Ash vs. Evil Dead, Starz’s glorious continuation of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead films, encountered some media he-said/she-said over the summer. Producer Rob Tapert revealed the second season would not only “bring up Ash’s events in Army of Darkness,” but the show would even “reference it” directly in its own burgeoning mythology. Yet Campbell, who again plays Ashley “Ash” J. Williams to the delight of his fans, disagreed. “I’ve been sort of putting that to bed,” he told Arrow in the Head. “I think Rob was more alluding to the fact that we’ve already taken stuff that would have been in Army of Darkness.”
In a way both are right, for as all of season one and the season two premiere “Home” suggest, Ash vs. Evil Dead is rife with Army of Darkness lore. Consider Ash’s standoff with his own shadow in a sleepy Michigan town’s creepy crematorium. While Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago) battle their own literal demons elsewhere in the vicinity, the titular hero recreates some of the film franchise’s lighter, slapstick moments. Things like repeatedly knocking his head on low-hanging
fruits pipes, toying around with his rebellious shadow, then trying to kill it once he realizes it’s not actually his.
It’s silly moments like this that — combined with all the horror and gore the Evil Dead movies are famous for — help Ash vs. Evil Dead stand out from its predecessors. Especially since Ash is no longer the lone vigilante he once was. With Kelly, Pablo and a somewhat peaceable Ruby (Lucy Lawless) by his side, Ash’s efforts to fight off the latter’s demonic children while searching for the Book of the Dead is no longer a solo misadventure. Instead, as Campbell told us last year, his character’s dive back into the annals of blood-soaked horror-comedy has company: “[DeLorenzo and Santiago can] do humor, horror and [are] also very patient and willing to be covered with blood… they passed the test wonderfully.”
Pass the test they did, and if “Home” is any indication, Kelly and Pablo won’t be leaving Ash’s side anytime soon. (Mainly because they’re literally stuck together due to all the blood and guts.) The second season premiere finds the trio partying hard in Jacksonville, Florida, Ash’s dreamed-about haven away from the events of season one. Kelly remains unhappy about the truce her former S-Mart coworker brokered with Ruby, while Pablo can’t stop praising Ash for his deadite-killing heroics. And Ash? Well, considering his drunken intentions for a mother-daughter duo at the party, he hasn’t changed a bit. Or as Campbell puts it, “Don’t ever fall into the trap of overthinking Ash.”
Ash’s potential shenanigans predictably don’t pan out, as the two women transform into deadites and attack. Ruby, it seems, has sent the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis‘ evil after her former enemies — thereby negating the parley they agreed to in the first season finale. What results is a comically violent scene in which Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s New Zealand-based special effects crew practically drowns the three stars in enough fake blood and entrails to support a medical school’s autopsy class ten times over. Along with a previous scene in which one of Ruby’s kids vomits black bile all over her, “Home” ups the ante to appropriate levels — and all before the title card drops.
On the one hand, the first six minutes of Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s second season sounds like the first — albeit with a few location changes and a much shorter total length. On the other hand, the series simply isn’t interested in repeating the formula that spelled cult success for Raimi’s movies and greater acclaim for itself. Instead, it endeavors to fill in the narrative gaps left in Ash’s 35-year wake. Important questions like “Where does this guy come from?” and “How’d the rest of the world react to his surviving the onslaught of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness?” Deeper, contextualized plot points such as these have never been acknowledged, but now that Starz has a whole show for Ash to kick around in, Tapert, showrunner Craig DiGregorio and the rest of the creative team have their work cut out for them.
“Home” attempts to deliver on this implied promise with Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man), who plays the chainsaw-wielding protagonist’s father, Brock Williams. As the famous actor told Uproxx’s Christian Long, his character hates Ash for several pertinent (and spoiler-ish) reasons that pertain to his outcast son’s beleaguered public profile in their hometown. Elk Grove, Michigan hasn’t been kind to Ash ever since the events depicted in the films played out, and as Kelly and Pablo find out firsthand, decades of distance hasn’t been enough to appease the area’s resentment for their ass-kicking companion. Hence why Majors’ Brock turns a gun on his own son during their first encounter in “Home.”
How successful DiGregorio, Tapert and the Ash vs. Evil Dead team’s efforts to expand the mythology is remains to be seen. After all, there are nine more episodes to go before the various threads involving Michelle Hurd (Blind Spot), Ted Raimi (Spider-Man) and Stephen Lovatt’s (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) characters can come to fruition. However, if Campbell’s rapport with Majors (let alone returning cast members DeLorenzo, Santiago and Lawless) is any indication, then Ash vs. Evil Dead‘s sophomore outing won’t just be another rehash of the first season’s better moments. It can and will stand on its own… with a little help from a chainsaw prosthesis.
Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.