This review contains spoilers.
1.10 The Dark One
If last week’s episode asked us who Ash Williams really is, then this week’s finale gave us the definitive answer that we’ve known all along; he’s an idiot. A simple, none-too-bright guy who makes mistake after mistake due to his own inability to think things through or see beyond his own desires. He is, on paper, singularly unsuited to be a hero. And yet, he means well. Does that sound like damning him with faint praise? It’s not meant to. Ash may be an idiot, but he wants to do the right thing and that is what gives him the edge over the Ruby Knowbys of the world. That is what makes him worth rooting for despite the stupid comments, casual racism and continuous screw ups. And that is what makes his final error so ultimately tragic; he sold out the world to save his friends and despite Pablo and Kelly’s warnings, he had no idea he was doing it.
Should Ash have realised he was making a deal with the devil? Obviously. Nothing in Ruby’s behaviour made us think she was trustworthy. But after everything Ash has been through, doesn’t it make sense that he was looking for an easy escape that was never going to present itself? None of this is meant to justify the sheer idiocy of his final decision, but it does explain it and make him a believable, flawed hero worth investing in as we go forward into what is bound to be an explosive second season.
But, prior to looking forward, there’s plenty to talk about from what proved to be a great finale to a great first season. Picking up from last week’s killer cliffhanger, the carnage, true to form, did not abate. We had the quick dispatching of Officer Fisher, Pablo being horrifyingly used to create weird creepy undead children, and Heather, who I had sort of hoped was going to stick around, literally exploding. Or being torn apart. Or something. Whatever it was it was horrifying, although it gave Kelly a very funny attempt at a badass moment with trying and failing to kick her severed head.
Kelly really came into her own this week as, with Ash and Pablo otherwise occupied, she had to take charge and attempt to save both of them. Seeing her step up to the plate was awesome, even if all it ultimately amounted to was a lot of badass lines and a (possibly unsuccessful?) attempt to burn down the cabin. Anyway, she did eventually get in and turn the tide of the final showdown with Ruby, which, as it always had to, finally came down to what Ash was willing to do to save his friends. Ash’s arc from irresponsible drifter to protective father figure has been possibly the best thing about a stellar first season, a subtle transformation that compromised none of what was great about him and ultimately made him a richer, more loveable character. Last week teased us with the question of whether Ash really wanted to get rid of the book, and this week answered it; maybe part of him doesn’t want to let go of his role as a hero (luckily for us that part won’t have to) but overall, what he really wants is peace, riding off into the sunset with his newfound family. And while the ending was not played as a moment of great pathos, there is some implicit sadness in knowing that these three won’t find peace anytime soon. But not much sadness because their ongoing peril means more of this show and who is going to complain about that at this point?
Look, I had doubts about whether this series would work. Even as a fan of the Evil Dead movies who was quite happy to get more Ash Williams in any form, I couldn’t shake the concern that film and television are very different mediums and what worked in a classic horror trilogy might not work over the sustained narrative of an ongoing television series. But those doubts didn’t last long. Ash Vs Evil Dead delivered a fun, exciting, creepy first season that expanded on what we already knew about the world and Ash as a character all the while forging ahead with an original story that neither felt like a retread or a compromise of anything the series had done before.
It’s actually staggering, the feat this series has achieved. Army Of Darkness came out almost twenty four years ago and while the remake certainly had its merits, it never really felt like part of the series. As the true belated follow up to the beloved originals, Ash Vs Evil Dead had some major expectations to contend with, and so easily could have been another disappointing continuation that left fans wishing the series had not been revived. Yet, by leaning into what made the original films great and subtly developing Ash as it went, the show satisfied and then some. It’s hard to imagine any fan of the franchise being unhappy with what we got over these last ten weeks.
So what next? Luckily a second season has already been confirmed and with Ruby Knowby apparently in charge of some hellish monsters, things are only looking to get worse for our heroes. I’m still a little fuzzy on the details of Ruby’s involvement; if she really did write the book, how long has she been around for, and furthermore, does that mean she isn’t actually a Knowby? Hopefully we get answers to these questions in the second season. The new elements of the mythology have by and large been really cool, and more of that would not go amiss in whatever comes next.
But above all, it’s been the characters that I would put forward as the biggest success of the series. Pablo and Kelly initially seemed like distractions from Ash, but before long we got to the point where losing either of them would really hurt and I’ll admit to breathing a sigh of relief when they were both still standing by the time the credits rolled. I’ve said over and over again how winning I find their dynamic, and it’s that above anything that I’m looking forward to more of when these guys get back to action later this year.
Last note. Ash uses shoe polish on his hair. How perfect is that?
Read Gabriel’s review of the previous episode, Bound In Flesh, here.