Ash vs. Evil Dead “The Dark One” Review (Season 1 Episode 10)

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Going in to “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Would we get the old “Evil Dead” of yore, with a more serious tone, not unlike the reboot/continuation of the 2013 movie? Or would we get the sillier, more frenetic-paced version, a la the more slapstick-oriented “Evil Dead 2”? In the end, I think it was more along the lines of the latter, but I’m not sure old-school fans of the franchise would have it any other way.

After all, though the reboot of the original series was well-received enough, the only real cheers it got in theaters that I was aware of was when the mighty Ash (Bruce Campbell) cropped up at the end after the credits rolled. Clearly, die-hard fans of the franchise felt that an “Evil Dead” movie just wasn’t the same sans our intrepid hero, Ash.

While I was somewhat dubious of going the week-to-week TV show route, a la another film-turned-TV-show, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” I must say “Ash vs. Evil Dead” hit the ground running and never quite let up, much to its credit.

On the plus side, while the first season of “From Dusk Till Dawn” felt somewhat unnecessary and heavily padded, telling us a story we basically already knew and stretching it out over ten episodes of television, with each episode clocking in around forty-five minutes or so without commercials, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” opted for a relatively stealth thirty minutes more often than not each week.

The gambit essentially worked, and while the series as a whole wasn’t without filler, to be sure, it was nonetheless a fun ride that managed to honor the original series that inspired it and sustain itself for ten episodes reasonably well. I think it’s safe to say that good will towards the return of both Sam Raimi and Campbell to the franchise was enough to carry it through most of the first season with enough forward momentum that one was able to forgive some of the occasional rough patches and general aimlessness.

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Also, it was just plain a hoot to see that, after all this time, our beloved Ashley J. Williams has hardly changed a whit. He’s still competently incompetent, somehow managing to get through one insane scrape after another without getting killed- though, as ever, not everyone around him can always say the same- while still being quick with a one-liner and an amusingly lax attitude to all the insanity going on around him.

Yes, granted, the core group emerged relatively unscathed, but overall, almost anyone else who had the misfortune to cross path with Ash and his not-so-merry band of combatants ended up either dead or possessed by a demon or both. The one notable exception was Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones), Ash’s initial pursuer-turned-potential love interest.

Of course, Ash’s love interests don’t tend to fare too well, and Amanda was no different, ending up dead, then returning as a demon-possessed nightmare that Ash ultimately had to dispatch like the others that came before her. Oh well. Better luck next time, I suppose- and you just know there will be a next time.

Faring better were Pablo Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo), as Ash’s right-hand (or is it left-hand?) sidekicks, who more often than not got in the way but nonetheless emerged alive by the end of the season, albeit just barely.

Granted, a large reason for that was the deal Ash made with the mysterious Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless), which is almost certainly going to come back to bite him in the behind next season, what with the Evil Dead running rampant all over the place, courtesy of who knows how many strategically-placed sinkholes all over the…I was going to say world, but is it actually only the US thus far? Hard to say.

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I think most of us assumed that Ruby was the daughter of Professor Raymond Knowby, aka the one who set all of this into motion for real in the first place, by translating the Book of the Dead, aka the Necronomicon, and reading it aloud on tape. Granted, it was then Ash who played said tape and set the events of the films in action, but technically it was Knowby who got the party started.

Imagine my surprise then, when Ruby revealed she was actually the one who wrote the book in the first place, and wasn’t actually trying to stop the Evil Dead apocalypse, but aid it in coming forth! Kind of a crazy twist, but it also made a certain amount of sense- as it probably means that Ruby herself is essentially possessed. After all, she did survive a trip to Hell or the Netherworld, or whatever destination she was sucked into earlier in the season, which probably wouldn’t be the case if she were human.

Still, not a bad twist, all things considered, and it makes for an intriguing foe for Ash going forward, given Lawless and Campbell’s illustrious past together on both the “Hercules” and “Xena” series, respectively. It’s also much more interesting that what I thought was the case, which was that Ruby was trying to stop Ash, not get the book back and jump-start the Deadite Invasion!

All in all, it was a fun season, with lots of amusing one-liners throughout and plenty of gore effects and blood spatters to keep all the fans happy. Yes, there were some effects of the CGI variety, which I know irked some purists who prefer their FX of the practical variety, but I felt like the balance of CGI and practical effects was reasonably leaning towards the latter enough to keep most fans happy, though there are always going to be naysayers who want to rain on the parade.

Personally, though, I think I can speak for a lot of die-hard fans when I say that it was just nice having Ash back and in action the way we like him. I thought this was a reasonably faithful continuation of the original series, and if it wasn’t exactly scary, then it was at the very least, entertaining, IMHO. I can’t say I have any major complaints, all things considered.

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What I will say is, now that we re-established where Ash is now as a character and done the whole “Back to the Cabin” thing, it will be interesting to see where they take this in the second season. Word on the street is that they will be eventually dovetailing into the reboot and bringing on Jane Levy’s character, which could be interesting. I think it’s also safe to assume that Ash and the gang’s “retirement” in Jacksonville will be short-lived as well.

I did like that we saw some growth on Ash’s end, in terms of his being willing to compromise to save his friends. In addition to abandoning them on purpose to try and save them earlier in the season, he also made that deal not just to be selfish, but to rescue Pablo and Kelly from seemingly certain doom, especially on Pablo’s end.

Given how self-serving Ash tends to be, that constitutes real growth on his part, and shows that he’s learned from his mistakes in the past and honestly doesn’t want to see any more harm come to those unfortunate enough to cross his path, even if it can’t be helped sometimes. Despite the collateral damage along the way, he did manage to save two people for once, and that undoubtedly constitutes a win in his book.

Now granted, eventually all of this is going to catch up with him and he’s only prolonging the inevitable, but at least this gives them all a chance to catch a breather and plan their next move. Anyone thinking that Ash and company are just going to live out their days in Jacksonville is obviously kidding themselves, anyway.

Obviously, come season two, there’s going to be a whole host of new mayhem to contend with, no doubt much of it involving the Deadite “babies” that seem to be all over the place, and, of course, an inevitable second showdown with Ruby. All things considered, not a bad direction to be headed in.

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Yes, the show could use some tightening up in season two, admittedly. There was a fair amount of filler throughout the season, and if that’s to be expected to a certain degree in a show just starting out and trying to figure out what it wants to be, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. I think far and away the strongest episodes were the first and last ones, so if they can figure out how to continue that momentum for an entire season, we might be onto something.

As to how that might be done, it’s hard to say, but I do think that, as with “From Dusk Till Dawn,” now that they’ve reestablished the mythos and done the sorts of things we were expecting, or at least hoping for, there is definitely room to expand the mythology of the show, not unlike what “Buffy” did after a certain point in its run.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the Necronomicon and Ruby’s part in it and so forth, so there’s plenty of room to explore that in the future, and I think the show should absolutely do that. At the same time, you don’t want to see them get bogged down in mythology, so I think they should tread lightly and expand it, without getting too dense or elaborate with the details.

I do think there’s a happy medium there that could work out for the show just fine without compromising what we love about Ash as a character and “Evil Dead” as an ongoing series. Basically, room to grow without losing sight of what made us love the series in the first place, you know? I think the first season showed just enough growth to make it worthwhile, but there’s definitely room for much more next time around.

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All in all, a solid enough first season that had just enough going on and funny and/or gory moments to get through the more meh spots. I can live with that. What say you, “Evil Dead” fans? Are you up for more? Sound off down below and see you next season!