Ash vs Evil Dead—this reviewer’s inner-12-year-old’s dream show—is an oddity. It’s most certainly light on plot and it panders with the lowest-hanging fruit that it can, but it’s also great fun, and it’s the true, direct descendent of the movies that we loved as kids. It’s also by far the most viscerally disgusting thing that’s ever been allowed on television.
So, while the adult film-snob version of me could easily dismiss this show, that inner-twelve-year-old grabs the old codger by the back of the head and sits him down in front of the TV every week, easily winning what ends up being not much of a struggle at all. I love the show, gag-inducing poop jokes and all.
Season two begins with Ash (Bruce Campbell), Pablo (Ray Santiago), and Kelly (Dana Delorenzo) partying in Ash’s Jacksonville utopia when deadites once again show up to harsh their collective buzz. These deadites were let loose by Ruby (Lucy Lawless) as part of the awful deal brokered by Ash during season one’s finale—namely that Ash be allowed to spend his days in Florida if Ruby were allowed to unleash some evil…provided she would control it.
Upon returning to Elk Grove, Michigan with the Kandarian dagger in tow, Ash learns that Ruby has hidden the Necronomicon from her demonic children and, by extension, a demon named Baal (Joel Tobeck) who’s essentially her ex-husband. Baal wants to destroy the book as it contains an incantation that will send him back to hell.
All the while, the good folks in Ash’s hometown think “Ashy Slashy” murdered his sister and friends all those years ago at the cabin and they demand that he be brought to justice, obviously unaware of the demonic threat to humanity that Ash has somehow managed to keep in check all these years.
As luck would have it, or the lack thereof, the Delta 88—along with the Necronomicon—gets stolen by a group of local hoodlums. Recovering the car and the book eventually results in Pablo becoming the Necronomicon…it’s a long story. As the desired incantation manifests in Pablo’s flesh, the idea is to lure Baal and Pablo together, read the passage, and send Baal back to the fiery realm from whence he belched forth.
Unfortunately, Pablo doesn’t survive the showdown. Distraught, Ash decides his only option is to travel back in time 30 years and head to the cabin to prevent the Necronomicon from ever summoning the deadites in the first place. Back in time and back at the cabin, what’s old is new again and then some.
When ’80s-Ruby and Baal show up, the season culminates with a high-stakes fistfight between Ash and Baal (whom Ash amusingly refers to as Bill throughout the episode) bestowing the finale with enough blood and mayhem to satiate even the most finicky Evil Dead fans (those exist, right?).
Can Ash save Pablo? The world?
Ash vs Evil Dead season two is ridiculous fun. There are individual episodes that function both as part of the season long arc and as one-off vignettes. There is a homage to The Thing that takes place inside the local jail and plays out as a series of red-herrings as none of the characters know which of them is possessed by Baal. There’s the aforementioned throwback to the cabin circa the mid-1980s wherein Ted Raimi once again inhabits the “Henrietta” body-suit make-up while future-Ash’s leg is the limb of choice this time for the Kandarian demons to possess. This all recalls Evil Dead 2 with a deranged shot of nostalgia.
Ellen Sandweiss reprises her role as Cheryl, Ash’s sister and the first victim in the Evil Dead legacy. We’re also introduced to Ash’s father Brock Williams played by the great Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fall Guy) showcasing a rare comedic side.
Episode two, “The Morgue” showcases a gag (in more ways than one) that is certainly the most disgusting thing that’s ever been depicted on a television series as Ash heads to the morgue to search for the Necronomicon that Ruby has hidden inside a corpse. He finds the book, but not before a “splat stick” routine beyond anything this crew has attempted before (leave the popcorn in the pantry for this one).
Episode seven, “Delusion” plays out inside an asylum where Ash has been institutionalized for the murder of his friends and sister. His doctor—an incognito Baal–theorizes that the Kandarian demon story is Ash’s delusional attempt to rationalize his tragic, murderous past. But the true star of this episode is a lecherous, foul-mouthed Ash puppet that’s the catalyst for much hilarity. It’s also a homage…or a highway robbery…of both the “Normal Again” episode of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which Buffy wakes up in an asylum and is told her vampire slayer identity is a delusion and the hysterical “Smile Time” episode of its spinoff series Angel wherein the brooding titular character is turned into a puppet. Either way, geeks and horror nerds had to be pleased as bloody punch.
This season does little to advance the Evil Dead canon. In fact, despite the ostensibly complex synopsis above, not a lot really happens. The name of the series couldn’t be any more on the nose. But there’s a lot of subversively smart beats that play out every episode which justifies how ridiculous this series seems on its surface. The Raimis, Campbell, Rob Tappert and recently departed showrunner Craig DiGregorio are in complete control of their unique brand of splattery chaos and it would seem as if they’re still having a blast telling stories within this universe again. Although, the circumstances under which DiGregorio left the show may spell trouble ahead, but that’s a subject for another time.
Ash vs Evil Dead season 2 had a steeper hill to climb than its inaugural season did. Season one’s mere existence was enough to provide a baseline of acceptance and enthusiasm from a rabid fan base that had been yearning for more Evil Dead for nearly a quarter century. Season two had no such luxury and while it doesn’t take the Evil Dead mythos anywhere new, it provides the absolute most fun possible inside a playground with which we’re all intimately familiar.