Does it feel like the honeymoon is over? For me, the shine on the blood-encrusted gold rings AvED slipped on fans’ fingers dulled. Why? The formula. The movies series used the formula well—Ash arrives, evil, death, and chaos follow. In the end, our main man walks away, dirty, tired, possibly maimed, and alone. Though they negated the alone part physically, Ash is mentally alone on this trip. Breaking the formula down to fit the series means each episode is pretty predictable. We can only have so much fun watching Kelly and Pablo take two gallons of blood to the face for five minutes in each twenty-something minute episode. While they do tend to mix up the fights and gross-out gags, it’s not enough to make us sit up and go, “Oh.”
When did horror television become about maintaining the same instead of breaking boundaries? This franchise, most of all, was the last I expected to play it safe. Showing Bruce Campbell’s butt in the first episode is not living dangerously.
When we left the gang, they’d killed deadites in a restaurant and left with a bonus team member—Amanda. We catch up with them in the middle of a misty forest, discussing the merits of Ash allowing the others to join him, though he’s still hesitant considering the formula and everyone except Ash dying as a result. Now would the show really kill off Pablo, Kelly, and Amanda? I want to say no, to give it something more to hold over the films—and also give them a solid base for the future considering season two was green-lit before episode 101 aired.
But here we are. Again. With Ash doubting his team even as he leads them to meet with his old pal Lem’s militia group in order to gear up for the final battle with evil. Before they even make it into the camp, they find a gutted corpse, an injured man babbling about an attack, and masked militants who shoot first, ask later. Luckily, it only applies to the injured man, who they think is, “…one of those things,” and their leader makes his head the consistency of oatmeal.
Ash talks his way into an actual meeting with the armed brain trust—that’s sarcasm if you can’t tell. Before they get to haggling for the good guns, evil arrives in the form of DeadLem, who’s mostly naked and possessed. The militia think he’s been gassed by Big Brother. If that’s a demon’s name, then they’re so on point. Unfortunately, these goons are slow on the uptake. Don’t get attached. Most end up dead. The others survive, but only to run away once they realize they’re way out of their element.
Lem’s attack, times with the team’s arrival, make the militia nervous. Ash and Amanda are handcuffed together, then dumped in another section of the compound. Why not, say, a jail cell? It’d be easier to keep captives captive if they’re not left to wander through endless tunnels, one of which surely leads outside. It does give them time to discuss Ruby, who isn’t dead, but rises from the ashes and reclaims her car. No worries, DeadLem somehow finds his way into the labyrinth to stalk the handcuffed—and flirting—duo. I’d hoped they would forego forcing one of the women on the team into Ash’s bed, but there it is, Ashmanda. DeadLem makes several attempts to blow up the pair. At last Amanda gets one over on the deadite. Ash thanks her by almost kissing her, until they’re interrupted by the cavalry.
Kelly and Pablo escape captivity after DeadLem’s meeting-time attack. The militia spread out to find them, though they manage to hide pretty much in plain sight alongside the dirt road leading to the compound. The big plan? Steal a gun, a gas mask, and take over the compound with Pablo posing as a militia member. The plan works, up until they miscalculate the number they’re against and get nabbed mid-theft. They’re dumped in a truck, but the vehicle goes nowhere. A deadite wipes out the guys holding them. Pablo takes out the deadite with the militia’s truck. Kelly makes sure it’s really dead after testing the new-to-her semi-automatic rifle. She unloads the gun into the deadite. Pablo is covered in blood. Off they go to save the day and interrupt a kiss which I believe should never happen if they wish to maintain the integrity of Amanda’s character.
The team catches—and releases when they leave—the militia, then pilfers whatever they may need for the fight at the cabin. Ash gives a rousing speech about how much he appreciates everyone.
Then Ash ditches the team. Because, formula. Or he was abducted. But my guess is he ran to save them. Annoying since it’s been his stance since the get go and they negated actual character growth by perpetuating his distrust. “But he’s protecting them!” A group who a minute before he leaves calmly pumps a deadite full of bullets. No hesitation. No worrying about the human it once was. They put the deadite down, saved the militia, and helped Ash secure weapons. They’ve earned trust, but the show’s writers are stuck on the notion that Ash’s appeal is his swagger and lone wolf routine. His appeal is the ability to adapt to any situation, even if that situation requires competent backup.
If you aren’t an adult, this show isn’t for you; neither is this review. Also, show spoilers everywhere.
As far as plans go, it isn’t a bad one. Brujo tells Eligos to take a hike, they get back to sorting out Ash’s mental mojo, then the newly awakened El Jefe cruises to the cabin to bury the friggen book. Easy as Ash getting laid.
Except they still have the wrong person hog-tied and awaiting whatever exorcism ritual requires a knife and chicken carcass. Going out on a limb, here, but I assume the Catholic Church did not approve this method. Despite the gag in his mouth, Ash tells everyone exactly what he thinks of them, the plan, and Keligos’ taunts when Brujo and Pablo can’t see. They brush his anger off as the demon talking. Compiled with Keligos’ compelling performance as a helpless victim, Ash is about to learn first-hand what a blood ritual looks like.
Annoyed by the request, but still fulfilling it, Pablo fetches the ritual supplies and gets out of Brujo’s hair. For a guy who spent a good chuck of his life avoiding the dark and spooky family business, Pablo sure wants to be in the thick of the mess a lot. Keligos has other plans to kill time. Her original plan is to get drunk. Failing to locate the booze, they decide on plan b—Ash’s grass stash. They just need a pipe. Pablo is off to play gopher once again. At some point he has to grow more of a spine. It feels a tad imbalanced—Kelly loses her parents and is possessed, Pablo gets brains and blood splattered over his face and a hot girl practically begging to get him in bed, but she’s the emotionally stronger character. Why pick on Kelly?
If anything positive can be said about the possessed woman, she’s resourceful. Bored with waiting for Pablo and a pipe, she uses the boom stick’s barrel to smoke.
Things get super awkward when Keligos seduces Pablo. Really, she just wants him to quit paying attention so she can blow his head off. Not exactly the method Pablo has in mind, either. He hesitates. Kelios loses her patience for the second time and attacks Pablo. The creature design for the hybrid Kelly and Eligos creature is elegant almost. They didn’t take her so far from human, she looked like a deadite, but made sure to bring Eligos’ distinctive grin onto her face. The effect is startling when it first happens.
Things aren’t going right in the Brujo’s shack, either. Ash isn’t reacting the way he should when approached with blessed items. While Brujo prepares the blood sacrifice, Ash dismisses with the gag, telling Brujo the truth—Eligos is in Kelly and probably about to kill Pablo. Shots fired in the trailer.
Ash and Brujo rush to the trailer. Pablo has Keligos cornered, boom stick aimed at her head. He can’t pull the trigger. They all scuffle over the shotgun. There’s yet another hole in Ash’s trainer, but Brujo subdues Keligos without any human injuries.
Take two on the exorcism. Eligos doesn’t react to any mojo spell, totem, or blessed item. The only time it reacts to a ritual component, it’s to vomit leeches fat with Brujo’s blood near Ash’s feet. They’re getting nowhere fast. Eligos takes to beating Kelly to make the men react.
Pablo and Brujo chat outside. Pablo tells his uncle he’s sorry for leaving so long ago and hiding from the mystical side of their family. While they’re out of the way, Kelly begs Ash to put her out of her misery before Eligos kills her. She even asks him to make sure there’s a cross on her grave. Tisk, tisk, Eligos. Wrong religion.
Things heat up when Pablo struts into the shed and demands Eligos take possession of him instead. Not one to ignore such a ripe morsel, Eligos reaches through Kelly’s mouth to grab Pablo. Unlike other mouth-exiting gags, they didn’t feel the need to waste time making Kelly’s mouth do weird things. Most of the shot following Eligos as it emerges is straight-forward.
The demon claims one last victim—Brujo, startled by how quickly Eligos jumps to and fro, is impaled through the chest when he dodges an attack. His death is not unavenged. Ash uses the not-so-wise words he told himself in the vision quest to finally find the right timing to blow Eligos’ blue-goo filled head to smithereens.
Kelly wakes from the ordeal with another headache and a gap in her memory from the time they reached the ranch. Ash fills in some of the blanks after ensuring she has ice for her head. They burn Brujo’s body on a funeral pyre. Pablo makes a lot of promises to the dead guy. In return, Brujo’s spirit flings a red-hot necklace at Pablo’s feet.
For the first time in the history of history, Ash apologizes for his part in the whole raising the ultimate evil fiasco. Pablo tries to brush the apology under the rug. Kelly tells him not to, Ash owes humanity an apology, not just the people stuck in the fight with him. They can’t walk into the final stage of the battle—the trip to the cabin—without all hands on deck. The hand Pablo started for Ash magically finished itself at some point. Trying it on, the first thing Ash does is high-five his team, then flip them the bird.
Keep it classy, Ash. And keep your backside in gear. Ruby and Amanda haven’t given up the hunt. Their method to navigate just takes a little longer than Amanda likes or has the patience for. The slow-moving hand GPS isn’t her only problem. Ruby is actively dodging Amanda’s questions, and not even that well, to be honest. What isn’t the deadite slayer telling her new buddy?
Poor Lionel is having a bad day. His store is wrecked by evil winds accompanying a spell he did right, only for Ash to botch. Does he get thanks for a job well done? No. He gets a glass shard to the eye and a demon using him as a meat puppet to attack Amanda Fisher. I guess in a way having Amanda handcuffed in place counts as a reward.
Then Ruby happens.
In typical Ruby style, she attacks DeadLionel, impaling him with a lamppost. Pinning DeadLionel to the wall gives Ruby time to snoop around the shop. She also fills Amanda in on her side of the whole Evil Dead story. According to Ruby, Ash is a stone-cold killer who mowed down her entire family—mom, dad, and her sister Annie. Something about her story tickles DeadLionel’s funny bone. Before he says something to contradict the tale, Ruby decapitates him and stomps on his head. Completely oblivious to Ruby’s true intentions, but enjoying her methods, Amanda agrees to team up with the undead slayer to track Ash. But how? He’s in the wind. Ruby has a friend who can help—Ash’s possessed hand which he severed in one of the most memorable fights in the franchise. Seems the little fellow has an internal tracking power, making it move the closer they are to Ash. It’s not GPS, but it’ll work in a pinch.
The ladies may not have far to go to catch up. The Evil tracking Ash catches up with him, Pablo, and a severely concussed Kelly on the road to Pablo’s uncle’s. A dust cloud storms down the road, chasing the trailer Ash tows, tossing passing vehicles into the air. In the nick of time, the car turns into the Brujo’s driveway. The talismans around the property protect it from the evil dust storm. Not from Ash’s incompetent swagger.
Uncle Brujo knew Pablo would return. Not sure much could prepare him to deal with Ash as the sole Jefe available to deal with the local evil problem, but he’s game if Ash is. “When evil shows up, it blows up,” Ash tells the gang—it’s his new slogan if he is indeed this whacky Jefe thing Pablo and Brujo talk about all the time. There’s a long road ahead if Ash will become the hero they need. The Brujo says the light inside the hero-to-be is too dim, and quite frankly, Ash is a gigantic failure.
The trip they must take is an intimate one, which leaves Pablo to take care of Kelly. She’s probably going to need more than the standard, “Take two of these and call me in the morning,” seeing as she’s hearing voices in her head and all. None of the guys know. She’s really not inclined to tell them, either. You guys remember Eligos, the faceless fun n mental mindgames demon the gang summoned in the last episode? Yeah, he’s taken residence in Kelly’s brain and body. Rut roh. Pablo does his best to make sure she’s comfortable. While she rests, and is consumed by evil, he rifles through the storage shed for hand-making supplies. He creates a pretty nifty mechanical hand before Keligos electrocutes him, knocking him out.
In Brujo’s ramshackle shed, Ash is given a hearty dose of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic meant to draw Ash into himself to find the answer to their troubles. It takes a while for the potion to kick in, but once it does, whoa. We’re treated to an odd TV montage acid trip sequence, followed by footage from Evil Dead and a map tracking Ash’s nomadic life from ValueStop to ValueStop. At last Ash drops into a freshly dug grave. His eyes are sewn shut. Vaguely Ash-like masked men roam around, searching for our hero-to-be. Brujo, as a voice from above, instructs Ash on how to control his trip. The minute Ash has a grip on things, he travels to Jacksonville, FL. But not the real city, just an idealized version Ash saw on a postcard. He’d planned a trip to the city thirty years prior. A trip he was supposed to take right after visiting the cabin where he obtained the Necronomicon.
Eli the lizard, who can talk in this vision, verbally abuses Ash until they work out what’s in Ash’s subconscious that can point them to a solution to the evil problem. It all has to go back to the beginning, Ash and the book. Great news for long-term ED fans, they get to see the infamous cabin again.
Ash is vulnerable, trapped in the vision quest. He’s ripe for Eligos to screw with mentally. The demon hijacks Ash’s trip and drags him mentally back to ValueStop, where the possessed Little Lori doll waits to finish their fight. But this is Ash’s vision. He’s the head honcho in charge. Ash changes the vision, attacking Eligos. In reality, he’s strangling Kelly’s possessed body. Unaware of the real situation, Pablo whacks Ash over the head to save Kelly.
Well, that’s a strange turn of events. How will Keligos fit into the new plan: Bury the Necronomicon at the cabin in the woods? Will Pablo trust Ash after the attack? Is this the delay Ruby needs to finally catch up with her prey?
Yo, where are you going? ID, please. The show we’re discussing uses profanity and contains adult situations.
Kelly still thinks she’s going to bat her eyes and get Ash to help. Man, she’s not paying attention. Ash is out to care for numero uno. In order to save his bacon, and by default everyone else’s, he’s gotta figure out what’s actually written in the Necronomicon. Thirty years schlepping the thing around and he didn’t think to do this before the end of the world is nigh? Man, and I thought I procrastinated hardcore. Kelly gives up simply asking for help and steals Pablo’s motorcycle so she can save her dad.
Oh and Pablo says she took the Necronomicon.
Cue a miraculous cleanup for Ash and Pablo, then we join them on the road. They’ve picked up a hitchhiker—Mr. Roper. Well, he’s DeadRoper now, and he still hates Ash with the fire of no less than ten-thousand suns. Most people do. He’s not unique. What is unique is the in-car fight between DeadRoper, Ash, and hapless Pablo. Pablo thinks he can learn to fight like Ash. He takes one hit, all Ash needs to get into Fight Mode. Pablo, “…but I just got hit; I don’t know what to do!” You’ll learn, Pablo, or you’ll die. He makes a valliant attempt to save Ash, smashing a bottle over DeadRoper’s head. Yeah, that’s not going to work. But it does give Ash something he can partially hack the Deadite’s head off with before pushing it out the window for an oncoming car to behead. Now they have to clean up again. Will someone test to see just how much blood a moist towelette can remove? For science.
Amanda Fisher is on Ash’s trail, following the weird breadcrumbs to what was once his doorstep. His neighbors have nothing nice to say. Nothing useful, either. Amanda finds the business card for the book store Ash is trying to get to, thanks to the severed arm he left behind. Not his own. Her chase for clues ends abruptly when the state police arrive, shooing her away because she’s still suspended. That’s okay. She’s got the card and saw the police sketch of Ash. It’s a no-brainer from here on out. Just like the Deadites Ash offed.
At Mr. Maxwell’s place all is . . . comfy and cozy? Well, crud. Ash and Pablo look like asylum escapees, covered in DeadRoper’s blood and wielding weapons. Surprise, Mrs. Maxwell wasn’t dead. (Liar) She had amnesia after the car accident. (Pants so on fire) But she’s slowly remembering everything again. Yeah. Right. Ash sees through her game. But is he just paranoid or is Mrs. Maxwell really DeadMom? They should stay for dinner and find out.
Ash oozes charm at dinner. No, wait, that’s the roast beef oozing. Never mind. Just when the schtick has hit the, “Maybe she’s not a Deadite,” point, Ash takes matters into his own fist. One shot to the jaw does the trick, bringing DeadMom to the surface. There’s a couple weird boomstick point-of-view shots, which I actually don’t hate despite the camera jiggling, during the fight. As usual, the physical action is astounding. The gore which comes as a result of the fighting is just as wonderful, done primarily with practical effects with a little digital to augment—which is how you do it, folks. DeadMom kills Mr. Maxwell. Then she and Kelly vanish.
Kelly runs upstairs to hide and figure out what’s going on with her family. DeadMom is there, pretending to be regular ol’ Mrs. Maxwell. Maybe they can find a way to help? Yeah, no. DeadMom attacks when Ash and Pablo join them in Kelly’s childhood room. Poor Pablo tries again to jump into the fray, stabbing DeadMom in the head. No good. It’s gotta be decapitation. And the only thing they have handy capable of severing heads ends up stuck in a wall at one point. Get control of your chainsaw, Ash. Sheesh. He does, of course, unleashing about five gallons of blood on Pablo and Kelly.
They bury Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell in the front yard. Kelly officially joins Team Badass. But, uh, what about the book? Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Pablo had it the entire time. That’s okay. They’re back on the road again, on the way to the bookstore. They better hurry. Amanda is waiting.