Article by: Brian Toglia
I wrote a complete article reviewing season one of Ash vs Evil Dead. I did the normal reread, fact checking, and just plain ol’ rewriting that I often do. It was a good article. I carefully went over all the happenings of the first season. A lot of thought was put into analyzing the motives of each character and their respective actions. After I was done, and about to publish the article, I thought to myself ”why did you just do that?”.
I realized that I had completely missed the point of the show. I was not analyzing the show shot for shot and scene for scene when I was watching it. I let it wash over me like the ridiculous, bloody roller coaster it was. So why was I being all Gene Siskel about it now instead of talking about how I felt about AvED. I mean, this is a direct quote from the creator of Evil Dead, Sam Raimi, himself “They never ask me for another Spider-Man movie, or a sequel to A Simple Plan. They only ever talk to me about this silly thing.” Ok, reading that was enough for me to change my mind. I then proceeded to erase every word I wrote in the review and decided to make this more of an impressions article. What did I and didn’t I like about AvED Season 1 rather than the usual boring recap. So, here we go!
The single most important thing to me (and most people) in the Evil Dead universe is Ashley J. Williams. The reboot of Evil Dead as a movie was a good attempt to make an Ashless story in the same universe as the previous films. Solid flick, but we all missed Bruce Campbell’s Ash (until the stinger after the credits!). With Starz’ Ash vs Evil Dead, we all got EXACTLY what we were asking for, Ash front and center! But as the saying goes, “be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”
We now have a full five hours of Ash the “person,” not just the soundbite spewing, cardboard cutout of a person we had previously. He will have to be a fully realized character. Funny, yes, but most likely there would have to be some actual depth and emotional evolution. Ash starts off as the simpleton we remember, but he soon grows to have actual relationships with the supporting characters.
So does this “evolved” Ash still work? I feel the answer is a resounding YES! There is no possible way that we could have a full season of Ash just being “same ol’ Ash” and this show actually work. I liked seeing that our anti-hero have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Don’t get me wrong, I like the smartass Ash (say that 3 times fast) much more than the “real person” Ash, but too much of a good thing….
As I said earlier, be careful what you ask for. Since the shows debut, a lot of the people dying to see this show come to fruition have been complaining about Ash’s moments of real emotion. I could see how some people would only want the Ash they know and love and not this “evolved” character. It’s like that with anything people care deeply about for a long time and are deprived of. Try to change anything like Star Wars, Transformers, TMNT or GI Joe and people lose their minds (although in most of those examples, people were right to). I understand! I really do, but this time it is both necessary and it completely worked.
Enough about Ash (honestly, I don’t know why I’m writing anything about this show other than it being about Ash, but here I go) let’s talk about the story. It comes out firing on all cylinders. Super fast. Super funny. It just works. From call backs to Evil Dead 2 (sorry Army of Darkness fans but AOD is off limits due to some rights issues) to great reveals of the Chainsaw and the Boomstick! Yes! Yes! Yes! Gimme more!
Now, here is where I would start over analyzing the plot threads and what the rules of the Evil Dead universe (Ha!) are. It’s all nonsense! Do I really care if the demon Ash summoned from the Necronomicon is Kandarian? No! I care that it looked awesome and added an interesting twist (if not fully realized.. opps sorry) to the story. We got to see a good variety of very well designed demons and deadites. I really want to commend the effects team for what they did with a (probably) moderately low budget.
There were a few “sidekicks” that went on the season 1 journey with the great one himself. Ray Santiago as Pablo and Dana Delorenzo as Kelly most notably. We also get to meet Jill Marie Jones as Amanda who is actively pursuing Ash for murdering some peop.. ok so you already know this stuff if you’re watching the show. The question here, again, is did these characters bring anything to this show? Once again the answer is yes! The dynamic between 3 lead characters, as a group named the Ghostbeaters (YEP!) is often funny and certainly leads to a family type of bond between these 3 outcasts. Amanda’s character was very one note until later in the season, where she instantly became more fun (sorry for the vagueness, I’m trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible). There is one more character, Ruby, played by none other than Xena herself, Lucy Lawless. I will not delve into her character at all other than to say she has good reason to want to find Ash. The casting was pretty spot on and all of the characters in this show contributed to the pain train a-rollin’ on.
The story progression also allowed for some cool and varied sets. Ash’s trailer kicks off the festivities (exactly the way I wanted to see him living) followed by a brief stint at a department store, where a possessed kids doll gag starts Ash’s torture. Later we visit a house where we meet a deadite version of Mimi Rogers (where have you been?). We end up at some sort of ranch/shack that houses a Brujo and lots of animal skulls. From there, we find a military bunker, get lost in the woods and finally reach our ultimate destination, the cabin! We are treated to three full episodes in the cabin in the woods that started it all. This, to me, made the show! If this information was released prior to the show being seen, I thankfully somehow missed it. In a world where every little plot detail and character evolution is gleend by watching interviews and overanalyzing trailers, I am so happy to have been surprised with this plot turn!
At the cabin we got to see a mostly faithful recreation of Evil Dead 2’s stomping grounds. From the shed (complete with Linda’s skull still in the vice) to the gourds hanging in the basement (poor Jake, never given a proper burial), it’s all there! I was so happy to see the cabin, in new footage with new events unfolding, for the first time in three decades! It literally made me giddy! Oh my friends, what wonderful things await us inside the broken down cabin and at the tiny tool shed! The seven episodes that precede episodes eight,nine and ten were fun in their own way. Lots of great carnage and more laughs than a show about a guy hunting (or running from) demons has the right to have, but we hadn’t seen anything yet! Suffice to say, if you are reading this and haven’t watched the three final episodes of AvED season one, stop reading this and watch them! I promise you it will be one and a half hours of your time well spent. I refuse to write what happens from this point on because I will have deprived you of something special! I just say to those who watched already, remember when that thing happened in the cabin that reminded you of that other movie in the series? That was awesome! Ok, sorry about that! I couldn’t help myself!
I did mention that there were somethings I didn’t love about the show. I suppose it’s about that time in the article that we discuss my complaints. I have really only one major complaint. There is no way this show should have been ten half hour episodes. I understand they need to fill a ten week slot for Starz but at the end of almost every episode, when momentum was building, the show just pulls the rug out from under you. I imagine that watching all five hours of the show in a row would nullify this issue, but as it was originally presented, it really hurt the flow of the story. There were times the episode ended in the middle of a fight! That is really unacceptable! The only other minor issues I had with this show was its occasional use of CG instead of using practical effects. I’m sure it was a budget and time issue but nonetheless it was a little disappointing.
Well that’s about it! I was extremely pleased with the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead. From the joy of seeing Bruce Campbell reprise the role that kickstarted his career to the final three episodes taking place where it all began! I can’t wait to see what season two has in store for us with the way season one ended. Oh, and about that ending. If anyone thought that Ash should have made a different decision, then you don’t really know the man you claim to love… See you all in Jacksonville!