This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 Episode 3
Mark my words: this is the best season of Ash vs Evil Dead. Ever.
The cast is on fire (most of the time, not literally), the jokes are ricocheting around the scenery like stray cartoon bullets, and the gore is flowing more smoothly than it has in years. With a clear plot structure in mind, this show has finally mastered the art of sequential storytelling.
New showrunner Mark Verheiden gets Evil Dead. He understands why it works and – more importantly – how. He knows that it’s not an empty exercise in horror for horror’s sake. It’s not about jumps and gasps; it’s about shocks and laughs. Verheiden understands that it has its own visual language and sense of humor that must be adhered to in order to feel authentic to Raimi’s original vision. This franchise can be likened to wandering around in a naughty after-hours funhouse, and this season is the first time the series has truly felt that way.
Season three’s storytelling style is much more efficient than what we’re used to. Rather than meander between gruesome set pieces, grasping for conflicts between its main characters that never quite landed right, Ash vs Evil Dead now cuts to the chase and ticks off its plot beats one at a time at a refreshingly breathless pace.
“Apparently Dead” is exemplary of the show’s newer, more confident format. There’s a lot going on and all of it holds our interest in the palms of its bloodstained hands.
For starters, Candy Barr’s funeral is an instant classic. Much like the sperm bank brawl we witnessed in the previous episode, Ash faces off against Deadite evil again and makes an unholy mess doing it. (Different body fluids are involved this time, though.) He horrifies everyone in the room and embarrasses the living heck out of himself and Brandy, giving us some serious laughs in the process. While I don’t quite buy the crowd’s reaction to the matter – or, should I say, the lack thereof – I do buy Brandy’s emotional response, which she sold unbelievably well.
Arielle Carver-O’Neill was a fantastic casting choice for this role, by the way. She gives a shockingly good performance as the doe-eyed, innocent “last girl standing in a horror flick” role. Her character represents vulnerability, something we’ve only seen brief flashes of in Pablo and Kelly, who were forced to suck it up and keep fighting evil as soon as they were introduced.
As stated before, Brandy is the emotional compass of the series now, but she also provides an ingredient AvED didn’t realize it needed until two seasons later: contrast. Never before have we viewed Ash and his weird world from the point of view of a true outsider that couldn’t keep up with him in some way or another. Pablo and Kelly came close, but they were destined to be wisecracking heroes from the get-go. Now that the show has this perspective, it feels more comfortable embracing Evil Dead‘s twisted legacy, making the easter eggs feel less like strategically placed stunts to please the fandom and more like actual, meaningful tributes to this decade-spanning horror franchise.
Speaking of which, “Apparently Dead” excavates the series’ past in a very literal way. Pablo, Kelly, and Dalton take a trip up to the woods to dig up the remains of the cabin and find the Kandarian dagger to stop Ruby, who is now posing as Brandy’s sneaky guidance counselor from hell. While there, the trio sifts through the destruction that the convoluted second season left in its wake, finding iconic curios from the past any fan will recognize.
But something unexpected happens once the dagger is actually found: our favorite new knight Dalton is flung through the air classic style and impaled on a nearby tree branch. In other words, he dies. Then, he comes back as a Deadite, and after Pablo runs him over, he dies again.
Yeah. Didn’t see that one coming.
Given the title of this episode, I’m not going to speculate too much on whether or not this is not a fakeout here, but I must say I am surprised that a character who serves such a useful function for this show as the expositor would be disposed of so quickly. Either way, I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this Knight of Sumeria. If this feeling turns out to be wrong, well…it was nice knowing you for a few minutes, buddy.
By the way, Dalton told Kelly that Pablo was responsible for his demise using his last breath. I like Pablo’s mysterious visits from his topless ancestor as much as the next guy, but now I’m wondering – is he going to be the big bad this year? I could see it happening, and it makes a lot of sense if you think about his character’s history, but if that means we would lose him as a cast member at the end of the season, no thanks.
Meanwhile, Ruby digs up a relic from AvED’s recent history: Brock Williams. Lee Majors’ return is a grotesque one at first, involving a scary shower scene lifted straight from a classic X-Files episode. He targets Brandy just like Ruby wanted, trying to manipulate her against Ash. This is all very truncated, but it makes more sense than Cheryl’s spontaneous comeback last year, the logic of which slightly annoyed me. (It was nice to have her back, though.) This leads into another knock-down, drag-out fight with Ashy Slashy that ends with Brandy being covered head to toe in blood and not looking too enthusiastic about it. What does he have to do to please his own daughter, anyway? Wait. That sounded…bad.
Anyway. Keep dazzling us, Ash vs Evil Dead. We love it. We need it. We want some more of it.
(Does anyone else have “Crimson and Clover” stuck in their heads now?)