This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 Episode 10
I’ve got a theory. I think the cast and crew of Ash vs Evil Dead knew this would be its final season going into it. At least, that’s the impression I got when I interviewed a few of them. They made specific mentions to its ending would be emotional and game-changing. And Campbell himself didn’t have much to say about whether or not the series would still be on the air for Evil Dead’s upcoming 40th anniversary year. After watching “The Mettle of Man”, it’s clear to see that it was intended to serve as a series finale.
That’s not to say that I can’t see the show continuing on into a fourth season. It would be a wildly different format, at least for a little while.
It makes sense that there are only three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead. There are only three Evil Dead films, after all.
One thing we never got to see in the Evil Dead universe was a worldwide apocalypse go down. Now we can safely say that we have. It’s abbreviated, truncated, and, yes, a little on the rushed side. Either way, it’s ours at last – and it’s a memorable one to boot.
I’ve drawn parallels between Ash vs Evil Dead and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel before. Sometimes they’re deserved and other times they’re just me projecting my pop culture knowledge onto the canvas of this show. This time around, however, AvED really does mimic Buffy’s style of closing out a season with a big bang, plenty of action sequences, and a boatload of emotion. “The Mettle of Man” reminds me of Buffy’s fifth season finale, “The Gift”, in the best ways possible. That particular hour – which also served as its 100th episode extravaganza – reminded us why its eponymous character was a hero as she met her fate confronting universe-shattering consequences. It was a spiritual checkpoint for its protagonist and her supporting characters, marking how far they all had come over the course of the show’s run.
That’s more or less what “The Mettle of Man” sets out to do in half the running time. And it succeeds. Big time.
Every few minutes, we’re reminded why Ash Williams is a hero. We’re not beaten over the head with it, but we are prompted to remember that Ash isn’t just a living, breathing Homer Simpson covered from head to toe in someone else’s blood; he’s the only man who has stood between us and the armies of darkness for decades. Deep down, we never truly forgot that, but it was increasingly difficult to take Ash’s character seriously as AvED continued on.
Brandy, Ash’s daughter, drives this point home more than anyone when she gives her father a much-needed pep talk during the first act after he admits that he doesn’t know why he matters to the world.
“Why me? Who am I?” he asks. “Nobody. Nobody. A guy from Elk Grove, Michigan. Where the fuck is that? The middle of jack shit nowhere, that’s where. You know what? I didn’t ask for this. You think I want this horse shit, to be covered in blood 24/7? Who the fuck would want that? Savior my ass. I’m a goddamn failure.”
Campbell delivers this bit as an emotional breakdown, starting off humorously and ending off in a tragic, uncertain place. It’s the best dramatic performance we’ve seen from him (as Ash) in quite some time, and it really works. As far as emotional material goes, Campbell hasn’t had a lot to work with the past two seasons. Introducing his daughter did a nice job to flesh out this side of the show, but most of that storyline got lost in the shuffle of what turned out to be a remarkably crammed and downright insane year of television. “Mettle of Man” ends this shaggy dog story of a season in high style, and in the most heroic way possible, in under a half-an-hour.
So then. Why is Ash considered a hero, despite his numerous character flaws?
Simple. Because he saves the day. He may not save everyone, but he never said that he would. He believes that everyone should do their part in saving their own asses. He’s not going to do all the work. But, he will take a stand against the forces of evil and get into wacky Three Stooges brawls with them. He’ll also vanquish the most despicable demons with a bong in one hand and a chainsaw on the other like it’s just another day at the frat house.
That, and he makes us laugh. There’s something oddly inspiring about his bone-headed demeanor and how he applies it to the direst of situations. In that respect, Ash Williams is a light in the darkness.
He’s also misunderstood. He’s the underdog, the outcast, the anti-social grump that has no credibility whatsoever. He passes this mantle on to Brandy when he hands her the necklace he gave Linda in the very first Evil Dead film, the one that looks like a magnifying glass of some sort. (Remember that?) He mentions that he thinks it’s kept him safe all these years, which signals that he might die at the end of this battle with the giant evil scary demon thing. But he doesn’t.
Instead, after taking on the monster in a stolen tank, Ash is abducted by a Knight of Sumeria and buried in a casket somewhere until he wakes up in an underground chamber in a post-apocalyptic future and is revived by a female cyborg who introduces him to a souped-up version of the Delta, complete with gun turrets and the whole nine yards. The rest of the world, it appears, is a wasteland ruled by the Dark Ones. Ash “The Savior” is still the only one who can protect the remnants of humanity from being wiped out with his new robotic hand. Thus, the saga continues…but only in our imaginations (or, alternatively, the inevitable comic book continuation that Dynamite will probably release at some point).
And so Ash vs Evil Dead comes to a close, stripping away the side-characters we’ve grown to know and love as well as the setting of Elk Grove. Ash is on his own again – discounting the presence of his new sidekick – just as he was at the beginning of the series. He’s back to being a dangerous (and dangerously funny) man of mystery once more. Even though I will miss Ash vs Evil Dead‘s presence on the airwaves, as well as a weekly dose of Bruce Campbell in his most recognizable role, I can’t think of a better send-off for his character. Can you?
Hail to the king, baby.
The Top 5 Highlights of “The Mettle of Man” are…
1. Kelly’s resurrection. I was nervous for a while, but I’m happy that they brought Kelly back to life at the last minute. I’m also glad Pablo got to give her a big ol’ kiss on the lips – again.
2. The special effects. This was an event unlike any we’ve ever seen on this show before, or in the feature film trilogy.
3. The Deadite fights. I love watching Ash and the Scrappy-Doos fighting a whole room full of Deadites. They should have done this more often in retrospect.
4. The callbacks to “El Jefe”. “Space Truckin'” was played over the ending sequence, just as it was featured at the beginning of the pilot episode. There are other easter egg references…did you catch them?
5. The fact that a TV series based on Evil Dead starring Bruce Campbell as Ash even existed in the first place. It was nothing short of a miracle.