This article contains spoilers for Ash vs Evil Dead. (Obviously.)
Sniff sniff. Do you smell something burning? Hmm…
Oh hey. Maybe it’s that bridge over there connecting Ash vs Evil Dead to its former showrunner Craig DiGregorio. Damn, that thing is lit up like my uncle at a baby shower. What the fudge happened? And is anyone going to call the fire department? No? Nobody?
Just kidding folks. I know what’s going on (and I don’t really have an uncle). But if you need catching up, allow us to fill you in on all the gory deets. We’re talking figurative gore this time, not literal gore. We’ll save that for the TV series itself.
Shortly after Ash vs Evil Dead’s second season finale aired last Sunday, The A.V. Club’s Michael Roffman published an extensive interview with Craig DiGregorio about the many reasons why he recently decided to step down as showrunner. But when we say “many reasons” we actually mean “one specific uncomfortable situation that could no longer be tolerated” – i.e. his working relationship with the series’ executive producer Robert Tapert.
“I got along with [Sam Raimi] perfectly. He was amazing and such a great collaborator—Bruce [Campbell] as well,” DiGregorio stated in the interview. “But they had a third person as their producer [Robert Tapert] and a lot of times we wouldn’t see eye to eye on stuff. He’s a great person and producer, but creatively, we just didn’t have the same taste at all. So, that’s what led to my decision. He owns part of the property and had a lot of creative opinions, but it was my job to creatively steer the show and so it became a hindrance.”
Irreconcilable creative differences are a pain in the ass to deal with, especially when both parties want to pin down the creative direction for a TV show that’s based on a beloved horror franchise which spans decades.
“’This is not Evil Dead‘ would be something that was said a lot, and the end of the day, you can’t really get too much done if the person who is creatively steering things and the person who is physically producing things aren’t agreeing on what is Evil Dead.”
Seeing as Mr. Tapert (aka Mr. Xena) has been a central figure in Raimi’s gang of shemps and screwheads since day one – producing not only the entire original trilogy and the 2013 remake that puts me to sleep, but all of their forays into television as well (M.A.N.T.I.S. included) – you’d think he’d have a pretty firm grasp on what Evil Dead is and what it isn’t. But not so, says DiGregorio.
“…[Tapert] wants what he thinks is best for the show, but so do I, and at the end of the day, we just didn’t think that was the same thing,” DiGregorio said. “That made my job very difficult.”
Craig DiGregorio comes from a background of writing some really friggin’ funny cult hits like Chuck, Reaper, and – my personal favorite – Ugly Americans. He revealed in this exclusive interview that as showrunner, he was devoted to keeping things light by maintaining a fine balance between laughter and splatter.
“It was very important to me that the show would never take itself too seriously because it’s about a guy with a chainsaw on his hand. I don’t know how to do the highly dramatic version of that show and, honestly, I think if you watch the highly dramatic version of that show, it would fall flat.”
The final straw that broke the Deadite’s back was when Tapert and DiGregorio butted heads over the original script for the season two finale, which was wildly different than what made it to the little screen.
For those of you who dared to miss yours truly’s review, let’s just say I wasn’t particularly happy with how cobbled together the finale that aired felt even if I did give it a decent rating. That final sequence with the town celebration for Ash made my soul want to vomit. The time travel plot holes were more gaping than any you’d find in a Power Rangers episode. And that part where Lee Majors’ ghost dissolves into a chainsaw? Yeah. I should stop. I’m about to hulk out again. (Ooh! Can I be the grey one this time?)
It’s comforting to know that this mess wasn’t intentional, but when I read DiGregorio’s explicit description of his version of the finale, I can’t say I would have liked that much better. But looks like we’re going to talk about it anyway because that’s why you clicked on this article in the first place.
Long story short: Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2 was supposed to end with Ash being Kelly’s dad.
Why? Because time travel.
The original finale script picks up where “Home Again” left off, in the cabin in the 1980s. There’s some Necronomicon drama, ‘80s Ruby meets Our!Ruby, yadda yadda. Then Ash decides to go track down his father Brock to ask him about that big secret he wanted to tell Ash before he got ran down by the Evil!Delta. So he goes to the bar to find him, and…
“Ash doesn’t see his dad, but does see a nice young lady, who seems very sad because she just got passed over for a teacher position. She’s distraught, and Ash, having learned a lot about how you can fail and come back from it, starts talking to her very genuinely in the charming Bruce way. They end up drinking together and go in a bathroom stall to have some early-’80s unprotected sex,” DiGregorio said. “What you don’t realize is that the woman Ash is having sex with is Kelly’s future mother [a young Suzy Maxwell]. So, what happens is that Kelly, while running in the woods, all of a sudden feels her entire being change and drops the book. That’s when 1982 Ruby catches up and realizes what just happened. She looks through the Necronomicon and sees Ash’s picture, and then next to it, a picture of Kelly starts to appear. Because of the unprotected bathroom stall incident, Kelly has become Ash’s daughter.”
“I know that, time travel-wise, Ash becoming Kelly’s dad is nonsense—but time travel is inherently nonsense and we wanted to have some fun with the medium. That was what we intended to do,” DiGregorio continued. “There were a lot of fun time travel things, too. You know how Kelly always has on that anchor necklace? We were going to set up that Ash gives that necklace to Kelly’s future mom in the bar to make her feel better. And close observers would know that is the same necklace that Kelly has worn for the whole series, so Kelly’s mom passed it on to Kelly at some point. But it originated with Ash.”
Wow. You thought Ash had an ego problem before…
In DiGregorio’s perfect world (which is presumably Tapert’s worst nightmare), Season 3 would have centered around Ash chasing after Kelly like the prodigal daughter in distress she was always intended to be and Pablo getting jealous because, well, he’s Pablo.
“The whole season was a setup. I mean, honestly, if you go back and watch through, we even have lines in early episodes where Ash says, ‘Glad you’re not my kid.’ We set up little things like that because we knew we were doing this the whole entire time. We were making Kelly more and more badass because we really wanted her to be Ash’s heir apparent,” DiGregorio stated. “Not to marginalize Ash at all, but we thought it would be so much more emotional for him to be able to start season three knowing that he has this daughter, and since it’s Kelly, he would already have these feelings for her and that would inform his quest to go find her. Not to mention Pablo’s feelings.”
And here I thought DiGregorio wasn’t interested in writing a more dramatic version of Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Or maybe he was.
See, I have this theory that there’s a timeline in which Craig DiGregorio did actually see his precious Ash-Porks-A-Young-Mimi-Rogers plot twist come to pass and did indeed get to write his soapy version of Season 3. But doing so indavertantly created a domino effect that caused World Wars III, IV, and V to happen in rapid succession. Thus, he traveled back in time and told his present day self to step down as showrunner so that history would change. But then DiGregorio went further back in time, way back to the 1950s like an impressionable young Michael J. Fox, to become Robert Tapert’s father out of spite. Now, in this new and improved timeline, Clark DiGregorio might not be on the show’s staff anymore, but he ultimately has the upper hand because he secretly fathered Lucy Lawless’s husband. So booyah, I guess.