For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home. Well, that’s at least what Ash vs Evil Dead wants us to get on board for with the penultimate episode of Season 2 “Home Again.” When I heard that this episode was going to feature the group returning to the main setting of the first two Evil Dead films, I was a bit worried. Last season wrapped up pretty nicely in that cabin, but going back to the well again here doesn’t feel nearly as organic or earned. The charm of Ash vs Evil Dead has been it’s ability to expand beyond the realm of the original films and see Deadites in new scenarios. Hell, even going to a town as small as Elk Grove felt like a big step forward. Expanding the world a bit more with new conceits. Instead, we’re going back to what they know Evil Dead fans will eat up like dogs at a sausage festival.
Speaking of ground up meat, Pablo died last week. It broke up Ash something bad, causing him to drive his beloved car in a circle while drinking & smoking angel dust. Whether due to inebriation or demonic influence, Pablo’s corpse briefly comes to life. Speaking to Ash about how to fix his problems, Corpse Pablo suggests going back in time. Of course Ash is fine with this, given that he suddenly remembers he went to medieval times with what will likely be our biggest reference to Army of Darkness this season… or ever. Stuff like this is conflicting. On one hand, it continues the fun sensibility of Ash vs Evil Dead not holding back in terms of Ash being an offensive glut who still cares about those closest to him. Then, you realize how convenient and lazy some of this is, especially in context of the whole season. How did Ash get is totaled car back? Are the people of Elk Grove going to comment on any of this? Where the hell was Linda after the events of last week?
I get that Ash vs Evil Dead has a loose continuity, one aiming to fit the films before it. But this level of hole covered storytelling doesn’t work in a serialized format. It’s all just tossed away to go back to the cabin, where Evil Dead fans feel safe and unchallenged. There are brief glimpses of new twists here and there, such as Ash’s frying pan kill of that little Deadite bugger via sucking the evil out. Unfortunately, most of “Home Again” is instead spent on giving the fans what they want. Keep on returning to what feels familiar with a franchise known for changing what’s been done before. The lead up to that Deadite bugger even feels extremely reminiscent of Ash dealing with his mini-clones in Army of Darkness and a bit of the kitchen destruction scene in Evil Dead II.
The time travel elements also feel rather wasted here. The potential to see elements of Elk Grove in the past are pretty much just relegated to a couple of Back to the Future nods involving a bum and a reference to knowing the wins for sports teams. The journey to the cabin ends up having our characters split off, leading Ash to the cabin at the point in our timeline where Professor Knowby and Henrietta were staying there. Unfortunately, Ash vs Evil Dead doesn’t do much of anything with them that’s new. Pre-Deadite Henrietta is still in the cellar so Ash can violently smack her. Professor Knowby tries to use his student Tanya (Sara West) to transfer the demons out of Henrietta’s body. The Knowbys and Tanya just seem like chess pieces here, which will probably lead to Tanya being cannon fodder for the season finale, especially as Ash pulls a move that’s honestly dumb even for him: releasing Henrietta from her restraints. WHY?! Does he somehow have no memory of the events that he’s been tormented by for the past thirty years? How would any of this change the outcome of the future for the better? What’s the point in any of this?
As of the cliffhanger ending, I can only hazard a guess: fan service. Blatant dumb fan service. When Cheryl was brought back earlier in Season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead, I was worried that it would be considered fan service. Yet, I was surprised when Ellen Sandweiss’ return actually added a new dimension to Ash’s dealing with his grief. It added more moments with Cheryl being a Deadite that didn’t just recycle the past. But we can’t get that here. Instead, Ted Raimi has to put back on his fat suit & drag to make people squee as he and Bruce Campbell go back through Evil Dead II shenanigans. And I say that as someone who loves Evil Dead II. It’s one of more creative and unique films ever made, horror or otherwise. But I don’t want to see that all over again with two of the principle actors aging thirty years. I can pick up my copy of Evil Dead II for those antics. Ash vs Evil Dead has had a lot of revisiting the past at the core of it’s story, but there’s a line between “revisiting” and “nostalgia baiting” the past.
Of course, that could all change by the finale next week. Ash vs Evil Dead pulled out similar surprises for me last year when the penultimate episode really turned me off the direction things were going. In any case, it still makes “Home Again” underwhelming table setting. It seems in the case of both seasons like the showrunners fo Ash vs Evil Dead really aren’t grasping the potential in their newer characters. Characters like Ruby and Kelly who are separated in the woods just about as conveniently as Kelly and Pablo were last season. There’s more teasing of Kelly’s independence, but nothing really for Lucy Lawless to do beyond propel that brief conversation and become tree fodder… but thankfully not in the traditional Evil Dead sense. Seems like after Pablo took care of her one story thread involving Baal, Ruby doesn’t have much of anything to do except have Book of the Dead Senses powers and draw odd lines in the sand about time travel. Seriously, Ash can’t meet his dad in the past… but he can totally undo ever touching The Book of the Dead? Sure. Whatever. About as well thought out as the latter half of this season usually gets.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: The “Aborted Deadite Fetus” of Ash’s by frying pan.
Best Ash Line: “Looks like he’s got a hot little number on the side, too. Er, I mean men are such pigs.” Oh Ash. You sexist asshole.
Next Week On Ash vs Evil Dead: The season finale “Second Coming.” Hopefully this doesn’t somehow involve more reprisals of old gags.
One More Thing: The shadowy figure with the cigarette is probably Baal. Not surprising, given how quick his supposed exit was earlier, but none the less don’t have a lot of confidence in that plot line sticking the landing.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 9 “Home Again:” (2 / 5)