When prophecies spoke of a timeless hero, they were probably alluding to someone with a tad more integrity and someone less fond of dick jokes than Ash Williams. In a war against ancient evil, however, you work with the hand you’re dealt, even if that hand is a chainsaw. Though news of Ash vs Evil Dead’s cancellation and Bruce Campbell’s retirement from the titular character left fans groaning, it did not take away from the final few, and unexpected discos of the past three years. Only a faint notion of the last decade, the unprecedented risk and unexpected reward of the series reminded Deadites worldwide there is still room for the king.
Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete Collection consolidates all three seasons into a convenient package. Behind-the-scenes footage, a tutorial on vanquishing Deadites, and audio commentaries with the cast for each of the 30 episodes make this release a necessary purchase for those who haven’t already snagged each season’s printing individually.
At the onset of the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead, Ash Williams is three decades removed from his last encounter with the Evil Dead. Drunk, high, and attempting to impress an unlucky woman that stumbled into his trailer, the middle-aged Value Stop (S-Mart couldn’t survive the P.R. nightmare from the end of Army of Darkness) employee reads “poetry” out of the Necronomicon. With a malicious force making Deadites out of virtually everyone and anything, Ash enlists the reluctant aid of his coworkers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana De Lorenzo). However, they are unknowingly trailed by the previously-unknown author of the demonic text, Ruby (Lucy Lawless).
A powerful kick-start to a dormant franchise or at least a form of it given 2013 reboot, the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead reconfigured the tale tonally, opting more for uproarious laughter while still maintaining the classic, inconceivable gore. Santiago and De Lorenzo quickly ascend from more than just sidekicks, but rather frantic conductors of the train wreck that is Ash. Throwbacks and inventive new fiends and ways to murder them make the first season a binge-worthy experience. Watch this one with the commentary at the very least, especially if you were curious how often the set needed to be washed down during the season’s climax.
Laying low in Jacksonville after supposedly vanquishing the Evil Dead at the end of the first season, Ash and company are quick to realize their ultimate battle was little more than a wet Band-Aid, as a very living Ruby gives birth to shadowy, demonic children. To complicate matters, Ash is forced to reconcile with his father, Brock (Lee Majors), while enduring the ridicule of his town for the vicious murders he is still blamed for. Forced to finally confront the trauma and general fucked-upedness of his life, Ash can only be saved by Pablo and Kelly, who are now coming into their own as a shaman and demon slayer.
The start of season two of Ash vs Evil Dead can come off as a bit lackluster, especially given the rather tired design of the demonic children, as well as the tired logic of Ruby’s motives. However, this is all quickly cast aside during the final half of the season, especially given a short arc detailing Ash’s stay in a demonic asylum. Part One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, part Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and part Pee-wee’s Playhouse, this segment offers a concept entirely unique to the franchise while brushing against the idea of Ash’s unapproachable trauma. Fortunately, Ash is far too dense to be shaken by anything for more than a few hours or so. The second season is also unique within the collection, offering far more bonus material than its previous and proceeding discs. Even if you only snagged seasons one and three (for whatever reason, you monster), the bonus material alone for season two warrants the purchase of the collection.
After losing his father but salvaging his reputation, Ash opens up his own hardware store in Elk Grove. However, he quickly learns a one-night stand from almost twenty years ago yielded a daughter who has now become the target of a returning Ruby in a last-ditch effort to evade her demonic overlords. Just as the series has entailed a didactic of family previously, Ash is finally forced into a paternal role, now making all of his cringe-worthy one-liners into shoe-in dad jokes. Pablo and Kelly return to finish the Deadites conclusively, regardless of the decision of a network.
The final portion of Ash vs Evil Dead is bittersweet, as it was revealed almost at the season’s onset this would be Campbell’s final outing. However, rather than phone in any performance, Campbell goes whole-hog in making his last dance with the character memorable. The family drama does feel a bit contrived, but it also reveals a side of Ash previously veiled by a number of factors. A direct allusion to Ash’s battle with himself from Army of Darkness turned to the 1000th degree makes the final season an incredible outing overall, and the outlandish ending reminds fans The Evil Dead never really stays down. This entry in the collection offers the least amount of material, but again, the audio commentaries make a second viewing outside of any streaming service a no-brainer.
Ash vs Evil Dead may be finished, but it’s very hard to believe this will be the end of the franchise. Even if it is, at least it went out on top, right where Ash probably belongs.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Tom Spezialy
Writer(s): Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Tom Spezialy
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless
Studio/ Production Co: Renaissance Pictures, Starz Originals