Ash Williams has faced many epic adventures over the course of career as a reluctant demon slayer. He’s gotten into countless bloody battles with Deadites (the demon-zombies that possess the living in the world of Evil Dead), sawed off his hand, killed his possessed loved ones, and traveled back through time. On Sunday night, we found our hero right where he wanted to be the whole time… at a beach party in Jacksonville, Florida.
The season two premiere episode (titled “Home”) of Starz’s hit horror-comedy series Ash vs Evil Dead (a continuation of Sam Raimi’s cult classic Evil Dead franchise) picks up right where the last season left off. Bruce Campbell’s lovable jerk Ash and his trusted sidekicks Kelly and Pablo are living the happy, demon-free life in Jacksonville promised to them by Ruby, an ancient demon disguised as Lucy Lawless. Ash held up his end of the deal by surrendering the elusive Necronomicon, (the evil book that controls the ancient spirits/MacGuffin of the Evil Dead world) but it seems Ruby’s promise wasn’t one that she could keep.
The season opens with Ruby on the run from the very demon children she once created. The twisty, grey, eyeless figures are now fully grown and want the book for themselves. Seeing no other way out of the situation, Ruby turns to the page of the Necronomicon about summoning Ash to conquer the Deadites- an aspect of the book last seen in the final film of the trilogy Army of Darkness.
At this point, I should note that I’m a total nerd about this franchise, so I was ecstatic to see the TV show make a full out reference to the third film. Back in season one, the creative team repeatedly said it was mostly going to be ignored for the sake of plot, much to the dismay of fanboys everywhere. Good to have you back in the cannon, Army of Darkness!
Ruby sends Deadite messengers to Jacksonville to warn Ash and company that she needs their defense. Mockingly, the demons chant “Ashy Slashy,” an apparent nickname given to Ash in his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. This triggers horrible memories of his past (of course) and in typical Evil Dead fashion, Ash, Kelly, and Pablo retaliate by brutally slaughtering both Deadites. It’s probably the most over the top, blood-soaked action scene on TV since… well, the season finale.
On their way to Michigan to confront Ruby about their broken deal, Ash instructs Pablo to try his best to draw a police sketch-style picture of Ruby to use in their investigation. In yet another brilliantly effective callback to the original films, an unseen dark force takes over Pablo’s hand, making him sketch the face of the Necronomicon instead. Pablo, we learn, has been experiencing surreal, waking nightmares ever since his contact with the book at the end of season one. He keeps this to himself, however, as he doesn’t want to disrupt the rest of the group with worrying about his occasional possession.
Ash pulls into his childhood home, where his father Brock Williams (a perfectly cast Lee Majors) reminds him that after all this time, Ash is still not welcome back. The citizens of Elk Grove don’t believe Ash’s stories about demonic possession, and think that he actually just lost his mind and murdered all his friends in that cabin in the woods so many years ago. Thus the name “Ashy Slashy.” Mr. Williams then demonstrates just where Ash gets his uber-macho jackass attitude from, as he shamelessly hits on Kelly and calls for Pablo to be deported. Discouraged, the gang leaves to find where Ruby is hiding.
I appreciated the scenes in Ash’s hometown, both for all the in-jokes about Lee Majors’ career, and for the perspective they bring to the franchise and the genre at large. So many horror films end with the final character just surviving and that’s it. We don’t learn how they readjust to life, or what the public thinks actually happened to all the murdered teens. “Home” takes the opportunity to explore some of these themes, and so far, they’re nailing it. I’m excited to see where this plot is carried throughout the rest of the season.
Pablo, Ash, and Kelly split up to gather information about Ruby’s whereabouts. Ash attempts to question the customers of a local bar, all of whom have heard the stories about what he did in the cabin. He tosses around several of his now iconic catchphrases and insults (“screwheads”, etc.) as he’s thrown out of the bar. Pablo, on the other hand, pieces together the information they need. After following one of his visions down a dark spooky alleyway, he sees Ruby calling to him from above an old smokestack, which Ash knows how to get to.
It turns out that the smokestack belongs to an old crematorium in Elk Grove. It’s the same crematorium where Ruby is still fighting off her Deadite children, hiding the book from them at all costs. We then move into the climax of the episode, which is one of the most fun sequences the show has pulled off so far.
Homages to the action highlights of the franchise are tossed around left and right. Demons eerily sing, the walls fill with blood, and Bruce Campbell quips about it all. Eventually, the group finds the desperate Ruby, who pleads her case to the heroes: Her demon children have grown up and turned on her, demanding the Necronomicon. She had no choice but to break her deal and summon Ash’s help to defeat the evil forces and protect the book. Reluctantly, they defend Ruby from the demons immediately surrounding her, and set out with her by their side to find and protect the hidden Necronomicon before something worse gets to it.
Overall, I really loved the episode. It was fun, it was fast, it was action-packed and filled with a ton of Easter Eggs for my nerdy little heart to swell over. I’m not sure yet how I feel about what seems to be the overall plot for the season, with the group having to go out on a quest to find the book again. I like the addition of Lucy Lawless to the heroes, but I hope story-wise they’re able to twist it into something a little more different than what we saw last season.