Now we’re getting to it.
After numerous hints, teases and outright statements, Ash Vs Evil Dead finally goes back to where it all began with it’s idiotic protagonist returning to the cabin where he first encountered the Necronomicon. Now, nostalgia can be a double edged blade – use it too much and it overwhelms the new stuff while drawing accusations of unoriginality; use it too sparingly and you miss a golden opportunity to blast long time fans with the full force of nostalgia-feels.
However, among all these warm and fuzzy emotions for worksheds, chained trapdoors and a stuffed deer’s head, Ashes To Ashes has a few tricks up it’s severed sleeve and not all of them are pleasant – remember, despite all the chuckles and prat falls, The Evil Dead prided itself on being the self proclaimed ultimate experience in grueling terror (seriously, just check the end credits) and it was nigh time some of that terror came home to roost.
After ditching Pablo, Kelly and Amanda in a half-assed attempt to keep them safe from thevery personal dangers of the remote cabin in the woods, Ash reaches his creepy destination just as the sun starts to go down (yeah, nice timing Williams, you knob) and a quick once over of the place reveals that not much has changed since the last time he was here. Processing memories of ghouls chained in cellars and stuffed animals tormenting him with hysterical laughter, he’s horrified/relieved when Amanda catches up with him and the two determine that the next step is to break their way into the fruit cellar via a chained trapdoor. Off Ash goes to the fateful workshed where he carved up the severed head of his possessed girlfriend Linda for a reunion more awkward than most.
Meanwhile Kelly and Pablo, who had split up from Amanda to cover more ground while trying to find Ash stumble across three hitchhiking Australians – the worryingly optimistic Brad, his fiancee Melissa and gloomy third wheel Heather – and attempt to warn them that hitchhiking in this area is about as wise as wandering around the Serengeti in Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
Elsewhere, the cabin starts to work it’s malevolent mojo on the separated Ash and Amanda, tormenting him with visions of Linda’s outraged head who hurls threats and ugly truths and her with creepy sounds and a sinking sense of dread.
She better bloody well heed it, because Ash’s possessed severed hand is in the walls and it’s starting to rapidly grow a whole new Ash on the end of its wrist. Ash has tangled with an evil double before – but Amanda has no idea that this is something that can (and is about to) happen. Can our bumbling hero manage to escape the workshed before Evil Ash shows Amanda how truly evil he can be…?
It would be quite the understatement to say that Ash Vs Evil Dead probably isn’t the most cerebral show that ever existed, but it’s battering ram blunt humor is a major part of its ridiculous charm – however, you would think that thanks to all the gory Chainsaw action and smug one liners, actual subtlety would be beyond its reach.
Think again, because not only does Ashes To Ashes give you a straight shot of Deadite nostalgia to make your fingers tingle, but the episode unleashes a surprisingly cruel mean streak not seen since the original movie (or the remake, if we’re being technical). Ash undergoes some intence mental torture from the head of his girlfriend who doesn’t let the fact that she’s a head in a vice stop her from spitting some spiteful facts about the average life expectancy of Ash’s friends. Even worse is the brutal ordeal Evil Ash puts Amanda through as he first seduces, and then proceeds to beat the shit out of her as if to remind you that this franchise once featured a woman getting raped by a tree. As if to compound the cruelty, the actual death by impalement (on antlers no less to mirror the untimely passing of her partner) is a legitimate shock – sure, people die in Evil Dead stuff all the time, but not when their character finally seems on the verge of blossoming into something interesting.
Any attempt to try any broad humour after watching one of the lead actor get a cleaver in the neck (“That’s what I call cleavage!”) would surely be in danger of upending the whole episode, but somehow, Ash Vs Evil Dead manages to pull off a hilarious, slapstick ending when the two Ash’s finally collide. Targeting the weaknesses each Ash knows that the other one has because they’re both essentially the same (“That means you’ve got a trick knee!” *crunch* “AAAGHH! MY TRICK KNEE!”) it’s surreal that the most affect episodes climaxes in one of the funniest, stupidest moments in the entire season.
With only two episodes left and with Lucy Lawless’ Ruby still lurking in the wings, anything can (and probably will) happen, but until then; by turns shocking, nostalgic, hilarious and at times genuinely creepy, Ashes To Ashes has a real shot at being the most satisfying episode to date and on top of everything else, we get an early role for Samara Weaving!
What more could an Evil Dead fan want?!