands on the Necronomicon. She hopes Ash can help her out of this jam, but it seems he’s far too busy with a bigger beast of burden: partying hard in Jacksonville Florida! Ash, Pablo and Kelly now run a tacky tiki bar where Ash impresses the locals with his chainsaw keg splitting prowess. Unfortunately, our crew must once again contend with Deadites who crash the party in typical Evil Dead fashion. All the “splatstick” style fun is there, including a few Deadites getting slashed and a bartender getting turned into ground beef. It’s over the top insanity but with purpose, given that a certain nickname “Ashy Slashy” is mention that leads us right back to our hero’s birthplace of Elk Grove Michigan.
As our heroes journey from Florida to this specific shit hole in Michigan, Ash vs Evil Dead seems to get a grasp on the character arcs our heroes will be traveling down for the season. The major problem with last season was the lack of direction beyond a vague sense of comradary building between our trio. That’s fine in theory for an Evil Dead film, but for a serialized format there needs to be more specific continuous stuff going on. Luckily, everyone seems to be getting something to do. Ash has to deal with the town he left behind that’s labeled him “Ashy Slashy”, the local town monster who killed his girlfriend. Even his own father – played by Lee Majors – doesn’t trust him or his “stronger, faster” metal hand. There’s a believable sense of regret that comes out in Bruce Campbell‘s performance here, one that sees his origin point as a blemish he spewed from. It’s something that was hinted at during Ash’s struggles in season 1, but hopefully we’ll get more as Campbell and Majors square off throughout this season.
On the supporting side, Pablo still has PTSD about his interactions with the Deadites from last season, even exhibiting more than a few signs of Cheryl’s initial possession from the first Evil Dead. Kelly gets her own “Bad Ash” attack as a Deadite double feeds her lines about becoming the leader of the trio given her sharper instincts over Ash and Pablo. Even Ruby is struggling to keep her unspecified powers in check as her undead children start to turn on her. Where these arcs will go still is unclear and hopefully stuff like Kelly’s Bad Ash persona won’t just be retreading already covered ground. Still, at least there’s some indication that Ash vs Evil Dead cares about forward momentum as much as it does fan service.
In terms of Sam Raimi style kinetic energy, there’s a fair share of that from “Home” director Rick Jacobson. To contrast the neon raucous lighting of the opening bar fight, the dilapidated atmosphere of Elk Grove recalls the approach of the cabin in the original films. A place so bereft of life or energy that the only place somewhat hoping is a crematorium infested with demonic creatures. Jacobson even implements the classic canted angles and getting ready montages of the series as Ash prepares to fight with all the essentials; clean shirt, chainsaw and a fresh appliance of cologne. Even the fight with Ruby and Ash manages to implement the style without forgetting a sense of character. Ruby’s stabbing even has a sense of regret to it, that she’s killing demonic entities that she’s attached to. It’s the first time Ash vs Evil Dead has acknowledged a casualty that’s 100% demonic, something that hopefully sticks with Ruby to develop her beyond whatever the hell happened in the first season.
By the end of this premiere, Ash vs Evil Dead seems to be on the right track. We get a sense of where arcs may go, a few fun moments of gore and the introduction of a few new characters. Speaking of which, I’m especially curious to see how Michelle Hurd‘s Linda and Stephen Lovatt‘s Sheriff Thomas Emery will be implemented this season. We get the idea that Linda is the only thing Ash fondly appreciates about this town and that he had a history of bullying “Little Tommy.” It’s a more human example of the past that Ash’s past may catch up with him again. It’s just one of many examples of this show having a solid head on its shoulder this season. Let’s just see how the crew behind Ash vs Evil Dead protects their head from the chainsaws of inconsistent writing looking to lob it off in seconds.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: Grey Deadite getting its guts slopped out in a tag-team kill with Ruby and Ash in the crematorium.
Best Ash Line: “Maybe I’m getting that bad memory disease.” Pablo: “Alzheimers?” “Alzheimers? That’s that bad memory disease. Why would you mention that?”
Next Week on Ash vs the Evil Dead: “The Morgue”, which I assume will be full of creepy crawly corpses for Ash & co to kill.
One More Thing: While there aren’t any specific references here, a few visual nods to Army of Darkness can be seen. There’s Kelly in the pit and references to Ash as a savior against the Deadites. Hopefully, as series producer Rob Tapert mentioned in an interview, that means we get some more concrete references to Ash’s medieval adventures… and hopefully a few skeletons.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 1 “Home”: (4 / 5)