Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
“ASH VS. EVIL DEAD: Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2” (TV Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
For EVIL DEAD fans, the first season of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD reintroduced the original franchise’s canon in a way that felt organic yet modernized. While the ARMY OF DARKNESS iteration of Ashley J. Williams was given a 21st Century polish, revitalized with one-liners and a “dismember first, ask questions later” attitude, the series itself brought more to the table: more characters, more mythology, and much, much more violence. But if anything could be said about the first season, it’s that- despite a killer pilot- the series didn’t quite find it’s footing until it pointed us back to the EVIL DEAD cabin. However, if one were to argue that the CGI-heavy gore and fan service of the first season did ASH VS. EVIL DEAD a disservice, season two has definitely recognized and corrected its weaknesses, offering a noticeably more confident attitude and some outright insane moments you’ll have to see to believe.
This season of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD cuts right to the chase in it’s opening episode: with Ruby no longer in control of the Necronomicon, Ash and Co.’s Jacksonville retreat is cut short- literally. Instead, Ash is forced to return to his hometown, where he has to face his disapproving father, a community that despises him, and the forces of apocalyptic evil. There, Ruby and Ash form an unsteady alliance to retrieve the book and close the lid on evil once and for all, even if they have to go through Hell to do so.
In almost every way, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s second season is an improvement over its predecessor, from the increase in practical FX to, perhaps most shockingly, a focus on scares and tension. Even in the story department, ASH VS. EVIL DEAD is getting much better mileage this time out, with Ash’s tragic backstory and Pablo’s Necronomicon-infused side effects setting a more compelling path. But perhaps what the first two episodes of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD’s sophomore stretch nails better than Season One, almost impossibly so, is the humor; not only do we get Ash’s trademark naivety, but the splatstick on display is the finest it’s ever been. In fact, there’s one scene in the second episode that just might make franchise fans die of laughter, with Bruce Campbell’s self-deprecation reaching bold new heights.
The performances in the first two episodes are similarly on-point, with the returning cast all in fine form. Bruce Campbell really surprises in these episodes, and for every moment of over-the-top hilarity or outrageous braggadocio, the seasoned actor also brings legitimate moments of vulnerability, which sells the character’s motivation for saving the town as a personal piece of redemption. Furthermore, Lucy Lawless, Ray Santiago, and Dan DeLorenzo bring their A-game to this episode as well, unafraid to get physical while each plays off their kinship with Ash in their own quirky way. But as of these two episodes, Lee Majors proves to be the foremost scene-stealer, playing off the cast with such confidence, humor and comfort that one might be shocked that he wasn’t in the show’s original designs.
That’s not to say that ASH VS. EVIL DEAD hits a home run around every turn in these two episodes. The visuals of Season Two feel dialed-back a bit, partly thanks to the more horror-centric atmosphere, but nothing quite matches the gonzo, EVIL DEAD-faithful visuals that popped out at the end of Season One. Furthermore, some of the sub-plots feel a bit too arbitrary, especially the potential rivalry between Ruby and Kelly as well as Ash’s potential romantic sub-plot with an old flame. However, with the season delivering so strongly elsewhere and considering their’s eight more episodes in the chamber, there’s a chance that ASH VS. EVIL DEAD will pay-off big time in both departments later on.
Overall, the second season of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD is a smashing good time from top to bottom, offering hard laughs, explosive gore FX, and even some genuine thrills throughout the first pair of installments. More energetic than ever, the team behind this horror series has turned the first season’s criticisms on its head, instead offering a fine-tuned horror comedy series that will split your sides, one way or another. It’s the ASH VS. EVIL DEAD that the fans deserve without pandering or winking too frequently, and if this is how Season Two is starting, this writer cannot fathom what hilariously depraved places the season is going to end.