Ashley “Ash” J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) was never a Boy Scout in the Evil Dead films. When it comes to killing deadites and defeating the evil unleashed by the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, or Book of the Dead, he’s the man for the job — especially when he gets his hand
s on his trusty “boom stick” and chainsaw. But doing the right thing? Ash has never done the right thing, and this particularly selfish-but-lovable character trait was on full display in the first season finale of Ash vs Evil Dead.
If you haven’t watched “The Dark One” yet, then proceed with caution as this post is rife with spoilers.
Ever since the pilot episode, Ash vs Evil Dead hasn’t shied away from some of the titular character’s more colorful aspects. After all, he’s an aging womanizer who thinks he’s hot sh*t — despite the fact he still works as a glorified stock boy a job he’s held at various chains since Army of Darkness in 1992. Then Ash was still able to make his menial job in a small Michigan town look cool. In 2015? Not so much.
The one thing that Ash is still able to do, however, is get himself into (and mostly out of) trouble via the powerful Book of the Dead. The only reason the deadites have returned is because he got stoned with a young woman and read aloud from the book’s made-from-human-flesh pages. In that sense, the pilot felt like a fourth Evil Dead movie. Yet the subsequent nine episodes have taken Ash much further into the story established by creator Sam Raimi and continued by showrunner Craig DiGregorio. More heroes and villains are involved now, and an entirely new threat presents itself in the guise of Ruby (Lucy Lawless), a demonic figure of sorts who claims to be the author of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the penultimate “Bound in Flesh.”
In “The Dark One,” Ruby has reclaimed her book from Ash and used it to possess Pablo (Ray Santiago). The pair then disappear into the basement of the cabin, yet another location from the films that Ash would prefer not to revisit. But as the boomstick-toting, chainsaw-adorned hero tells Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), he has to save him: “I’m not losing anybody else I care about.”
“That includes me, right?” Kelly asks. Heather (Samantha Weaving), the sole survivor of a group of hikers who stumbled upon the cabin in “Ashes to Ashes,” asks the same question. Ash’s response? “Um, yeah. Yeah sure.” Viewers familiar with the growing pile of bodies know that Heather is a goner, and that Ash — as much as he doesn’t want to admit it — knows it, too. But Kelly? Both she and Pablo have been with him since the beginning, and since that pile of bodies is there because of his idiocy, Ash really wants to keep them alive.
Which is why two of Ash’s many scenes with Ruby in “The Dark One” stick out. Not because he shoots first and thinks later, per what Raimi called the mantra of the “dumbest monster fighter in the world,” but because he actually thinks. It’s a major change for the character, and plants a rather big seed for the second season.
In the first scene, Ash falls into the basement and onto the bed of his trailer house on the night he got stoned and read from the book. The otherwise detailed flashback turns out to be a ruse by Ruby, who offers the hero an enticing deal: Refuse his own destiny as “El Jefe,” the one who would fight against her and the book’s evil forces, and instead live the life he always wanted in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I just want things to go back to the way they were when the dark ones ruled over the evil forces on earth,” Ruby tells him. “The world is in chaos and I want order. To consolidate the dark forces under one ruler, me.”
Ash refuses, which puts an end to the vision and places him right back in the basement. However, the sequence later repeats itself when he almost kills Ruby with her own special Kandarian dagger, which first appeared in The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. The blade’s effects on Ruby are harsh, and all Ash has to do to is stab her with it once. But the book-possessed Pablo has nearly choked Kelly to death, and Ash can’t bring himself to kill Pablo.
“After the book has killed her, it will kill him too. There’s nothing you can do about it,” warns Ruby. “Or you can take the deal. Think about it, Ash. You are old and fat and weak. You cannot keep this up forever. Lay down your weapons and go back to your life. You know that, deep down, we both want the same thing.”
He hesitates at first, but after Kelly’s choked screams and Pablo’s begging continues with any sign of a happy ending, Ash takes the deal. “The Dark One” ends with a forcibly peppy Ash driving the classic Delta ’88, thinking himself a hero for saving both Kelly in Pablo, who sit in the back reeking of disappointment. Meanwhile, an emergency broadcast on the radio warns everyone listening to stay in their homes and avoid “massive sinkholes” opening up everywhere.
By violating his mantra, Ash was finally able to prevent evil from adding more bodies to the pile. (Except for Heather, who is very dead.) But at what cost? Kelly and Pablo are alive, but Ruby was given a free pass to take over the world. The apocalyptic story these events promise presents a scenario for season two unlike anything Ash has ever faced, but the decision that led to it seems like such a non-Ash thing to do. In Uproxx‘s interview with Ash himself, actor Bruce Campbell disagreed, saying “it was an appropriate Ash decision.”
Viewers won’t know whether or not the character’s decision to take the deal was a good one until the second season premieres sometime in 2016. Until then, what did you think?