When Bruce Campbell spoke with us about Ash vs Evil Dead last year, the first season finale was at hand and nothing about the character had really changed. Or at least that’s what he wanted us to believe, that despite the 23-year gap between the Halloween premiere and Army of Darkness, Ash had “been doing jack shit.” Campbell insisted, “There’s no backstory to do. He hasn’t been doing anything. He’s been hiding. He’s been PTSD-ing.” Yet episodes like “Ashes to Ashes” proved this wrong with deep dives into The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II lore, and season two’s inclusion of Lee Majors as Ash’s father offered further evidence to the contrary. Despite the actor’s sentiment for the character, Ash was changing before our very eyes.
As he should, because without the faintest modicum of narrative progression, an arc-less Ash in Ash vs Evil Dead wouldn’t have resulted in a second season — let alone a third. Hence Majors’ casting as Brock Williams and the season two premiere‘s need to send Ash, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) to the titular hero’s hometown in small-town Michigan. The results so far have portrayed him as — per Campbell’s prior insistence — a mostly unchanged individual, though one whose past is far more complicated than Evil Dead fans and himself have ever realized. Which is why “Confined” stands out well beyond previous episodes featuring father and son “bonding” time between Ash and Brock.
If the first third of season two was all about exploring Ash’s past, then last Sunday’s episode emphasized what could have been. Specifically, with his Elk Grove rival Thomas Emery (Stephen Lovatt), who became sheriff after “Ashy Slashy” skipped town, and former girlfriend Linda (Michelle Hurd), whom Emery married. Together, the pair and their daughter Lacey (Pepi Sonuga) remained in a place that, along with Brock and Ash’s best friend Chet (Ted Raimi), cast him out following the events of the first two Evil Dead films. But what if a much younger Ash, his sister Cheryl and their friends hadn’t driven out to that cabin deep in the Michigan woods? What if they’d never discovered the Necronomicon Ex Mortis and the professor’s old recordings of its incantations? Who might Ashley “Ash” J. Williams have become instead?