Ash vs Evil Dead treated viewers twice during the penultimate episode of the season. The first was another throwback to the movies — this time the more comedic aspects of Army of Darkness — but the second had more to do with the identity of Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless) — a character with supposed ties to Evil Dead II. Spoilers abound, so if you haven’t watched “Bound in Flesh” yet, then read at your own risk.
We begin where “Ashes to Ashes” left off — with another reminder of just how great the films are. Instead of revisiting the more horrifying moments of the first two movies, however, “Bound in Flesh” recreates one of the most central fights in Army of Darkness. That is, Ash’s (Bruce Campbell) battle with himself.
In Evil Dead II, Ash saws off his right hand after the evil possesses it. The time-traveling, medieval-set sequel upped the ante with an evil double whom Ash initially defeats, then chops into bits and buries. However, the evil eventually reanimates the double so that he could raise an army against Ash and the locals.
“Ashes to Ashes” ends with yet another Ash double, this time sourced from his sawed-off hand. He kills Michigan state trooper Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), then dukes it out with the real Ash until the episode’s final moments. When Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago) make it to the cabin during this week’s cold open, the two Ashes are still beating the sh*t out of each other.
What follows is the kind of blood-soaked comedy fans of Campbell and creator Sam Raimi’s work were first introduced to in Evil Dead II. Army of Darkness expanded this aspect of the series to great effect, and Ash vs Evil Dead successfully reproduces it for television. Two Ashes — one is a socially regressive, cowardly anti-hero, and the other is the literal embodiment of evil. Hence why Kelly and Pablo have no problem determining which is which.
The comedy of the opening scene is a great throwback for fans of the movies. It’s also yet another example of how Ash vs Evil Dead has combined the most frightening, gory and funny aspects of the three original films and the 2013 reboot into one guts-filled package. Yet the television show isn’t just trying to repackage everything from the past. It’s also adding to Raimi’s rich mythology, and Lawless’ mysterious character is very much a part of that.
Way back in “Brujo,” the fourth episode of the season, she explained to Fisher that her name was Ruby Knowby, and that her family died at the cabin where Ash first encountered the evil in The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. Her character obviously wasn’t a part of either film, and that’s totally fine, but whether or not her name was actually Ruby (or if she was related to the Knowby family) wasn’t entirely clear.
That’s because she came back to life after a deadite pulled her into a fiery funeral pyre, causing both to erupt into flames. Ruby literally exploded, yet her reanimated body rose from the embers. That’s not really something any normal person can do, but let’s face it — there aren’t many normal people in Ash vs Evil Dead.
When Ruby and Ash finally come face to face towards the end of “Bound in Flesh,” she sticks to the story she told Fisher: “Why the hell are you on this property, and where’s the book you stole from my family?”
What follows is a pissing contest between the two, with Ash boasting his good deeds of the past 30 years, and Ruby insisting that her work has involved cleaning up after the hero’s many messes. Relaying that she had saved them all from the deadite Fisher, Pablo exclaims: “She’s a Knowby!”
Ash doesn’t buy it all, but when Ruby offers to take ownership of the book via a ritual, he sees an easy way out and takes it. That’s when the truth of Ruby’s true identity becomes readily apparent.
“Ruby, give me that book,” demands Ash. “You have no idea what you’re doing!”
Following a brief scuffle, lil’ Ruby Knowby launches Ash across the cabin with a supernatural blow and completes the ritual: “Of course I know what I’m doing. I wrote this book.”
So either she was Ruby Knowby before some other, older form of evil got its hand on her, or Ruby Knowby never existed. Perhaps Lawless’ character is simply the author of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, and she wants it back. Not to relieve Ash of his hero’s burden, but to unleash the Book of the Dead‘s contents across the world. Either way, we won’t know until the season finale of Ash vs Evil Dead airs next Saturday, Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.