The Starz original series Ash vs. Evil Dead has come to a close, as has Bruce Campbell’s tenure as Ashley J. Williams, spanning over thirty years. It’s a bittersweet ending. This was not planned to be the final season. Ash had come back after decades of fans clamoring for a continuation of the character, whether it be in the once-proposed Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash or in a proper Evil Dead 4. As the years went by it seemed more and more unlikely, the older Bruce Campbell got, for him to ever return to the character he and Sam Raimi had created in that original film. But it happened, and we got three years of it and the fact that they pulled any of that off is nothing short of amazing. On top of that, Ash vs. Evil Dead season three is truly a hell of an ending to this saga if this is where it has to end.
Ash, Pablo and Kelly are all back and in top form. After all this time, Campbell could play Ash in his sleep, but Ray Santiago and Dana De Lorenzo have created two extremely well-rounded and utterly watchable characters as well, doing the unthinkable by proving to be as necessary to this story as Ash himself, providing the franchise with cornerstone characters over thirty years into its run. Lucy Lawless shines brightest as Ruby this season, getting to play this character as out-and-out evil without any shred of moral ambiguity—which she had brought to the first two years, even if out of necessity. This Ruby is cold and heartless as it gets, as well as being impressively manipulative, and her backstory gets explored more deeply than ever before.
This season also shines at maybe the most exciting element of turning Evil Dead into a TV series other than the promise of weekly Ash, which is the exploration of concepts that were introduced in the original films. Because they were at three separate studios, the continuity of the Evil Dead trilogy is utterly fractured. Yet Ash vs. Evil Dead has somehow managed to overcome that several times over, weaving together this whole fractured tapestry as one story and one overall mythology, which the series has embraced and expanded upon in equal doses.
Related: Why Evil Dead II is not a remake!
Giving Ash a daughter was not just a great way to expand that character and that world, but also a great way to bring the series full circle and embrace the season’s central theme, which seems to be owning up to responsibility. For a guy like Ash who’s been running from everything his whole life, this whole season is about facing the music. As such, it actually makes for a pretty perfect finale.
Of course, this is a comedy first and foremost and delivers as such. There’s an episode meant to top last season’s big gross-out moment involving Ash in a sperm bank and it will definitely leave you gagging. But the show is always at its best when it delivers on both heart and humor and this final season definitely embraces that. There’s a moment between Ash and his daughter, Brandy, in the finale that calls back to the original Evil Dead in an honestly powerful way.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of features in this two-disc set. The only featurettes are a season overview, which is neat but only two minutes long, and quick analyses of the making of each episode, which also all run about two minutes. There are still some great things revealed in these short snippets, nonetheless. The highlight of each of them are the behind-the-scenes looks at the show’s special effects. One moment in the season premiere especially floored me to see how it was achieved practically. It’s so rare to get that kind of revelation anymore and seeing how they pulled it off harkened back to the early days of Fangoria in the very best way.
The episode commentaries obviously provide a little more insight, providing a good mix of cast and crew throughout each episode so that we don’t just hear the same voices every time. The finale is a maybe the best commentary of the bunch. Even though they didn’t know they weren’t coming back when they recorded, Bruce Campbell certainly sounds like he’s expecting that news and keeps remarking on what a strong sendoff it is to Ash and how having Ash finally face his destiny brings the character’s entire journey full circle.
Even the cliffhanger ending is just paying off the alternate ending to Army of Darkness. These facts and especially the way Campbell talks with so much pride for what they accomplished makes it a little easier to accept this as a true ending.
Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 3 is available on Blu-Ray Tuesday, August 21st.
WICKED RATING: 8/10