This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 Episode 2
One thing is highly apparent when watching the second episode of this tighter, more thoughtful third season of Ash vs Evil Dead: the show has finally realized how to properly utilize its cast of characters – and it’s about damn time.
In the past, Pablo and Kelly were mostly treated as extensions of Ash Williams. They were given basic tasks – like kill Deadites, confront their supernatural heritage, or deal with the emotional fallout of the horrific yet somehow hilarious circumstances that they survive from episode to episode.
Now, Pablo and Kelly are the ones who get to do the heavy lifting for the plot while Ash does what he does best: serve as the Homer Simpson-style comic relief and get into silly, bloody brawls with undead rejects. In other words, Pablo and Kelly deal with the drama and Ash handles the gags. This is fantastic, if not because it helps to define their characters in a clearer way, then because it makes the show feel exponentially more cohesive than it ever did in its first two seasons.
“Both Three” is an impressive follow-up to a fast and fun season premiere. It maintains the same manic sense of glee that pervaded throughout “Family,” but it quickly gets serious about its mythology in a way Ash vs Evil Dead has never done before, giving us actual, honest-to-goodness exposition about what exactly the forces of Evil itself are up to. And it’s not half-assed like it used to be, either.
We get a huge info-dump towards the beginning of the episode that’s the most well thought-out, detailed elucidation this series has provided us with to date. It helps that we have a character now who can do that sort of thing, though. Before, we didn’t have an outlet for expository goodness, save for the disposable people our heroes would encounter from episode to episode that would always turn out to be Deadite chow once they had served their purpose.
Now, we have Dalton. At first glance, Dalton seems like he’s just there to create some (very light) sort-of-romantic tension between Pablo and Kelly and help out with the ass-kicking duties. After watching “Both Three,” though, it’s obvious that Dalton is a functionary character, one Ash vs Evil Dead was in desperate need of but didn’t have the cojones to introduce until now.
Dalton crystallizes the fast and loose mythology of the series for once, providing explanations for all the confusing mayhem that we are bombarded with on a weekly basis. As I have mentioned in previous reviews, Evil Dead is not the sort of franchise that prioritizes lucidity or world-building, and when it does, it prefers to keep things simple and moving along rather than justify the unusual, wacky circumstances that plague our hero(es). Now that Dalton has been added to the mix, the series is more connected to its lore and feels comfortable with it, too.
Meanwhile, Brandy embodies something else that the show was missing: an emotional core. Kelly and Pablo were frequently relied on to give the proceedings a more humanistic feel, especially during the first year when Kelly was overcoming the loss of her mother and other traumas she survived. Although these instances undoubtedly made her a heroic figure in our eyes, it was hard to relate to or sometimes even fully absorb what she was going through, as they were usually undercut with cynical humor.
Now, Ash’s daughter Brandy brings a whole different flavor to the program, affording the show dramatic chops the likes of which it would have scoffed at previously. There needed to be a character who could appeal to our emotions, someone who could admit that what’s going on is absolutely nuts and would react accordingly. Brandy fits this role perfectly, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smoother introduction of a new main cast member on any television series before.
So, bravo Ash vs Evil Dead and Mark Verheiden for putting these two new characters in place to bring a sense of balance to what used to be an uneven experience.
Despite taking itself more seriously, this series is having way more fun with itself than ever before. The cinematography is more aligned with the Evil Dead films, with wind machines and dutch angles galore. Somehow, Ash is funnier and more realized than he ever has been, playing up the sitcom elements and the slapstick action while the kids are busy processing the more serious mechanics of the plot. I never thought I’d see Ash get into a sticky, slimy showdown in a sperm bank set to A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” If that sounds like gold on paper, that’s because it’s probably one of the best, most hilarious fight sequences this series has, well, taken on. I like that Ash is left to his own devices and given domain over the lighter, goofier side of the series. It feels right.
And what about Ruby, by the way? She’s downright terrifying now, but she’s also more likable than ever.
All in all, “Both Three” is a solid, fun thrill ride that makes you wish Ash vs Evil Dead was twice its length. More, please. Now.