By Steve Rosenstein
Ok, I just finished the season finale of Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz) and I immediately had to find out if there was going to be a season 2. It’s that good. That being said, I wasn’t always gung-ho about this project, especially after the disappointment of the film’s 2013 reboot. Fortunately, Raimi, Tapert and Campbell had learned their TV lessons well, as this series was basically everything a fan could want out of a 20+ year hiatus. Not that there hasn’t been material, not counting the above mentioned reboot, there have been several comic series that this series seems to have taken some of its cues from. There has been an evolution for Ash. Not in his personal growth; he’s still the idiot meathead that we all love; but now he shares the screen with a few more deadite hunters. This actually opens things up for Ash, as he no longer is restricted to being the only player in the game who isn’t looking to swallow a soul; he has the freedom of friends that are not simply potential victims, opening up the avenues of conversation, exposition and action. He is joined by Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) along with scores of deadites who are culled from human characters (as opposed to extras) adding a touch of drama to the mayhem.
To start at the beginning, it is 20 years after the events of the films. Ash has pretty much lived the life that is expected of him. One drunken night, while trying to impress a young woman (hey, it’s Ash, not Captain America we’re dealing with here), he reads a passage from the Necronomicon and shit hits the fan. With his fellow ValueShop employees at his side, he sets off to get rid of the evil once and for all. That’s pretty much the plot. In an interesting twist that is rare in the horror genre, the police begin an investigation after several deadites that happen to have been residents in Ash’s trailer park are killed. Also, Ash is pursued by Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless), daughter of Professor and Henrietta Knowby – the owners of The Cabin. Just the fact that there are three avenues of conflict that crop up in the first episode, opens up the series to being more than a 5 hour binge-fest of gore. And when the various factions catch up with Ash & Company, there just so happens to be ample occasion for cavalcades of carnage.
The first thing that hit me about this series was the soundtrack. It opens with Deep Purple’s Space Truckin’ and ends on AC/DC’s Back in Black. In between is a demographic-pleasing setlist of hard rock and R&B classics. We’ve got Funkadelic, Bootsy, Alice Cooper, PJ Harvey, and of course the aforementioned Deep Purple. Is it pandering? Probably. Did I love it? Definitely. Not only are these the sounds that those of us who are old enough to see the original films in the theater (or at least on VHS) are familiar with, but are the songs that El Jefe himself would find groovy. Even though the series is set in a modern (2015) setting, the music evokes a feeling for the time of the original films. For a full list: http://www.lyricsoundtrack.com/tv-shows/ash-vs-evil-dead-songs-1-music
I’m not going to lie; the soundtrack was the hook for me. It brought the whole series into focus and punctuated the gore and violence. This being the second thing, this is not Evil Dead in name only. It’s got the buckets of blood, dismemberment, camera work that we’ve all come to expect from an Evil Dead film without sacrificing the surreal cheesiness that is the franchise’s trademark. There is a nice blend of practical and CGI used and both are crafted to enhance the sense of splatterstick. And since Renaissance Pictures produces the series, they can (and do) use Evil Dead film flashbacks.
Structurally, the series is a series of 10 half hour episodes with an overarching plot. Each episode, while not strictly stand alone, contains its own vignette; the result being a fresh ‘conflict’ per episode that smoothly adds to the meta-plot. Unlike many contemporary TV series, which focus on stand-alone episodes with a meta-plot device tacked on to the beginning and the end of an episode (see Burn Notice), Ash vs Evil Dead’s episodes all add to the direction in which the plot is going; making for smoother storytelling.
So, as I was saying earlier, after I finished with the series, I had to go to the internet to see if there was going to be a second season. Fortunately for all of us, Ash Williams will return, as the series was renewed for a second season before it even aired! It’s that good. It’s about time somebody figured out how to go back to the well without pissing in it first.