As an unrepentant acolyte of the Evil Dead franchise, the news that the continuing adventures of the clutzy chosen one known as Ashley J. Williams was greeted with joy mixed with a certain amount of trepidation. Would it be as funny as Army Of Darkness? Would it be as nasty as The Evil Dead? And most importantly, will it be as fucking awesome as Evil Dead II? It soon became apparent that any worries I had was unnecessary as Ash Vs Evil Dead proved to be one of the better legacy sequels that seemed to be popping up all over the place and Ash’s return was further sweetened by the introduction of dual sidekicks Pablo and Kelly, two additions that enriched the already awesome experience. But after I breathed a massive sigh of relief after word of a confirmed second season landed, that old anxiety kicked in again. Could a season two manage to keep up the gonzo nature of the first?
After throwing in the towel at the end of last season and retiring to his beloved Jacksonville Florida after handing over the Book Of The Dead to the villainous Ruby, Ash now spends his time partying hard and sawing kegs in half to the delight of everyone around him. Everyone, that is, except Pablo and Kelly who still think simply giving up in an effort to save their lives was a catastrophic thing to do. Ash couldn’t particularly give much of a shit, however; not as long as there’s copious booze and the promise of a mother/daughter combo up for grabs, but a return of the human possessing Deadites give him a rare moment of pause – surely Ruby couldn’t gone back on her word? Well, if you can’t trust an evil book owning Dark One, who can you trust?
A stroke of good luck (sort of) means that after the ordeal of having the cover of the Necronomicon grafted to his face force spell, Pablo now has been having visions and they’re telling him that Ruby is hiding out in the one place Ash never wanted to return to: his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan.
Returning to the place he was dubbed “Ashy Slashy” and ostracized from after his part in the infamous massare of his friends 30 years ago (they were Deadites), Ash has to find Ruby, reclaim the book and – toughest of all – reunite with his asshole father, Brock; but when it’s revealed that Ruby’s demon children have actually turned against her, the Ghost Beaters realise things may be more complicated than they first seemed.
If something seems missing from Season 2’s first episode, it certainly isn’t a lack of gore or action that’s the problem. While longer than your average Ash Vs Evil Dead episode but still noticably shorter than the Season 1 pilot, Home barely gives you a chance to breathe as it plunges you face first into the offal and gore with hardly any time spent establishing the new status quo. In no time at all Ash is Chainsawing bimbos and boomsticking eyeless demons in extended set piece after extended set piece at the expence of minimal character stuff and by the time we get to the end the whole episode feels as hollow as the chainsawed torso of a slathering Deadite.
It’s a missed opportunity because spending more time with a retired Ash, slobbing and man-whoring it up in Jacksonville, Florida with an increasingly frustrated Kelly and Pablo could have been comedy gold but instead the show chooses to instead dive right in. The introductions of Brock Williams (magnificently cast as Lee Majors), the other townsfolk of Elk Grove are barely perfunctory at best and worst of all, Pablo and Kelly barely have any chance to shine among the chaos. Pablo’s visions almost feel like a short cut to haul the plot along and a hallucination that Kelly has insinuates that she’s growing understandably weary of being in Ash’s dimwitted shadow just feels dropped in with no subtlety whatsoever, but while these are obviously plot points that’ll gain momentum over the next few episodes it’s still annoying that two main characters aren’t given any room to flex other than shooting guns or being drenched in viscera.
Still, there’s a lot to enjoy in Home and while the actuon make choke the drama, it’s still pretty cool action – although an extended gag where Ash repeatedly bangs his head off numerous pipes seems merely ripped off wholesale from Army Of Darkness. The jokes are a little second hand too, also Ash describing alzheimers numerous times as “The Bad Memory Disease” is a chef’s kiss of maximum goofiness.
Oddly enough, the one who boasts the best character work in this episode is Lucy Lawless’ Ruby, humbled and more human in her desperate need for Ash to bail her out and hopefully the vitriolic banter between them gets some serious airtime.
It’s obvious that visually speaking, Ash Vs Evil Dead has hit it’s stride with improved CGI, effects and settings, but for once in Evil Dead history, maybe it’s time to take the foot off the accelerator and actually take a moment with our core cast before tipping buckets of blood on them…