By: Heather Seebach
Last year, the Michigan Mafia - that is, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell - made all my deadite dreams come true when the long-awaited sequel in the Evil Dead franchise appeared in the form of a Starz television series (my review). After en epic first season full of guts, gore, and grooviness, here we are with another round! What follows is my review of the first TWO episodes of season 2: "Home" and "The Morgue."
Full disclosure: I am an Evil Dead fanatic. That means, yes, I am predisposed to love virtually anything related to the original films, but it also means I am a harsh critic when new material attempts to honor those films. This world is sacred to me. While the story in Ash vs. Evil Dead season one occasionally stagnated, I enjoyed the hell out of it overall. Ash was truly back, complete with one-liners and the same disgruntled attitude. Joining him were two fantastic supporting characters - Kelly and Pablo - who were more than just token sidekicks. So too was that Raimi sense of humor represented, even when Sam himself was not behind the camera.
So how does season 2 fare so far? Well, now that the introductions are out of the way, the series gets to gleefully jump right into the gory madness! Within the first ten minutes, every lead character's face is covered with gallons of disgusting fluid (blood or otherwise). In "Home", we catch up with Ash, Pablo, and Kelly living it up in Jacksonville, Florida when the deadite menace rears its ugly head again. The gang is forced to seek out Ruby (Lucy Lawless) in Ash's hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan. Here we meet Ash's father, Brock, played by the perfectly-cast Lee Majors. We only get a few moments with Brock Williams in the first two episodes but I already love him. He is everything you would expect Ash's father to be - exactly like him, and yet the bane of his son's existence. I cannot wait to see them (presumably) team up later in the season!
In Elk Grove, Evil Dead fans should keep their eyes peeled for fun blink-and-miss-it Easter eggs (Hint: check out the name of the local record shop). One fantastic element of Ash going home is that the story finally addresses what happened to Ash between the cabin and now, specifically how the world around Ash responded to their neighbor/son/etc. hacking up his girlfriend with a chainsaw. That is a side of it we had not seen before, so I am thrilled it is included here.
Once back in Michigan, naturally a lot of mayhem and carnage ensues. There are plenty of geek-out moments for fans, including Ash fashioning a clever new version of the boomstick; a brilliant (albeit short-lived) variation on the old Ash vs. himself gag; and so many Three Stooges gags that you would swear Sam himself must be there behind the camera. Director Rick Jacobson in fact helmed this episode but he was clearly paying a lot of homage to Raimi. There are also MANY references to the original films; so many in fact it does become a bit much. Some scenes feel a little too familiar (like one moment with Kelly that borrows from both Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness). Still, the fact that the show can now legally reference Army of Darkness is pretty great! They waste no time at all dropping references to it, and I look forward to how they use it going forward.
In "The Morgue", things are stepped up a notch - or ten. Some fans may find this episode goes too far. Personally, my mouth was agape but I was enjoying the ever-living hell out of it! The Evil Dead franchise has always been associated with b-cinema and horror-comedy, thanks especially to the second film. Still, there is an invisible line it never quite crossed - a territory where films like Re-Animator and Dead Alive fit more comfortably. And that territory is where "The Morgue" ventures with reckless abandon! It is a bit shocking but hard not to enjoy, and I promise everyone will be talking about it afterwards. This is the episode where Ash vs. Evil Dead proves it has no fear! The episode is crazy fun in other ways too, including its quirky sense of humor. Keep an ear out for the very literal record scratch gag - Raimi would be proud.
The Ruby subplot is still developing, but so far I love her creepy "kids" from the first season, now all grown up. The whole story continues to expand in interesting ways, and I am sure there are a lot of twists still coming in the next eight episodes. There is no sign of the big villain or Ted Raimi yet (unfortunately), but they are coming. It also looks like the series is relying even more heavily on prosthetics and practical blood than it did last season. So far there is significantly less CGI which is great! Furthermore, the first two episodes alone have already produced two of my all-time favorite Ash one-liners: "What the Harryhausen?!" and "Alright, you naked assholes!"
This Evil Dead fantatic is loving what she sees so far. The series continues to be gleefully over-the-top in gore and humor without restrictions (thank you, Starz). I expect we have a bonkers ride ahead of us, screwheads, so buckle up!
Ash vs. Evil Dead season 2 premieres Sunday, October 2nd at 8PM ET/PT on Starz!