Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 Finds Its Horror/Comedy Balance

The first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 feels like a fresh start for the series.

Ash vs Evil Dead has always been something of an imperfect show. Hell, I’m willing to bet that the folks involved would agree on that, too. After years of demanding an Evil Dead 4 or Army of Darkness 2 or more adventures of Bruce Campbell’s Ash in general, our wish was finally granted with a TV show dispensed in half hour installments, and one that leans more heavily on the comedy end of the Evil Dead horror/comedy formula than any other version of the story.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. What the hell were you expecting, something ponderous and joyless? If that were the case, the show would be called Ash vs The Walking Dead, because there’s already enough of that on TV. Still, Ash vs Evil Dead has always had a tough line to walk between an expanding (and confusing) mythology, the considerable comedic energy of its three terrific leads, and the requisite, over-the-top, gross out Deadite slashing goodness. For my money, the series didn’t completely find that balance until season two, and then it was off to the Oldsmobile races.

But holy moley, the season 2 finale sure confused the hell out of me, and I know I’m not alone. Ash and friends changed history to a certain extent and things are…a little different now? There’s supposedly less of this particular brand of evil in the world now, because nobody has been stupid enough to read the Necronomicon out loud…until, of course, somebody is. And make no mistake, somebody does exactly that in the Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 premiere.

But until that moment (which doesn’t take long…30 minute episodes, remember?), for just a few minutes, it does seem like Ashley J. Williams has finally caught a break. He’s running a hardware store in Elk Grove, Pablo is in one piece, Kelly still finds ways to kick some ass. It’s like a happy ending, except, y’know, at the beginning. So of course horrible things need to happen.

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This season of Ash vs Evil Dead has itself a new showrunner in Mark Verheiden (of Battlestar Galactica fame), potentially more timeline weirdness than the franchise already had going for it, and a new (permanent?) home in Elk Grove. That’s not all that’s new. Ash’s actual family expands yet again this season, and it looks like our extraordinarily brutal version of the Scooby Gang is getting at least one other new member as well.

While the first episode screened for a crowd at New York Comic Con, I’m committed to keeping this spoiler free for you since it won’t hit TV and streaming until February 25th. What I can say is that it feels like a solid way to reset things after an uneven end to the second season. I suppose for fans who are still waiting to give this show a try, it might even function as an easy entry point/new beginning (assuming you’re already familiar with/accepting of the general insanity of the overall Evil Dead timeline). There’s a more solid balance with the horror and comedy elements (could this be the influence of the new showrunner at work?), with the comedy highs coming early in the episode, a genuine scare or two coming in a high school hallway about midway through, and one of the most creative Deadite kills in franchise history to top things off.

Will this season’s soft reset be enough to expand the show’s audience? Maybe. I’m not really the best judge on this, as I’ve been drinking the corn syrup with this franchise since I was a teenager. I get the feeling that even if Ash vs Evil Dead remains a cult TV show, that it wouldn’t have it any other way. One thing I do know, is that based on this episode, season three is looking pretty groovy so far.

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3 returns to Starz on February 25, 2018. We’ll have lots more on the new season coming soon! Follow Mike Cecchini on Twitter for assorted wisecracks and useless information.

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