As we head into the final half of the third season of Ash Vs Evil Dead, cancellation loomed large over the show like the very apocalypse Ash and his buddies where trying to stop. Despite its rambunctious energy, copious inventive gore gags and dark belly laughs galore the show was hemorrhaging viewers like a torn artery due to everything from piracy to the fact a lot of other countries couldn’t watch Starz at the time.
Still, undeterred, the show tightened its straps, gunned its saw, muttered “groovy” under it’s breath and threw itself into the second half of what might very well be its final season… But in true Evil Dead fashion, it wasn’t going to go out without making an incredibly entertaining mess.
Smarting from Pablo’s surprising non-reaction to their kiss, Kelly decides to grab the Kandarian dagger, a shotgun and a hand grenade and marches over to Ruby’s lair in order to claim some payback for the death of Dalton and the possession of Pablo, but displaying all the ferocious ass-kicking skills we’ve come to admire, her attempt at stopping the immortal Ruby comes at a terrible price.
Meanwhile, Ash and Brandy has finally managed to reach a temporary truce, but it’s short lived when a knock on the door brings Dalton’s fellow Knights Of Sumaria calling to ask the Chosen One’s aid to fight evil. Ash takes them to the basement of his Hardware store where his dad accidentally killed one of the Knights (named Gary) years prior but not before he wrote strange encantations on the wall after he expired from starvation. Pablo appears and thanks to the accepting of the mantle of Brujo from his dead shaman uncle, he is able to use the encantasions to open an actual portal to the realms of the netherworlds beyond much to Ash’s dismay (“You had to pick today to learn a new language?”) as the Knight wish him to cross over with them so they can gloriously kick evil in the nards until the end of time. While Ash steadfastly refuses to enter this “demonic poop chute”, the Knights send a scout ahead who is promptly spat back out again, possesed and with the ability to absorb his victims into his own body
While Ash and Pablo fight this multi-headed reject from The Thing, Ruby finally has a vessel to transfer the soul of her otherworldly ally, Kia, who helped her banish the other Dark Ones to the Deadlands, but her choice could actually be the final bail in the coffin of the Ghost Beaters as its someone who can cause maximum damage to the relationship of Ash and his daughter from within.
The main draw this episode is the inevitable confrontation of Ash Vs Evil Dead’s alpha women (not hard to decide considering it’s rare of anyone of any gender to survive one episode, let alone 3 seasons) and it’s a doozy.
Literally tearing into each other like a couple of hellcats, this is the showdown you’ve been waiting for as theses two mainstays utterly destroy each other for our enjoyment and it’s well worth the wait. Opening strong with a shotgun blast that temporarily turns Ruby’s skull into a gory doughnut, Kelly remains defiant to the end, even leaving her unkillable enemy in a pile of smoking limbs thanks to a well placed hand grenade. However, Ruby proves harder to subdue than post-curry acid reflux and she eventually prevails after popping her arms and legs back on like fleshy Lego and killing Kelly with the Kandarian dagger. We’ve had shock deaths before here on Ash Vs Evil Dead but even Pablo’s season 2 bi-section didn’t hit as hard as this as Kelly scraps tenaciously against an unbeatable opponent, even after Ruby snaps her ankle like a breadstick. Still, there’s a better than average chance that Kelly may still yet be saved considering she’s already shaken off a Deadite possession and Pablo’s come back from possession and death and the fact that her body is now being occupied by Kaya, Ruby’s inside agent on the other side.
While having a major character die and switch sides four episodes from the end may be good for drama, it makes me worried that Kelly will be sidelined just at the moment she reaches her full potential as the show’s premier skull cracker.
Elsewhere, Pablo finally gets to start using his hocus pocus as he opens a portal to the netherworld and we get to see more of the Knights Of Sumaria, an order that has a worse survival rate of a Star Trek red shirt which leads us to the Marcus demon, possibly the shows coolest monster to date. Essentially a possessed dude with the power to fuse other people into him with the slightest touch, he has one of his buddies hanging out of one side like a mutated conjoined twin while the severed head of his other buddy becomes part of his other hand making the spinal column a vicious flail. It’s a fantastic, Lovecraftian beast that gives the episode the oomph it needs to counter balance the magnificent Kelly/Ruby brawl and while the Brandy plot still needs some work (weird, as it’s supposed to be the focal point of the season), its nice to see her and her dim wit daddy finally getting along as Ash excitedly declares his daughter the best cook his house has ever had soley because she thought to actually microwave a pop tart. Elsewhere, we actually get a telling moment of humanity from Bruce Campbell’s cartoonish hero as he openly balks at the Knight’s plan of charging into the literal unknown to fight evil for all eternity – like, literally, forever – which finally gives us some footage from Evil Dead 2 concerning that part of his life that’s been suspiciously left uncovered by the series in general: Army Of Darkness. While fitting for his character – given a chance to actually mull something over, Ash would probably rather retreat than rack up some more blows to that formidable mandible bone – he actually has a reason not to return to being a hero in a strange land despite it being his destiny. And that reason isn’t working plumbing or porn, it’s his family unit he’s amassed since the show began…. Plus working plumbing and porn.
Heading into it’s final straight, season 3’s path seems slightly vague, but thanks to some seismic shocks and some top notch violence (even by Evil Dead standards) Tales From The Rift is one tale that’s gripping as fuck.