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.