Ash vs Evil Dead / by Kenneth Buff

I'm not a huge TV person. It's really the structure of how TV shows work that gets me. The fact that the story never truly concludes, and as soon as any given story arc is completed another one pops up in its place, detracting from any significance the first arc we were following may have had. That being said, I do occasionally get drawn into a show with an interesting premise or set of characters. Breaking Brad was one of the few new TV series that I completed in its entirety (it was a relatively short series, 5 seasons, and the growth of the character and series was obviously building toward a true ending, not being dragged out until the ratings finally tanked), Mad Men also had me for awhile, along with Walking Dead until I couldn't take any more of the contrived drama and lack of real tension. Well, it's happened again, a show's come out with a premise that's persuaded me to take a chance on it, and that show is Ash vs Evil Dead. Well, you're probably wondering if it's worth watching or not, and honestly, I think it's mostly not, not if it continues with the rut of poor quality episodes we've had for the last three episodes.

Now let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of the Evil Dead series, and that the thought of watching Bruce Campbell reprise his role of Ash, a man who runs around with a chainsaw-limb and a sawed-off shotgun dismembering his possessed friends and family and buries them out in the desolate woods—well, it’s a lot more fun to watch than it sounds. And that’s largely due to the over the top one liners delivered without missing a beat by the series star, Bruce Campbell. The buckets of blood and shit-just-keeps-getting-worse plot of the movies also added to their charm, but it was Campbell’s embracement of the bumbling chainsaw wielding smartass that made the movies worth it. Now, lucky for viewers, Ash vs. Evil Dead has brought Campbell back to the title role where he’s chopping up demons and blowing their limbs off, or at least he is in the first two episodes. After that the show falls into a strange going-no-where pattern, where it feels like the episodes are just trying to kill time until the series can (hopefully) pick back up with some sort of awesome battle, where Ash does what he’s supposed to do, chop up zombies and say cool one-liners. Instead he’s been put into situations that feel unnatural and given lines that come off hollow.

I think part of the problem is that the show is written by at least five different people. I’m not sure how usual or unusual this is for a television show, but the tonal shift from episode two to three is pretty big, and from there it just gets worse, each episode drifting further and further away from the promise of the Evil Dead premise, which is seeing Ash say cool shit and slicing up zombies. Instead we’re given poorly generated CGI demon exorcisms (Since when does Ash take part in exorcisms? This is a dude who chopped up his sister, all of his best friends, and his own hand when they were possessed), speeches that don’t make any sense or carry any weight, acid trips, and really sad attempts at character development in characters that we don’t really care about.

Another problem I think is simply the format. The show was given a contract for 10 episodes, and instead of writing 10 bloody-ass-kicking episodes (I’ve seen 1 and a half of these types of episodes so far, episode 2 being the only one that was balls to the wall good, and episode 1 being a good start) we’ve been given a mish-mash vision of what the Evil Dead world should be. If this were a movie, this three episode lull we’ve been in would last 10 minutes, tops, and we’d be getting some character development, or at least some buildup of tension for the next baddie that would pop up next, instead we get cringe worthy dialogue, that’s neither scary, sexy, or anything else. It’s really just embarrassing, which is especially sad when every fan of the series has waited so long for Campbell to step back into the role.

Now, all that being said, episode two had me believing that this series knew what it was doing, fully embracing the over the top violence and self-obsessed humor of the original films, while also doing something new—that dinner scene with the parents, talk about tension. Where has that been these last three weeks?—and I’m hoping the series takes a turn back that direction. Until then, I can’t really recommend anyone else taking the plunge on the show, unless you’re a die hard Evil Dead fan, and even then, prepare for disappointment around episode 4–5. I hope the series can revive itself mid season, other wise there really won’t be any point checking back with it for the already green lit season two.