When it was first announced, I wasn’t wholly sure how Ash vs Evil Dead was going to work as an episodic series, but by the end of the first season, I was all in for whatever Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his trusty team of Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) had in store for me as a fan. As it went on, I enjoyed how the series managed to flesh out Ash as an anti-hero, but also made his cohorts just as integral to the overall Evil Dead story as well, giving us a few new favorite supporting characters to follow week in and week out.
Thankfully, all of that carries over into the season two premiere episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, which takes the Deadites’ mythology in a much more personal direction for our titular warrior, while also amping up the series’ signature blood and effects in some impressively absurd ways. It’s safe to say that if you enjoyed season one, then you’ll be pleased by what this new premiere episode has to offer. And for those of you who may not have loved the Starz series, but still dig the Evil Dead universe, I’d recommend giving this episode a chance, as it’s evident that producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi seem laser-focused on raising the bar in season two, especially in relation to things from the original film series (this was a key talking point that came up numerous times over SDCC weekend). I had a blast with the premiere that screened at Comic-Con, and I’m excited to see where they take things this time around.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 picks up right in the aftermath of Ash’s decision to call a truce of sorts with Ruby (Lucy Lawless), who promised to keep her new demonic children under control if Ash and his friends headed to Jacksonville for some peace and quiet far from her supernatural family. We see “El Jefe” enjoying his idea of paradise, cutting open kegs and living out his life Deadite-free at a local bar that both Kelly and Pablo work at (even Eli, Ash’s lizard and spiritual guide, gets a fun moment in the opening).
Of course, this being Evil Dead and all, Ash’s tranquility is expectedly short-lived. When Ruby’s children begin run amok, she’s forced to call upon her rival for help in handling her demonic spawn before it’s too late for all of humanity. So just when he thinks he’s out, Ash has to hop right back into the game—along with Kelly and Pablo, of course. The trio heads up to Elk Grove, Michigan to figure out just what Ruby is up to, ultimately forcing Ash to confront his complicated past, as well as his estranged father, Brock Williams (Lee Majors).
From the moment it starts, Ash vs Evil Dead dives right into the action and keeps things moving at a swift and energetic pace. In fact, as much as I loved the opening scene of the first season, season two’s opener is absolutely brilliant and has outdone its predecessor in almost every single way—and that’s a rather tall order. Before the opening credits even hit, we get an insane amount of blood that is astounding, but yet somehow doesn’t feel gratuitous. Campbell showcases his killer delivery from the get-go, letting loose on a beer keg with his chainsaw appendage as he’s cheered on by folks nearly half his age. Ash then gets propositioned by a mother and daughter for a little bedroom dalliance, to which he quips, “I’m not drunk enough to know if this is good weird, or bad weird, but I’ll get there.” It’s easy to see that our favorite Deadite-fighting scoundrel is truly living out all of his ultimate, sleazy fantasies.
But Ash is a character that can never escape his past, and it’s clearly evident that he’s in for a much more personal war during Ash vs Evil Dead’s second season, giving us a more fleshed-out version of this character than we’ve ever seen in the nearly 35 years since he first showed up in the original Evil Dead, including some hints as to who he was before he headed out to that ill-fated cabin years ago. We learn early on that his entire hometown suspected Ash of some horrible misdeeds, which of course came with some steep consequences for his father, who was left behind to deal with his son’s mess. Upon his return, Ash’s immediately considered an outsider by almost every single person in Elk Grove, providing Campbell with an entirely new dynamic to play around with.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing Ash throw out smug-filled quips is a huge reason why I have long adored this character, but it’s interesting to see our hero uncomfortably squirming when he realizes he can’t charm his way out of what happened decades prior (they allude to the event, but I’m not going to mention it directly for fear of spoilers, although it does add an intriguing twist to just why Ash is so tortured). And so we see how Ash reacts to being the odd man out, regardless of what he says or does to try and smooth things over.
We also see that Pablo is going to be dealing with the ramifications of having the Necronomicon plastered to his face by Ruby, and how that affects his mental state going into this new war with the Deadites. Kelly has also come through the events of Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 a changed woman, transitioning from someone with a strong and centered sense of balance to a gal who is just ready to throw down with evil forces at a moment’s notice. I’m curious to see if this new semi-reckless attitude will come with a hefty price for Kelly down the line, but I love seeing DeLorenzo come at her character with an unbridled eagerness.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the addition of Ash’s dad into the mix this season, as his introduction into the series is a lot of fun (including a great nod to one of Majors’ famed TV series from the past). I also enjoyed that, for the first time ever, Ruby feels more like a real character, especially when we see her conflicted over just how to handle her demon spawn that have become too unwieldy to control. There’s a softness to Ruby in this episode that we have never seen from Lawless’ character before, and I hope this is only the beginning in making her feel like more than just another villainous archetype.
Suffice to say, I loved everything about the season two premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead, as it really hit all the perfect beats for me. The story is clever and feels more in line with the films than anything we’ve seen previously from the series, the cast members are all infectiously engaging, and the effects are downright marvelous (I honestly can’t wait to watch this episode again just to get a better look at the work on Ruby’s demon spawn, as it might be the best practical effects work I’ve seen on TV all year long). October 2nd can’t get here fast enough.