We aren’t supposed to like Ashley “Ash” J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) in Ash vs Evil Dead. Despite 30 years of fighting off deadites across films, video games, and in other incarnations of the Evil Dead franchise, the character hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still a cocky, idiotic womanizer with a penchant for cringe-worthy one-liners, cheap cologne and “The Classic” — a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Yet we love him for it, because we wouldn’t have Ash any other way.
This is precisely what Evil Dead creator and series executive producer Sam Raimi was going for. As he explained to Jamie Frevele in his Uproxx interview, Ash is “a blowhard and a coward and a braggart and just the worst hero that they ever made.” He always has been and, according to the Raimi-written and directed first episode, “El Jefe,” he always will be. After all, when we first see him in Ash vs Evil Dead, he’s neither fighting monsters nor saving the world. Instead, he’s strapping on a leather corset, blowing kisses to himself in the mirror, and hitting up the local bar for a hookup.
Ash achieves that hookup via a cheesy story about how he got his wooden hand (“It’s rosewood, hand-carved by Italian artisans”) after losing his real one (“I saved [a little boy] from certain death 30 years ago to this day”). Despite the bartender’s warning that he’s closing in 10 minutes, Ash seals the deal in the ladies’ room, though not before his new lady friend briefly turns into a deadite and threatens him, saying that they’re “coming for” him. Ash panics mid-coitus, saying “something happened that hasn’t happened in, like, 30 years.” (We see what you did there, Raimi.)
So begins Ash’s latest adventure in fighting off the titular evil dead, whom he suddenly remembers reawakening while stoned in his trailer during a previous hookup. It all happens very quickly, as all this setup — Ash being Ash, the bar visit, the flashback — occurs within the first six minutes of the 45-minute pilot. Yet this isn’t another Evil Dead film. It’s a 10-episode television series, and one that Starz has already greenlit for a second season. That means that all the deadite ass-kicking has to be stretched across another 39 minutes of pilot, as well as nine more half-hour episodes.
Hence Raimi and his writing partners — older brother Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy — have concocted a much larger story arc for Ash that includes two fellow Value Stop employees and a subplot involving a Michigan State Trooper.
Whether or not Ash vs Evil Dead‘s main story and subplot will successfully join together remains to be seen. They keep their distance during the first two episodes, though if the ending of next week’s “Bait” is any indication, Officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) will finally track down Ash. Yet her investigation into the death of her partner at the hands of the stoner-turned-deadite from Ash’s past feels like a different show altogether right now.
Ash’s adventures with Pablo Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) are classic Evil Dead, with all the comedy and gore that statement entails. Whereas Fisher’s thread resembles a more serious, monster-of-the-week episode of The X-Files, albeit with Raimi’s extreme camera angles and more blood splatter than broadcast television would ever allow. Yet everything Fisher encounters is the direct result of Ash’s inebriated reading from the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or “The Book of the Dead,” so of course they’re going to meet. Otherwise, that’d just be bad writing.
What happens when the two threads finally intertwine won’t be known until “Books from Beyond” airs, so we’re left with what the pilot has to offer — great bad jokes and an egregious amount of blood. Like, more blood than any single human or deadite body could possibly contain. But this is Evil Dead we’re talking about, so of course there’s going to be a lot of blood, and of course most of it is going to get sprayed all over the survivors.
Through it all, Ash remains his aged playboy self — talking down to Pablo, flirting with Kelly (who beats his ass in a previous scene), and being an all-around badass. And it’s all good (or to quote Ash, it’s all “groovy”), because that’s precisely what Evil Dead fans want to see in the news series, and that’s precisely what they’re going to get.
Ash vs Evil Dead premieres on Starz at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 31.