Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t a show too based in narrative weight. After all, coming from the original Evil Dead series that always swung for the bizarre and brazen more than it has dramatic heft. Even the original film – for all its over the top early Bruce Campbell face contortions – was more over the top than anything. Of course, Ash vs Evil Dead has strived to give a bit more emotional context to the madness and go into territory that none of the films went for. Hell, Ash went inside a dead man’s anus back in “The Morgue.” That alone broke new ground for the franchise. Unfortunately, as this season drew to a close, it became clear that Ash vs Evil Dead didn’t have much of a primitive screwhead on it’s shoulders. Some of this had to do with the recent departure of showrunner Craig DiGregorio, but even without that knowledge something is clearly very rushed and disappointing about “Second Coming” as a season finale. “How the hell should I know? I’m making this up,” says Ash at one point, mirroring the likely forethought that went into this episode.
Right from the start, we’re back into the initial problem of last week’s adventure; more empty fan service. Ash has another fight with Henrietta, full of near Three Stooges eye pokes and a modern version of the extending neck gag. There are a few moments of creative sparks, mainly with a disgusting lactation gag. Unfortunately, this just seems like an exercise in repeating the familiar. Like I’ve said previously, the fun in Ash vs Evil Dead is finding new ground to mine with the unique Evil Dead brand of craziness. Even with this time travel premise, there’s plenty of fun potential for odd gags and conflicts that could arise. Instead, we’re really just here to remake something from before. To get Ted Raimi back in that fat suit and nostalgically remember the past rather than confront it from a new angle.
However, this isn’t the only problem with our final romp with Ash vs Evil Dead this season. If anything, that reshot highlight reel is the unofficial high point of “Second Coming” considering the direction we’re going. Ash vs Evil Dead dips back into the aspects of the universe it’s created with bumbling tire screeches, starting and stopping story progression for lackluster action. There’s a deal made between Baal and Ash about a “fair fight” that drags things out to a crawl. Kelly briefly attempts to resolve her independence arc and… just doesn’t. Ruby is killed by her younger self for “reasons.” Instead of having any kind of emotional weight, it all sputters out of control like Ash’s Oldsmobile, darting and stopping with little rhyme, reason or – more importantly for The Evil Dead franchise – charming craft.
The entire time watching this, one can’t help but bring up major issues with progression and motivation within the previously established confines of Ash vs Evil Dead. Why would Baal even bother making this fair fight deal? If he was just going to break it off anyway, why would young Ruby be so quick to screw him over for thinking he’d actually do it? Does this couple have any understanding of each other? Why even bother having this arc of independence for Kelly and specifically bring it back up if it’s just going to dissolve to “well, we tried our best, Ash”? What point does it serve to kill off older Ruby? Did young Ruby just want to prove the point that she could do it? Why did Ash’s Dad show up? Why did he turn into Ash’s chainsaw? Was old Ruby that much of a threat? Have we even learned much of anything about Ruby as a character during these two seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead to get such a basis?
The answers to all of those questions are nowhere to be found, replaced with middling action, character reprisals and teases for questions that continue to go unanswered. Ash vs Evil Dead has relied a lot on leaving dangling threads this season and the same exact lingering threads at that. Seriously, how many characters have died while saying “Hey Ash, I need to tell you something import-“? It’s the type of teasing that doesn’t keep one on edge as much as it frustrates with repetition. This all feels so slapped together, without much genuine rhythm to it. The kind of rhythm that’s so key to an Evil Dead story. Where the slapstick, few bits of plot and crazy kinetic energy work in sync with each other. Instead, we just sort of get clumsy set pieces like Ash in the piano or him fighting Baal. These action beats seem like they’re edited with Ash’s chainsaw, as are the really easy story shortcuts. It’s a shame none of those could involve Pablo and Kelly being actual characters instead of plot devices.
Honestly, the only consistent element of this whole season has been the production value. The desired emotional effect of joy at seeing Baal melt away and the cabin cave in on itself might not have worked, but the effects work and reliable episode director Rick Jacobson are on point. Still, that’s ultimately not nearly enough to save Ash vs Evil Dead from ending with a full-on whimper with “Second Coming.” As Ash ends up being the focus of a massive Elk Grove celebration, we see the “Force Ghosts” of his father, Chet and Cheryl waving him off to signify his achievements. Unfortunately, this celebration feels less like Return of the Jedi Ewok dance party and more like a Phantom Menace Naboo light show in terms of endings. We even get our own unconvincing Padme/Anakin romance with Ash and New-Linda-You-And-The-Writers-Clearly-Forgot-About reprising the “sugar” line from Army of Darkness.
Here, Ash promises to stick around and be the hero that Elk Grove needs, hinting that Season 3 of Ash vs Evil Dead will involve Deadite action in Elk Grove as Ash protects his homeland. There’s some potential in that idea, particularly with the sudden reveal of young Ruby being alive and on the hunt for Ash come next season. Unfortunately, I’m not as hopeful as I was with the end of last season. Ash vs Evil Dead has shown in it’s second year that serialized television is a tough fit for this franchise to sustain, especially without Sam Raimi‘s more explicit involvement. While things started pretty well, the last three episodes or so managed to plummet what initially seemed like an improvement of a season into a downgrade, with “Second Coming” honestly being my least favorite episode of the series as a whole. It’s not bad enough for me to quit Ash vs Evil Dead just yet, but the third season will be on pretty thin ice. If I could implore anything for the new showrunner, it really would be to include Pablo & Kelly more and new characters far less. Those two teaming up with Ash is the glue that kept this season decent and even if that means not giving Lucy Lawless or whatever other actors get thanklessly shoved to the side as much to do with their vague as hell characters, I’m fine with it.
The Groovy Rundown:
Kill of the Night: Baal via nail slice based purely on visuals alone.
Best Ash Line: “Brand, spanking new hand. Or, brand new spanking hand?”
Next Week On Ash vs Evil Dead: Jack and Shit. Season’s over, she-bitches!
One More Thing: What was with that Jumanji-style stinger at the end?
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 10: “Second Coming” (1.5 / 5)
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2: (3 / 5)