Ash vs Evil Dead treated its audience to one of television’s most sudden (and violent) endings in the final moments of “Last Call.” As shocking as it was, however, the second season’s third episode stands out for an entirely different — and far more positive — reason: the onscreen reunion of longtime friends and collaborators Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi. Ever since the latter’s older brother, Sam Raimi, directed both in 1981’s The Evil Dead, the pair has become virtually inseparable in front of and behind the camera. Hence why the showrunners’ decision to cast Ted as Ash’s longtime friend and lone Elk Grove supporter, Chet Kaminski, makes so much sense.
“Chet is a guy who is from Elk Grove, this little town in Michigan he and Ash both grew up in. Ash has very little motivation to do anything, but Chet has even less,” Raimi tells us. “He’s the sort of pal you would never, ever want to bring home to your parents, but the kind of guy you’ve always wanted to hang out with after your parents go to sleep.”
To date, Raimi and Campbell have co-starred in everything from Sam’s Spider-Man films to the hugely popular ’90s series Xena: Warrior Princess. These were generally minor, supporting roles played by both or either, but with all the fanfare generated by Ash vs Evil Dead‘s second season on Starz, Chet will hopefully stick around long enough to egg on Ash for several episodes. Besides, as Raimi puts it, “While many people in Ash’s life believe he is responsible for the murder of those kids back in the ’70s, Chet’s one of the very few people who stands by him. He’s is a good guy to have around, even though he’s completely useless.”
“Useless” may or may not be an apt description of Chet. Per fellow cast member Dana DeLorenzo, who plays Kelly Maxwell, “entertaining” may be a better word as having Campbell and Raimi together on set was more “like ‘The Ted and Bruce Show'”: “I cannot wait for you guys to see season two just for the two of them, because you can’t fake that kind of chemistry. Off set they were doing impressions constantly, like when it was lunch. Sure we work hard, but they knew how to keep us entertained. Especially at poker night’s at Bruce’s house. Or billiards nights. It was a show within a show.”
Nor is this any different from their days on Xena, as confirmed by the warrior princess herself, Lucy Lawless: “It’s always been like that from the start. Dinner at one of our houses is just like a Stooges movie the whole time. The conversation is just non-stop banter. I invited this girl who was a stand-in from Xena to come to one of these dinners and she was appalled. She wanted to ask me, ‘So Lucy, tell me about your studies…’ And they were like, ‘Bah!’ They completely drowned out any intelligent discussion. Anyway, she didn’t ever come back to our dinners.”
Ash and Chet’s banter at the beginning of “Last Call” is by no means a “show within a show,” but the characters’ rapport lends plenty of credence to DeLorenzo and Lawless’ descriptions. When viewers first see them at a local dive bar, they’re describing a signature party cocktail to Kelly, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Ruby (Lawless) the same way late night infomercial salesmen brandish their wares. It’s all a load of crap, but impossible not to watch.
“C’mon, seriously! You never heard me talk about Chet?” Ash responds when Kelly asks who he is. “No-Fret Chet. My main man. My number one partner in crime!” The old friends utter the last two words of Ash’s sing-song in unison, all while the bartender mixes up several servings of the aforementioned drink, “Pink F*ck.” Which, as Chet describes with glee, “is a proprietary mix of liquors and spirits, garnished with orange rind and nutmeg. Oh! And there’s a shit-ton of ketamine in it.”
At the end of the previous episode, “The Morgue,” a bunch of local kids stole Ash’s beloved Delta 88 — which happened to have the Necronomicon stowed away in the back seat. To attract the youths’ attention, Ash enrolls his old buddy to throw a massive party. It’s not the most plausible narrative conceit for including Chet (and Raimi), yet this is Ash vs Evil Dead — the same program in which Campbell’s titular hero did battle with a corpse’s reanimated colon. Logic isn’t a top priority for showrunner Craig DiGregorio and his creative team, and considering the show’s success, the fans don’t seem to care.
Despite all the fanfare, a cumbersome downside to Campbell and Raimi’s reunion lurks throughout the episode — its brevity. Aside from Pink F*ck’s introduction in the first act, the two old friends don’t really spend all that much time together onscreen. Chet reappears for a brief scene with Kelly and Pablo, and occasionally populates the background during smaller cutaways scattered throughout the party, but that’s it. Ash vs Evil Dead leaves the audience hanging, and maybe that’s the idea. To bring viewers back next week, and the week after that, with promises of more buddy comedy tucked in between all the blood and gore.
Judging by what DeLorenzo, Lawless and other cast members told us, it’s a sure bet
Bruce and Ted’s Ash and Chet’s antics aren’t over yet. Especially since, as Raimi explains, nothing beats working and hanging out with “[his] old pals Bruce and Lucy”: “It’s a joy going back to see how much we’ve all progressed,” he said, adding: “It’s wonderful, and I just love hanging out with those guys so it’s always a blast.” Of course, Raimi couldn’t reflect on the subject without praising newcomers DeLorenzo and Santiago, whom the 50-year-old acting veteran believes have remade Ash vs Evil Dead for the better. “When Bruce and I are in wheelchairs with tubes coming out of our butts and our mouths, being spoon-fed by our grandchildren, those two will have fully established themselves in their second or third iterations of the genre. That’s what they’re doing.”
Ash vs Evil Dead airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.