The third season of Starz’s no-holds-barred horror-comedy series Ash vs Evil Dead is in the books. Well…it’s in A book. It’s in THE book?
The Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or The Book of the Dead, is the source of antagonism in creators Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Rob Tapert’s bizarre, funny, scary, and gloriously gross Evil Dead mythos going back to the trio’s humble beginnings as Michigan State sophomores embarking on a filmmaking journey that would change everything about the possibilities of the horror genre. After nearly four decades of movies, games, comics, and conventions and a ridiculously fun three-year resurrection on the small screen, it looks like this iconic evil book has finally been sealed.
On April 20, with two episodes remaining of the season, Starz announced it was cancelling Ash vs Evil Dead. Talk about an anticlimax! But that’s the business of television for you. And despite being given 15 more hours of Evil Dead and a few new, endearing characters to root for in addition to Ashley J. Williams, us fans are left without closure. Again.
This time, it appears that Evil Dead—at least as we know it—is gone for good. Bruce Campbell announced on Twitter that he’s officially retiring the Ash character, for whatever that’s worth, and not enough fans ever subscribed to Starz to make continuing the pricy series worthwhile for the network, opting instead to download episodes from Torrent sites, i.e. stealing them.
In retrospect, perhaps we’d have all been better served with one more movie to wrap up the Ash Williams thread of the Evil Dead universe rather than a series that’s unfortunately been abandoned by everyone—the network, the creators, and, unfortunately, too many fans—two seasons too soon.
Now that we’re all in a good mood, let’s dive in. How was Ash vs Evil Dead Season three?
Season three begins as the Necronomicon has once again been used to unleash Evil of the Dead variety into our world. Naturally, this evil descends on Ash’s home town Elk Grove, Michigan as does Ash, Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), Pablo (Ray Santiago), and even some Sumerian Knights. This Deadite death squad commences because Ash, after reuniting with an old fling, discovers he has a teenaged daughter named Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) and she’s in peril.
Meanwhile, Ruby (Lucy Lawless) gets ahold of the Necronomicon and things basically go bananas for the rest of the season in classic Evil Dead fashion:
Essentially, Ash’s hardware store becomes a portal into the Rift—a dimension between here and Hell—but there’s a catch. To go through, they must die first. And to come back, their bodies must be available for their souls to re-inhabit. Got it?
This goes for everyone except for Pablo. That’s because not only does Pablo finally “get the girl” this season (!!!), but he becomes the Brujo, which is basically a Latino super hero in the Evil Dead universe. As such, he can see through the eyes of the Necronomicon which causes Evil to think he’s one of them, allowing Pablo to travel to the Rift and back without having to die first like everyone else.
Speaking of which, Kelly’s soul gets stuck in the Rift after Ruby stabs her to death with the Kandarian dagger. Kaya—an ancient sorceress on the run from super evil wraith-like beings called the Dark Ones—escapes the Rift by inhabiting Kelly’s body. She helps Ruby fashion a new Necronomicon page from the flesh of Zoe, a Knight of Sumeria, in an attempt to hide themselves from the impending wrath of the Dark Ones.
When Ruby eventually kills Brandy, too, Ash and Pablo hatch a plan to take Brandy’s body to the hardware store and kill Ash, sending him into the Rift where can lead Kelly and Brandy back through and into their bodies. He successfully saves Brandy, but until our heroes can figure out a way to purge Kaya’s soul from Kelly’s corpse, Kelly’s stuck in the Rift.
This season—and the series—culminates in a two-episode double-whammy that pulls out all the stops. Eventually, the Dark Ones show up for the Necronomicon and unleash the Evil Dead all around the globe, including a giant Deadite kaiju called Kandar the Destroyer that sets its sights on Elk Grove. The result is destruction and chaos on a massive scale courtesy of Ash and the U.S. Armed Forces and the Deadites and a massive monster going balls to the wall in an all-out melee! Can Pablo save Kelly—the love of his life—from the Rift? Can Ash save Brandy and the rest of the planet from the Evil Dead? It’s scary, gross, hilarious, heartfelt, white-knuckled stuff!
And it’s a damn shame it’s over.
While this season of Ash vs Evil Dead is wildly entertaining throughout, the last two episodes are examples of the series at its best. The penultimate episode is a scary and funny nostalgic trip that’s gory and sweet all at once. And, again, the finale’s depiction of Deadites, death, and destruction is on a scale that surpasses anything this life-long Evil Dead fan ever thought the franchise could conjure up. And it ends by unapologetically, enthusiastically roaring into the future, both literally and figuratively. It’s all more evidence that when this show is on, it’s a spectacular thrill ride. And when it’s bad, it’s not all THAT bad because…well, it’s EVIL DEAD!
Were it not for the final five minutes, this season’s finale would have functioned just fine as a legitimate series finale. But we were given the final five minutes we were given, and they clearly articulate a future for the Evil Dead story unlike anything we’ve seen before. Moreover, introducing Ash’s daughter was the perfect device to give an ostensibly absurd character like Ash a true-blue arc. That arc would be fulfilled by a passing of the torch from father to daughter, setting up Brandy as the protector of humankind and giving the Evil Dead franchise fertile new territory to explore going forward should Raimi, Campbell, and Tapert ever decide to add to their legacy.
While it would have been nice to have a couple more seasons to watch it all unfold, it was not to be. What’s undeniable, though, is that Ash vs Evil Dead was a hell of a good time while it lasted.