For eighteen episodes Ash Vs Evil Dead had been treading that fine line between forging a new path for its characters and drawing deep from its sizable reserves of nostalgia, but with Home Again, the ninth episode of season 2, the showrunners have decided to dive headfirst and present a shameless greatest hits episode that not strongly references past movies, but riffs on its first season too.
As a die hard Evil Dead fan, the episode leaves me with quite the conundrum when it comes to trying to review this installment and still remain impartial as even though its tremendous fun, it relies too much on past glories, going back and replaying not one, not two but three iconic moments from the original trilogy in rapid succession.
After the death of Pablo (sliced in twain by a demonic talon as he banished Baal back to hell), Ash reacts the way that only Ash could: by smoking a heinous concoction of crap that contains angel dust, pound I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight by Cutting Crew on the stereo and burn doughnuts in his driveway with Pablo’s corpse propped up in the passenger seat. While Kelly and Ruby watch the mourning Ash work out his problems with all the maturity of a drugged up six year old, he hits upon a plan of such audacious idiocy, it makes his last idiot plan look like a masterful stroke if machiavellian genius. Finally remembering that he once travelled in time to the Middle Ages (finally, acknowledgment of Army Of Darkness!), Ash demands that Ruby reads the relevant incantation off of Pablo’s marked skin and off they go back to the year 1982 in an effort to nab the Necronomicon before a young Ash ever visits the cabin with his ill-fated friends.
However, the moment they anywhere near the cabin, the attack of an evil force separates them. While Ruby and Kelly fight off possessed trees in the forest, Ash searches the cabin for the Book Of The Dead and finds Henrietta Knowby, the wife of Professor Knowby chained up in the fruit cellar. However, the Professor comes back to the cabin with co-ed in tow, hoping to transfer the Deadite possessing his spouse into the young teen – oh wait, Henrietta’s possessed already? Aw shit, Ash probably shouldn’t have unchained her then…
So, before I start banging on and nit picking about a lack of originality, I have to fully admit that I thought Home Again was a fucking blast when it comes to its log jammed trilogy of deranged callbacks. The first involves the return of living, killer trees as the ensnare and entwine the tag team of Kelly and Ruby (although thankfully their libido has dropped significantly) whose long suffering stunt doubles are whipped, screaming all over the place like towels at at butt at P.E.. Meanwhile, Ash almost loses his leg due to a nasty bout of possession, but instead of hacking his leg off like he did with his hand, he stabs himself with a knife and sucks out the gooey poison (“Too salty!”) only for it to have a nasty effect on his insides – thus begins a virtual replay of the scene from Army Of Darkness where he swallowed an evil, minute version of himself and then tortured it to get it out. Cinnamon, hot sauce and even that old go to of a kettle full of boiling water eventually do the trick and Ash vomits up a foul mouthed, twisted, baby creature thing that he promptly smashes with a frying pan. Last, but certainly not least is the reintroduction of perhaps Ash’s most notorious foe, the bloated, saggy-assed form of the possessed Henrietta Knowby who is, in her most ravaged form, is once again played by Ted Raimi and to see her “origins” – not to mention actually getting to meet Professor Knowby a little better – is definately a kick.
However, this is where my reviewing instincts (assuming I have any) take over and try to quash the childish glee of of my Evil Dead adulation – you see, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the last couple of episodes from season one do this exact same thing? Sure, some of the details are a little different but swapping out 2016 for the 80’s and changing out Evil Ash for Henrietta doesn’t really make things different enough for a long time viewer. Christ, the episode even introduces a pretty victim character in Tanya, who’s unfortunate (and continued) run in with a bear trap mirrors the extended brutality extended to Samara Weaving’s Heather this time last season.
Yes, its hilarious and yes I would’ve totally paid folding money to see Ash throw chainsaw hands with his Evil Dead II nemesis again, but it all comes at the cost of playing the nostalgia card way too hard. If the show ever had a hope of surviving in the deadly shadow of cancellation (spoiler: it didn’t) then it really needs to find new ways of exploiting the expected Evil Dead tropes rather than plonking the same old foes in the same old locations stuck in the old situations instead of being stuck in the past like its developmentally challenged hero.
It feels weird to rag on an episode that’s so much fun, but when it’s not playing its greatest hits at full volume, the show still has the odd card to play; for example, the fact that Ash, in his grief has gaffer taped both halves of Pablo’s corpse into an easy to carry pile is pure AVED genius at full strength – similarly, the first thing that Ash does in the past is give a business man bottle of booze when we’ve already seen him in the present as a homeless drunk is a nice, douchey spin on Back To The Future’s brand of future manipulating consequences.
Coasting by on reliving past glories may have gotten those show a lot of fans, but even though Home Again is an Evil Dead extravaganza like no other, you feel that the show has finally bled that particular vein dry and while my love for the franchise ultimately wins out in the end, Ash and Ghostbeaters need to break out some new artillery. Like, fucking pronto.