Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz, Sundays) returns with a helping of blood, gore, guts and lunacy as only Ashy Slashy can deliver.
Previously on Ash vs. Evil Dead: Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) had thwarted demon queen Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and cut off the connection between our world and the world of demons, forever.
Ash vs. Evil Dead opens its third season premiere, Family, with an ad for Ash Williams’ Hardware Store – a kitschy, crazy piece of work that has Ash slicing prices – literally – before pulling back to show Ash watching the ad just before his store opens.
Elsewhere in town, on a low-rent Antiques Roadshow called Treasures from the Loft, a woman presents the show’s host/assessor a book she found in the mud near her homes. Three guesses which book – and if you’re a fan of the show, that should be two guesses too many.
In the local high school, two girls – Rachel (Ellie Gall) and Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) – are cleaning obscene drawing of a locker while bemoaning living in such a dismal, boring, out of the way place. When the school’s mascot appears – but there’s something a little bit different about him, this time.
While things are turning ugly at the high school, Ruby pays a visit to the set of Treasures from the Lost – and Ash is confronted by a woman calling herself Candace Barr (Katrina Hobbs) and claiming that her daughter and Ash’s(!) is in trouble.
Don’t worry, Kelly will be along before the premiere’s epic conclusion – with a friend…
Written by Mark Verheiden and directed at the show’s bat outta hell pace by Mark Beesley, Family rocks through a quick, bloody effective recap before launching into – a few moments of relative calm as it seems like the team’s victory over evil might be taking.
A slow build racks up tension until Ruby’s arrival and things fall apart spectacularly.
By the time we reach the title card, carnage has been achieved.
A combination of genuine wit (Ash talking up hardware products to a stunned young girl who is seeing the carnage ramping up on the TV behind him); slapstick (Ash battling evil in the high school) and the unexpected (what could possibly make Ruby gag?), Family is a rollicking half hour of everything that makes Ash vs. Evil Dead the off-the-wall delight that it is.
Campbell continues to give nuance to the blockheaded Ash (there are moments when he clearly fights off moments of potential sensitivity!) as he resolutely battles on in true heroic form even though he has no idea what’s going on.
Santiago keeps the episode grounded – even after all the weirdness he’s seen, Ray keeps getting freaked out like a normal person would. He may be even more courageous than Ash – he’s knows (and is terrified by) what’s happening and carries on regardless.
Carver-O’Neill brings a combination of boredom and freaked out almost victim to Brandy Barr-Williams. She brings a new element to the show – genuine youth (Ash is well into middle age; Ray and Kelly are late twenties/early thirties). This high school girl (four months from graduating and hauling ass out of town) will have a huge impact on Ash, Ray and Kelly.
Plus, later scenes introduce a new guy (Lindsay Farris) who has a different link to the ongoing story.
Because there’s so much going on, Family isn’t quite as propulsive as the average Ash vs. Evil Dead episode (whatever that means), but it introduces its new situations and characters smoothly into the flow of the show.
If you’re a fan, you’ll love this. If not, this isn’t the best jumping on moment.
What it is, is sheer bloody, disgusting fun.
Final Grade: B+