This Ash vs Evil Dead review contains spoilers.
Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 Episode 2
When Roger Ebert reviewed Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn back in 1987, he looked past the gore and the guts that casual viewers would be disgusted by and got what Sam Raimi’s was doing: the director was making a Three Stooges-inspired satirical romp dressed up like a midnight splatter flick for Halloween. Ebert articulated the charm of the film series that spawned it in one profound paragraph:
“I’m not suggesting that Evil Dead 2 is fun merely because you can spot the references to other movies. It is because (a) the violence and gore are carried to such an extreme that they stop being disgusting and become surrealistic; (b) the movie’s timing aims for comedy, not shocks, and (c) the grubby, low-budget intensity of the film gives it a lovable quality that high-tech movies wouldn’t have.”
Coincidentally, this also summarizes the appeal of this particular episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead in a nutshell. Go figure.
If you think about it, Dead by Dawn was a reboot of sorts. The events of the original film were remade within its first ten minutes. For truncation’s sake, several major characters were expunged – including Ash’s sister Sheryl. And thus an alternate timeline emerged in the canon, one that it would follow for years to come. It could be argued that the true Evil Dead “experience” begins with its sophomore effort, as it introduces the slapstick antics the franchise.
Like I said last week: Ash vs. Evil Dead is a superhero show. Just read the goddamn title, why don’t you? Sheesh. But let’s face it…it’s turning into a sitcom. A sitcom about what? Superheroes? American ignorance? Bad taste in general? Yes, baby. Yes to all the above. And we’re diggin’ it.
The inherent sitcominess wasn’t as overt in Season 1 as it is in Season 2, which already feels more light-hearted two episodes in. You can tell the creative team is no longer trying to make one big long Evil Dead movie anymore. They tried doing that last year and it was hard to keep the momentum going at certain points. Watching last week’s “Home” and “The Morgue” back-to-back showed me that Ash vs. Evil Dead is written more like a television series now. Multiple storylines are introduced, juggled, and synchronized now. Okay, fine. They did that last year to an extent, but now it’s more complex. Ash has its own mythology that it can play with now. That’s important for a TV show to have. The Evil Dead Trilogy‘s mythos wasn’t well defined, nor was it meant to be. But now Ash vs. Evil Dead seems to have its own timeline and its own set of rules.
Last year was about finding a balance between brutal horror and obnoxious humor. This year looks to be about camping it up and having some dirty fun along the way. Since this is a natural continuation of the franchise’s trajectory from video nasty shelves to more vaudevillian territory, I’m cool with that.
While I was watching “The Morgue,” I noticed the show is a lot like hanging out with a grizzled crew of standup comedians now. Each one is trying to impress the other with their latest zinger and one-liners are batted around like so many sarcastic ping pong balls. Bruce Campbell always has the final say because he’s the headliners (and his jokes are consistently the best). And Lee Majors is now here to roast him for that.
Let’s do our weekly check-in with Pablo and Kelly, shall we? I have to admit I found the Scrappy-Doos more endearing here than I did in the season premiere. Their dialogue this time around was sharp and their performances were charismatic. You can tell Santiago and DeLorenzo are having a ton of fun working on this show. Both are given something relevant to do. Kelly goes with Ash on a Doctor Who-esque trip to the morgue while Pablo gets stuck babysitting Ruby in Ash’s old room. This split-up served two functions: exploring the Necronomicon’s influence on Pablo and forcing Kelly into a confrontation with Sherriff Emery which I’m guessing will spark a larger conflict later on. (Plus, we finally got a reference to Baal who may or may not be a big bad for this season. Or maybe he’s going to be like one of those angel dudes on Supernatural. I dunno. We’ll see.)
I mentioned somewhere up there that Ash vs. Evil Dead is in its own timeline. I would say that’s the case. There’s proof in this episode when Ash flashes back to Sheryl being possessed in the first film. If she exists, and so do the other friends that “Ashy Slashy” is known to have chopped up, then it wasn’t just Linda and Ash that went up to the cabin like we saw at the beginning of both Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness. Looks like we’re going off of a third new timeline that incorporates all three of the film’s events that stems from the original. Or maybe I’m just overthinking it again as usual. Whatevs.
I debated on how long I should spend writing on this episode’s signature scene – a classic Evil Dead moment if there ever is one – in which Ash searches for the Necronomicon at the morgue and winds up getting his head forced up a dead man’s asshole. On paper, that sounds like it could be either very scary or very hilarious. What it turned out to be was a gross and wacky burlesque show. Despite the scatology, it was pulled off with a dash of cartoonish innocence that’s always at the core of Evil Dead’s crazy, perverted heart. But now we have to ask ourselves: where can the show’s gags possibly go from here to top a stunt like this?
Check out the release of the digital release of Issue 0 of Occult Generation, a comic book series that Stephen Harber is working on, later this week. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram too, if you feel so inclined.