This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 8
Speaking as a Evil Dead fan who grew up watching the classic trilogy over and over again, I had to think long and hard about this week’s episode to figure out what my thoughts are on it. Having watched “Ashes to Ashes” a couple times now, it’s clear that it might cause a stir amongst more than a few hardcore Deadites. Remember when I was excited back in “Brujo” when it was revealed that Ash vs. Evil Dead was heading back to the deadly, zany old cabin where it all started over thirty years ago. I imagined a twisty and turny pathway back there, one that had a significant buildup, smirk-inducing callbacks and plenty of surprises. But here we are, folks. Back to the beginning already.
Yet seeing the show’s interpretation of the iconic set gave me a visceral reaction I wasn’t expecting to have. I was shocked at how it’s presented as just another moody crime scene and not the legendary demonic sentient funhouse it used to be. Yes, it’s a brand spanking new set. Yes, the layout is convincing and it looks the same. Yes, it’s a sight for sore eyes. But there’s something missing. Oh well. At least evil renovated the place after most if it got sucked into a rip in the fabric of time and space. Or did that even officially happen now? I don’t know anymore. Move along.
Maybe nothing’s wrong with the cabin itself. Maybe it’s just that Agent Fisher was barging in on the precious one on one time we wanted Ash to have with the place again. At last, our hero revisits the setting of 96% of every single nightmare he’s repressed for three decades, and the most underdeveloped character in the whole show tags along for the grand tour. Not cool. This honor should have gone to Pablo and Kelly, since that would have lead to some very entertaining moments, wouldn’t it? But no. Denied. And almost as soon as we enter the cabin, Ash makes a reference to the remains of his girlfriend being in the toolshed.
Right from the get go, the overnight sensation of Ash/Fisher pairing is the front and center of the storyline, like they’ve spent all this time together offscreen sometime between the past two episodes. She races to catch up with Ash, ready to throw herself at a man who did nothing short of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom and constantly speaks to her as a sex object, because she’s just Agent Fisher, the detective from some Wednesday night cop show on FOX who stumbled into the Evil Dead universe. We don’t know how it happened, but she’s here, so run with it.
But Ash vs Evil Dead is doing that thing again. You know what I mean. The thing where it adds an extra layer of emotion to Ash’s character that wasn’t touched on before this TV show aired, throwing off the franchise’s tone just a little bit. It’s not that Ash never had these quiet emotional moments, it’s just that he’s never had them in front of us before. (Some of his brief reaction scenes in the first Evil Dead don’t count in my book.) There’s something totally different about the way he approaches being at the cabin this time that’s missing a sense of humor. And, surprisingly, suspense. I wanted there so badly to be some twisted house gag thrown in there somewhere, but alas, this isn’t Evil Dead 2.
There’s also something weird about witnessing Ash argue with the severed head of faux-Linda sitting in the exact same vice in the exact same woodshed where it was left in the mid-’80s, justifying his “relationship” with Amanda. And, no, it’s not just because it’s a weird situation in general. It’s just, why would Ash be letting that get to him this late in the game? I’d have figured that he’d smash in its skull as soon as it started talking. Instead, we sit through a drawn out sequence of psychological torture in which the evil taunts him, telling him he’s always going to be alone no matter what. It’s true, Ash. You smell that bad.
Meanwhile, as Agent Fisher gets to snoop around the cabin, what are Pablo and Kelly up to? Oh, you know. Just wandering through the woods carrying automatic weapons, trying to catch up to their friends. They run into a group of New Zealanders who are hiking in the area on their vacation. They point our favorite Scrappy Doos towards the direction of the cabin, since they passed by it earlier. As soon as they walked on the screen, I recognized this group of Kiwis as fodder for most of the video nasty horror action that’s about to go down in episode nine and ten. Looking forward to that.
So…we should really talk about Ash’s evil twin, shouldn’t we? It’s kind of a big deal. Who would have thought that Ash’s old hand could regenerate a sinister genetic copy of its host body in just a matter of, I don’t know, fifteen minutes or less? Sounds like something that would be fun to watch happen on screen in some comically disgusting montage, like back in the good old days.
Although I’ve been fairly outspoken about my issues with the way Amanda Fisher’s character has been handled, her death is offensive in this episode, and equally disturbing to watch. Although not quite on par with Maddie’s death in Twin Peaks, it certainly ranks in the top ten in terms of suddenness and brutality. Fisher’s character may have been made of bubble wrap, but watching Evil Ash pulverize, violate and murder the show’s only black female character was not a fun experience for me. It felt downright ugly, in fact. And strangely incongruent with what we’ve seen of the badass detective so far. But, hey, at least she got to chop up the hand. But it is what it is, and Evil Ash is instantly (and very clearly) a sickening force to be reckoned with.
This is understandable from a storytelling perspective. In a show where there’s a new form of shock horror in every episode, Ash vs Evil Dead has to amp up the wickedness of final Big Bad. Since this season’s Big Bad is Ash himself (which has been hinted at since the premiere), we must literally split the character of Ash into his two basest forms, the loveable goof and the complete a**hole, and make clear distinctions between them. Pitting these sides of Ash against each other is a great concept, even if rehashed, and I can see it going to some hilarious places. That time it happened in Army of Darkness was pretty funny, right? Before the evil one turned into a skeleton warrior, anyway.
The final fight between the two Ashes at the end of the episode is a fun throwback to the slapstick that made the classics what they are, even if it felt like a tonal whiplash moment after Fisher’s gory demise. I’m looking forward to seeing how the two duke it out in the next and final two episodes of this season.
– All in all, it is good to have the cabin back, even if the new set is proof that you can never really go back home again.
– I like that the Evil Ash twin is so identical looking that it’s reinforcing that perspective that Good Ash is actually a crazy psychotic man that’s the root of all this evil, especially in the eyes of Pablo and Kelly.
– Linda made a reference to Jacksonville, Ash’s favorite place in the world (that he’s never been.) Wonder if he’s going to run away to there after the finale.
– I wonder what’s in that cellar now…
– Love that the Professor Knowby’s recorder started playing randomly. Nice touch.
THE NOT SO GROOVY
– Speaking of Knowby-s….what no, Ruby this time? I was hoping she’d catch up to the gang by now at least.
– I’m confused at the passage of time in this episode. How long was Ash stuck in the woodshed? Hours? Wouldn’t Fisher have went out and looked for him if he had been gone that long? And what of the hand’s regenerated body? How long did that take to grow again? And why did Fisher and the kids split up? They should have stayed together. Ugh. Fine. No more questions.
– “The Two of Us Together” by Don Gibson and Sue Thompson (ironically played during the end credits)