I knew Starz was churning out quality content and that Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi have loads of respect for the original Evil Dead films and the fans they’ve amassed, but I never expected Ash vs. Evil Dead to be this good. Not a single episode scored below a four star rating and now Season 1 is going out with a bang courtesy of the brilliant display of Ash’s unique sense of humor paired with pure horror in “The Dark One.”
The finale episode begins with Kelly trying and failing to pull the Necronomicon’s face off of Pablo while Ash tries to digest the fact that Ruby wrote the book. Eventually deadite Amanda joins the party and tries to chop Ash up with his own chainsaw. Ash does manage to behead her, but while he’s busy with that, Ruby drags Pablo away – down into the cellar.
Ash prepares to go in after him solo, but Kelly insists on tagging along. Ash agrees to rescue Pablo together, but almost immediately after taking his first step down the cellar stairs, the evil rattles the house, causing Ash to tumble down, sparking some sort of vision that sends him back in time to when he first read the passage to Lucy, the girl with the tattoo on her wrist. Suddenly Ruby shows up and explains that one day, Ash appeared in her book as El Jefe and that’s when she knew that he would be the one to stand against her. However, the end of his story isn’t written, so Ruby attempts to make a deal with him so that she can get what she wants – to consolidate the dark forces under one ruler, her. Ash is the only one stopping her from achieving her dream, so she offers him what he’s always wanted – Jacksonville. As tempting as this magical undo button may be, Ash doesn’t go for it and is hurled right back to the real world where he’s laying on the cellar floor.
Meanwhile, back upstairs, Kelly has her hands pretty full. She can’t get the cellar door open and the cabin doesn’t appreciate her trying to chop it up. It gives Kelly the boot, but locks poor Heather inside. From the cabin window, Kelly watches as the cabin tosses her around, crushes her with a couch, drills a whole bunch of nails into her face and then finishes her off, hurling her body parts and deadite head out the door. But all that does is piss Kelly off more. She runs around in the rain trying to figure out a way to hurt the cabin and settles on setting it ablaze. The plan works well enough and forces the cabin to open a door, finally letting Kelly back inside to help Ash.
Down below Ash is getting a taste of what Ruby is capable of. The mask has somewhat possessed Pablo and that gives Ruby the ability to conjure little demon children through him, with Pablo essentially giving birth to them through his mouth. Despite that absolutely nightmarish display, Ash is still conflicted about blasting one of Ruby’s children away. After a wonderfully awkward and horrific show of twirling, eye-poking and biting, Ash finally gets the upper hand and decapitates the creature by shoving his shotgun down its throat and pulling the trigger.
Enough is enough after that. Ash bursts into Ruby’s ritual room, pumps a few shotgun bullets into her stomach and tries to help Pablo. Trouble is, he isn’t getting that mask off his face without Ruby’s help so there’s no decapitating her just yet. After a pretty vicious scuffle with a possessed Pablo, they hit this deeply upsetting point where Ash could easily saw his head off, putting him out of his misery. Pablo begs him to do it and even though Ash refuses, Pablo’s pleas are still quite chilling. Then, at just the right moment, the chainsaw runs out of gas. We get the briefest breather before evil Pablo pulls the shotgun on Ash. But, fortunately, Kelly bursts in just in time to stop Pablo from shooting him.
While Pablo begins to choke the life of out Kelly, Ash manages to get the kandarian dagger from Ruby, so she panics and gives him one more chance to call a truce. If he kills Ruby, the book will kill both Pablo and Kelly, so what choice does he have? Ruby tries to convince him that she really wants humanity to flourish and in order for that to happen, she needs to get evil under control. Pablo and Kelly strongly advise him against trusting Ruby, but that doesn’t stop Ash from taking the deal.
Ash, Kelly and Pablo are then magically transported back into Ash’s car with his trailer in tow. Ash thinks he’s living the dream, but mere seconds later, the emergency alert system blares and the road caves in behind them.
“The Dark One” never loses the Evil Dead sense of humor, but it definitely embraces horror more so than all of the previous episodes. I was starting to think that Heather could make it through the finale, but now I’m glad she didn’t because her demise might be one of the most brutal kill scenes of the entire season. It’s tough to watch anyone get shot up with rusty nails, but what makes that moment especially startling is that just before the cabin lets the nails fly, Heather gets up from behind the couch, has a somewhat determined look on her face and starts moving to the center of the room, suggesting the tide could change. But nope. At that point you know that’s it and then the cabin rubs it in, jabbing in a few more nails and giving Heather a little more cry time before dragging her into the light.
Another A+ horror play is Ruby’s children. We see more than enough creepy kids on TV and in film so at this point, it’s quite the challenge to play that game and win, but boy does Ash vs. Evil Dead nail it – no pun intended. First off, the children look great and their giant black eyes are an especially nice touch, but what makes their presence even more unsettling is the fact that we know where they came from. Poor Pablo. Or rather, poor Ray Santiago. The “birthing” scene is fantastic, but I imagine the moment took a lot out of him with all that screaming and heaving. You can say the book is killing him all you want, but the only reason those lines make an impact is because we cut back to Santiago’s exceptional physical performance and believe it.
As for exactly what Ruby is up to, it addresses a good deal of what we saw go down this season surprisingly well, while challenging you to consider new questions. So, Ruby wants to be in charge of all the evil entities. But who was in charge before? Was it all of The Dark Ones? If so, it could be interesting jumping from Ash fighting evil to Ruby trying to maintain control in Season 2.
And as for Ash’s decision to take her deal, it’s true to character but also takes Ash a baby step in a new direction. The large majority of the season is about Ash coming to accept that he can’t do this alone and that he needs to have other people in his life, beyond one-night stands. By choosing Jacksonville, he saves Kelly and Pablo but it also represents the easy way out, a path we know Ash is prone to taking. The Ghost Beaters remain intact, but it looks as though Ash just unleashed an evil upon the world that’s far more extreme than anything he’s ever seen before, opening up the door to endless possibilities for the second season which can’t come soon enough.
Episode Rating: ★★★★★
Extras and Ashisms:
- “Amanda, whenever you think about us, you might want to forget this part.” – Ash
- “Okay, that lady has my book and she has my Pablo. I gotta save him.” – Ash
- “Alright, I’m going down there. Kelly, other girl, you stay here and guard this door. Make sure it stays open. I’ve been stuck down there before and it’s not exactly Mardi Gras .” – Ash
- “That’s my Pablo down there, too.” – Kelly
- “Shit on a biscuit!” – Ash
- “What? You want to control all these demons like The Godfather?” – Ash “Exactly.” – Ruby “Yeah, well I hated that movie. Too long and boring, and not enough boobies.” – Ash
- “Don’t worry, Pedro! I’m coming for ya!” – Ash
- How about that move from the shot of Kelly trying to kick the door down to Ash in the basement?
- “Someone needs to wash your mouth out kid, and that someone is me.” – Ash
- “Okay kids, the birthday party is over.” – Ash