While the title of the “good guys gone bad” trope sounds like it would be better served by being the headline of one of those depressing Netflix murder documentaries, it’s also fairly common in the world of pop culture. Optimus Prime, Angel, hell, even Hulk Hogan turned from the side of the good guys at least once and now it’s time for Ash Williams to do the same – or should that be his alter ego, Ashy Slashy?
After an episode (Delusions) that defied all the usual Ash Vs Evil Dead conventions, it’s back to business as usual as the show mischievously possesses or annihilates most of its dangling secondary characters before the opening titles have even rolled. But if Ash is metaphorically wearing a black hat (or at least a black chainsaw), that means the rest of the cast has to pull off the usual Campbell shenanigans – are they up to the challenge?
After Baal’s mind games finally broke Ash, the paranoia demon has tooled up his new minion to seek out and destroy the Necronomicon, the only thing that can send him back to hell. However, the real bad news is that right now, Pablo is the Necronomicon and as we speak the Ghostbeaters have arrived at the deserted asylum in order to find and rescue Ash without a single clue that he’s now a raging killing machine.
As the group is split up, Ruby and Pablo try to stay one step ahead of the reach of Ash’s Chainsaw arm while Kelly is left alone to deal with the other Ashy Slashy, a psychotic hand puppet with a high libido and a mile long mean streak.
How on earth can they possibly deal with all this and manage to pin Baal down long enough to send his ass back to hell?
Ashy Slashy is an episode that has more to unpack than a pile of suspicious luggage at an airport, so in true Ash Vs Evil Dead fashion, it’s an early goodbye to Lacey Emery (possessed) and her weak willed father who has his head and spinal column utterly Mortal Kombat-ed right off his body by his white-eyed, Deadite daughter. After subsequently blasting Lacey’s head into strawberry jam, Kelly finds herself going one on one with Ash’s puppet alter ego which allows actress Dana Delorenzo to indulge in some Bruce Campbell style extended prat-falling as Ashy Slashy tightens his “puppet pooper” onto her arm and attacks her much in the same style as the legendary possessed hand sequence in Evil Dead II. It’s an audacious idea to have a Campbell type scene in an Evil Dead story play out without the big man himself and while there’s slight pangs that a showdown between El Jefe and a sass mouthed muppet isn’t on the cards, Delorenzo aquits herself admirably as she flings herself around with reckless abandon.
Elsewhere, Ruby finally manages to show some latent humanity that’s surfacing due to her immortality going kaput and proves to be the only character arc that hasn’t really had any chance to shine this season and the fact she actually remembers Pablo’s dream of opening up a restaurant/tech repair shop (entitled Fish & Chips) is a sweet, if microscopic moment. In comparison, Linda seems to get over the death of her husband and daughter surprisingly quickly (we’ve only got half an hour to play with, dammit) but her moment where she and Kelly give each other emotional support is yet another nice micro moment that is a long overdue call back to the massacre of Kelly’s parent from way back in the second episode of season one.
Holding the fort while Campbell stomps around like an 80’s slasher, the cast do extremely well, especially since they all took a sizable backseat last episode, but when Ash finally takes centre stage in the final minutes of the episode, its fucking worth it.
Once again we have a plot point that if it turned up in any other similarly themed supernatural show – be it Supernatural, Van Helsing or even Buffy The Vampire Slayer – it would be decried as cheesy, stupid and, above all, incredibly lazy writing, but as Ash Vs Evil Dead has made it its mission to make such dumb twists play as sweetly as a lullaby played by the london Philharmonic Orchestra – it somehow works. The fact that Ash reveals that, get this, he was faking the whole time in order to carry out a flimsy plan he mentioned two episodes earlier in order to use a pet tracker to get both Baal and the book (read: Pablo) in the same room works is chiefly because everyone else is far more appalled that the ploy worked than we are.
This bout of shockingly stupid (read: genuinely hilarious) plotting lead to two genuinely surprising moments that occur literally in the final minutes of the episode with the first being that Pablo, now fully joined with the Necronomicon, manages to successfully send Baal back to hell in a blizzard of exploding black goo – a full two episodes early. The other is far more traumatic as it’s revealed that one of Baal’s flailing talons managed to rake Pablo across the torso which leads to the young Ghostbeater to crumple, mid-grin, into a pile which reveals he’s been sliced in two at the waist. The show’s been hinting at this through a number of chilling visions that Pablo’s been having throughout the season and the fact that the show runners have finally pulled the trigger on a major character (not counting Fisher from season one) leaves the final two episode wife open for all kind of shenanigans to happen.
Giving us all the usual Evil Dead style shit but with the addition of some genuine twists, Ashy Slashy is the second episode in three weeks (Trapped Inside) to seemingly wrap everything up only to have something hideous happen at the zero hour, but its ability to turn such a dumbass twist into a genuinely uplifting moment – only to slaughter one of it’s most lovable cast members means the Ashy Slashy truly gets the last laugh.