At its absolute best, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a blood-drenched, puss-spewing, ball-busting, hair-raising, gleefully maniacal piece of debauchery entertainment, one that liberally provides those who love its corny goofiness with plentiful servings. Though 23 years had passed since Bruce Campbell’s most iconic character, Ash Williams, hit the screen with Army of Darkness, the consistently energetic, massively heartfelt and lovingly deprived horror-comedy show from Starz didn’t miss a beat. What easily could’ve been another soulless ’80s retread quickly became not merely one of the best genre shows of 2015, but one of the year’s finest TV shows, period. Now, Ash is back for more and he’s as entertaining as ever.
Having said that, though it’s not without its similar charm and sincerity, season 2 doesn’t quite compete with the wicked mayhem of season 1. But that’s not to say it’s bad. No, Ash vs. Evil Dead is still the insanely bloody good time it was before; it just doesn’t quite have the magic, spark or surprise factor that made the first season such a smash success.
The nostalgia has settled back in and the extremism of the gory feels familiar now. It doesn’t quite capture that same bat-outta-hell excitement that made the previous season such a hit. But it’s still heart-pounding, soul-throbbing, bone-crushing goodness — even if it’s not quite as fresh, punchy and invigorating as it before. Ash might be a little more tired and set in his ways this year, but he still knows how to come out with a bang. With the first two episodes, he proves that season 1 was no fluke. Ash vs. Evil Dead is still the real deal, and it’s still one hell of a crazy ride. Buckle in and hold on tight, folks.
Having struck a deal with demon raiser Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless), Ash, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) are soaking up the sun and fun in Jacksonville, FL, which might as well be heaven for our delusional titular protagonist. He uses his supernatural superpowers on party tricks these days, winning friends old and young — and preferably mother and daughter — by shooting pigeoned beer cans and sawing through kegs with his trusted chainsaw. Ash is in paradise, but not for long. His humble life will soon become a living hell once again when the Necronomicon works its way back into his miserable little existence.
Deadites invade Jacksonville, and in their continued efforts to torment Ash, these undead spirits often choose his previous one-night-stands to spite him. Though the undead ghouls are no match for Ash and his trusted companions, he must depart from his trusted Jacksonville in order to head back to Elk’s Grove, his ill-forsaken small hometown, where Ash is summoned by a disturbed Ruby.
As it turns out, her demonic children have denounced her authority and plan to bestow an evil unlike any other onto this world, and as the proficiency states, only Ash gave them their proper ass-whopping. Life is never kind to Ash, especially with those in Elk’s Grove decrying him as Ashy Slashy — a.k.a. the resident who once chopped up his friends in a cabin and ditch town. He’s not deterred, however. Rather, he’s as resilient as he isn’t headstrong. But in the process of reacquainting himself with his roots, Ash is forced to reunite with his biggest opponent: his equally debased father (Lee Majors), who doesn’t take kindly to his son’s unannounced 30-year reunion.
Once again, the jokes remain winningly irreverent, the old-fashioned slapstick comedy is welcomed, the undead are ugly sons of bitches and there’s a lot of blood, muck, goo, smut, mucus, feces, dirt, grime and various bodily fluids — both human and otherwise — thrown and splattered all over the place. Things wouldn’t be the same without it, and thankfully, season 2 aims to retain the strict horror elements that were occasionally sacrificed for the punchlines in the first season.
Ash vs. Evil Dead remains as confident and comfortable with itself as before, never afraid to indulge in its own preferred level of slimy recklessness at any given moment. The Raimi influence is a little more faint this time — especially since the filmmaker isn’t around to direct the premiere this time — but it’s still felt, and it’s never fleeting. This show knows exactly what it wants to be, even when it can’t quite decide on its tone, and it celebrates its own brand of debased immorality with a winking eye and a naughty grin. It’s out for blood and vengeance, as always. Things are back to their (para)normal selves.
What continues to surprise, though, is the show’s engrossing depiction of Ash. Though Campbell’s character is often defined by his boneheaded simplicity, Ash vs. Evil Dead keeps finding fun and sometimes contemplative ways to keep his stubborn childishness, all while still reflecting and developing his pained and lasting character. Namely, as a tragic, disabled and hopeless alienated outcast who must often kill the ones he loves, then dice them up like Tuesday dinner in the process and then live with his heartache and emptiness for the rest of his existence.
Yet, despite it all, Ash always believes he’s the John Wayne of his life story: a handsome, suave, roguish bad boy with a heart of gold and adamant sex drive to boot. He’s ultimately his own greatest hero and villain, and that’s usually before the evil dead get involved in the picture.
Ash vs. Evil Dead season 1 cemented Ash Williams as one of my all-time favorite characters (especially as I’ve seen him in three different mediums by now: in the movies, on the stage and, now, on television), and season 2 continues to do him right. Majors, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as his cantankerous hound-dog of a father, a man whom carries a dependency for beer, women and snappy puns greater than his own screwy son. It’s an absolute joy to watch them grumble at one another in these first two episodes, and I can’t wait to see them bounce off one another more as the season continues.
Simply put, it’s brilliant casting, and this show continues to be —you probably guessed it — a pretty damn groovy time. Long live Ash Williams and long live Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 isn't as screamingly good as season 1, but it sure gets close and is still one hell of a bloody good time.