Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ash vs. Evil Dead - Season 1

   I previously reviewed the pilot episode, by itself here. And, a lot of my worries about the show were allayed fairly quickly. The 'rock star' tone of the pilot persisted throughout the season, but the showrunners blended it into each episode a little better. There were plenty of genuine scares throughout the season, but nothing on the level of the 2013 movie. What I had figured after seeing the pilot still remains true, the show is Evil Dead II with a modern day budget. It never tries to be serious like the first movie or the not-a-remake. It also never tries to be as goofy as Army of Darkness. I'm fine with this for the most part because Evil Dead II is my favorite Evil Dead movie. Unfortunately, right around the time this show premiered, I'd revisited Evil Dead (2013) and fell in love with it.

   I'd really hoped they'd blend in some of the uber-dark and disturbing horror elements that you'd see in the 2013 movie, but they didn't. Each episode is a bloodbath, and there's plenty of creepy or unique situations Ash and his friends find themselves in, but it never gets downright unsettling. Then again, maybe that's just me. But, I'm also assuming most of the target audience for this show, is fans of the movies. So, you'll probably be on the same page with me here- depending on how much you liked the 2013 not-a-remake. Anyways, that minor gripe aside, the show is a blast from start to finish. If you don't need anymore convincing to see it- just go watch it now. You don't need a six paragraph review to tell you that you know you wanna watch it. Believe the word of mouth. Ash vs. Evil Dead is really good.

  Due in no small part of course to the return of Bruce Campbell to his most iconic role- that of Ash Williams. They don't try to pretend that Ash is still a young guy, and though the pilot episode poked a lot of fun at his age, as the show goes on, his age plays a very serious part of the direction the story takes. Ash has been living a life affected by horrific demonic unspeakable tragedy, and he's never escaped from the shadow of that. Worse yet, he's fucked everything up and unleashed the evil that had been lying dormant for some thirty odd years. He's kind of a pathetic character, but as the show eventually reminds you- Ash wasn't always like this. Before the cabin, way back when- he was a young man with a girlfriend and a future. Now? He's a middle aged playboy with delusions of grandeur and a big ego.

   It adds a layer of depth to his character that I didn't expect them to explore. He's tired of all this. As much as he loves the idea of being a hero and kicking ass, he just wants the life he never got to have back. It presents a very ever-present temptation for him. I dug that a lot. This is probably the most I've ever actually cared about his character. Ash has to learn how to work with others, how to keep friends, and while that all sounds kind of silly, it's really not. He's so used to ending up the sole survivor of these crazy things that he doesn't know how to cope with having legitimate sidekicks. He's torn between the idea that they're expendable, and that maybe they're not and he should do this alone. When he finally realizes that working with them is also an option, it's a pretty great moment.

   There's also a handful of supporting characters that I don't feel ever reached their full potential. Lucy Lawless shows up as an enigmatic deadite-killer named Ruby. We sense that she has some history with this specific brand of evil, but the twist regarding her character kinda fell flat for me. I don't think she had the gravitas to pull off what they had in store for her. Then there's Jill Marie Jones as Amanda Fisher. I feel like her character was kind of dead weight (no pun intended) until the latter half of the season- but when she started seriously getting involved, I just wasn't buying the role they'd kind of shoehorned her into. It wasn't lazy writing per se, just... awkward writing. Needless to say, I don't think her resolution was what it should've been. She was built up to be a very important character, or one who would soon be a very important character but in the end she really wasn't.

   On the flip side, Ash's sidekicks- Ray Santiago as Pablo and Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly, are both fantastic. I wasn't sure about Pablo for the first couple episodes. I wasn't sure if he was going to be a mainstay character, and if he was, if I would like him or not. He seems like a character that has the potential to be annoying. Thankfully that's not the case at all. He's actually a very interesting counterpoint to Ash. Where Ash is a womanizing, reckless, moron most of the times, Pablo is innocent, cautious, and rather smart. Though due to his lack of self confidence, he often defers to Ash's moronic plans, which lands them in deep shit. His character grows a lot throughout the show and it was fun to watch him progress.

  Same goes for Kelly. She could've easily been a throwaway character, but I'm glad she wasn't. She ends up being a real badass, and she rounds out the group into a perfect trio. She might not get the arc that Pablo has, but she's just as fun to watch. When all is said and done, despite some writing missteps along the way, Ash vs. Evil Dead has been a blast. The special effects, both practical and otherwise are fantastic, the show is very atmospheric and colorful. It's very action packed and the humor is well written. In many ways, I'm glad we got this instead of another movie because we get so much more of Ash and these characters in this format. This show is many hours of blood soaked, over-the-top, classic Evil Dead fun. It's not perfect, but it doesn't need to be. I loved it and all it's creepy monsters. I can't wait for season 2!

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