Previously on Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the Ghostbeaters—now with added Agent Fisher (Jill Marie Jones)—headed to the militia where Ash’s “friend,” Lem (Peter Feeney), said they could get guns and such. They are met by Lem’s boss, Crosby (Mark Mitchinson), and his armed and paranoid group, who have been attacked by Deadite Lem and wonder if Ash & Co. are also monsters. Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) are separated from Ash and Fisher, the latter of whom fight Deadite Lem while Pablo figures out what his boomstick should be and Kelly discovers hers is a high-powered automatic machine gun. Several militia members turn Deadite and there’s lots of bloody killing. After our group defeats the evil, they are pumped to go to the cabin, only to find that Ash has disappeared. Oh, and Ruby (Lucy Lawless) rose from the ashes of the pyre like a Phoenix and headed off in search of Ash’s missing evil hand. Classic Ruby!
The “Previously on Ash Vs. Evil Dead” for this week’s episode, “Ashes to Ashes,”* includes scenes from all (or nearly all) of the previous episodes, which to me means that we are in for a doozy of an ep. And boy, is it ever! Michael J. Bassett, who directed previous entries “Bait” and “Books from Beyond,” returns to the series as a writer, while direction is taken over by Australian Tony Tilse. The two of them bring us a highlight of the series, full of homages to the original films while bringing us further shading to Ash’s personality. The script is strong, the direction well-paced, and the acting top notch as Ash revisits the origin of his Deadite-filled life for the first time in decades.
Ash arrives at the cabin and finds a dead bird that immediately starts squawking at him after he sadly says, “Sorry Tweety, nothing survives here.” Ash fearfully flings the possessed bird against a tree, where it splats into a mass of blood and feathers. Ew.
Ash looks at the cabin apprehensively—a look he’ll wear more than once over the next half hour—and gets his boomstick and chainsaw ready. “Honey, I’m home,” he says with a touch of weary resignation.
As Ash walks toward the cabin, he remembers Linda talking about the necklace he gave her. The porch swing is banging against the cabin, the same way it did in the original films, and stops when Ash ascends the porch. Ash feels a presence behind him and turns to confront it, but it’s just Fisher, who says she, Pablo, and Kelly split up to look for him and help. They enter the cabin together. A mounted deer head falls off the wall, causing Fisher to remember what happened to her partner. Also, the mirror where Ash had one of his major freakouts in Evil Dead II whispers to Fisher. That can’t be good.
We see the cellar door, still locked up. Fisher, ignoring Ash’s warning, tries to open it and Ash flashes back to his sister, Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss), after she’s been possessed. The workshed comes up (how many of you yelled out “WORKSHED!”? Come on, be honest). Ash recounts what he had to do to Linda, then adds she had a “rockin’ bod.” He’s trying to keep up his devil-may-care façade in front of Fisher, but the sentiment rings false. Ash heads out to the shed to deal with his personal demon, leaving Fisher alone with the Necronomicon and something in the walls. Oh, it’s just a rat—and Ash’s maggot-infested evil hand, which sprouts an eye! EEK!
Meanwhile, Pablo and Kelly are lost in the woods (in more ways than one). Pablo realizes they’ve been walking in circles, having wound up back at the Delta, a familiar problem in this location. Pablo and Kelly meet three hikers who are also lost. They all pull their weapons on each other until Pablo says he and Kelly are good guys and only have guns because the woods are filled with evil bears. Pablo is the best. The three hikers, all attractive Aussies, offer to show Pablo and Kelly where the cabin is because they passed it in their wanderings. Those hikers are sooo dead.
Back at the cabin, Ash gets a generator going, walks to the shed, hears Linda’s voice, and is apprehensive again. Another cool thing Pablo did for Ash’s hand: put an additional glowing light on it, sort of like Iron Man’s gloves, but in a different spot. Ash finds Linda’s cleaved skull still in the vise where he left it all those years ago.
A Kandarian spirit locks Ash in the workshed. He calls for Fisher, but she’s in the cabin hearing noises and being creeped out, and then being drawn to the cellar door, where she discovers the old reel-to-reel playing slowly next to it because its batteries are dying (or it’s being powered by a demon—who knows in this place). When she tries to touch it, it electrocutes her mildly.
One of the female hikers (Samara Weaving) expresses an interest in Pablo and Kelly says he has a girlfriend. Is she developing feelings for our sweet boy? Pablo tells the hikers they shouldn’t wander alone, but they leave anyway. Seriously, they are attractive and lost in the woods. So. Damn. Dead.
Linda calls for Ash in the workshed and he refuses to talk to her. Her face reappears in the vise and she talks about how he loved her. The pain caused by her words is written all over Ash’s face. Linda reminds Ash about Jacksonville and their planned life together. He angrily tells the demon to shut up as he struggles to open the door and escape.
In the cabin, something is stalking Fisher. She draws her gun and searches the cabin, but only finds a rat and some books. One is Professor Knowby’s journal from the original films, open to the drawing of the blade Ruby happens to have, while the professor’s voiceover talks about what happens when you put the blade on the Necronomicon. That can’t be a coincidence, but we’ll have to wait to see how it plays into the last two episodes.
Ash appears and wants to start over with Fisher. He talks about how he once had a future without demons and chainsaws, and asks Fisher to help him find his old self. Campbell wonderfully underplays the entire speech, making the romantic vibe between he and Fisher seem much more real than last week’s weird near-kiss in the bunker. Fisher says it’s not the time or place for romance, yet succumbs to his charms. They kiss and Ash puts his no-longer missing hand up to her face, revealing its decomposition and well, now we know what else sprouted with that eye.
Fisher realizes what’s happening and grosses out. Evil Ash remains calm until Fisher insults him as being some sort of tumor of a dead hand. Meanwhile, Real Ash can’t get out of the workshed and is forced to listen to Linda continuing to taunt him. Real Ash is attacked by saw blades and a bear trap while Tumor Ash is trying to kill Fisher, who puts up an impressive fight. She chops the decomposed hand off with a machete and dismembers it. Tumor Ash tries to talk Amanda into believing he’s really Ash, saying the evil hand took him over, and manages to get the machete away and bury it where her neck meets her shoulder. “Now that’s what I call cleavage!” he crows. She falls over and is impaled on the deer’s antlers. He drives in the final nail, saying “that’s exactly how your partner felt when he was dying.”
In the workshed, the bear trap takes the hand Pablo made for Ash. “That was a gift!” Ash cries. He busts what remains of Linda’s skull and breaks out, running to the cabin. He finds Fisher and she tells him about Tumor Ash. Ash kisses her goodbye before Fisher coughs up blood and dies. As ED stories go, that’s actually a pretty darn romantic death, albeit a wee bit funny and a lotta bit gross.
Tumor Ash taunts Real Ash and runs off as Pablo and Kelly come upon the grisly scene. Ash tries to explain to Pablo and Kelly what happened, but they think he killed Fisher. Why they would think that after all they’ve been through with him, I couldn’t say. Ash runs after Tumor Ash and they have an epic battle full of cheap shots to each other’s trick knee, sore kidney, false teeth, bum shoulder, and best of all, soft balls. It’s vicious and funny and Campbell is brilliant in both roles.
As they choke each other out with their remaining hands, they say in tandem, “Time. To. Die.” Fade to black! Who will Pablo and Kelly find, the tumor or the real Ash? Stay tuned!
Coming next week: Ruby catches up to the remaining Ghostbeaters. Also pretty sure those hikers are doomed—they were too pretty and the girls didn’t even get named!
After last week’s less-than-spectacular episode, the series returns to top form at the cabin. As discussed in the “inside the show” featurette Starz has been providing after every episode, the makers recreated everything from the cabin and workshed exactly as it was in the original films, only more decrepit because 30 years have passed. The clock that tormented Ash with its loud ticking is the only original piece because producer Rob Tapert kept it.
The attention to detail pays off wonderfully. Each flashback to the traumatic events of that fateful night in the cabin seared through Ash’s mind, causing further scarring and reinforcing just why he didn’t want his friends to accompany him there. Tumor Ash’s soft demeanor and charming speech to Fisher also worked far better than the forced romance of “Fire in the Hole.” If I wasn’t someone who’s fully immersed in this world and knows better, I might have believed he was really Ash deciding this time to just take the girl and run. Even so, it was a fine, fine performance from Campbell as he made both Ashes distinct despite them looking exactly the same (down the facial lacerations inflicted by Linda and Fisher).
No Ruby this week, but for once, I’m not complaining because the episode was chock full of genius and pathos. Farewell, Agent Fisher. You were just starting to make an impression, and now we’ll never know if you really could have fallen for our crusty old hero.
“Don’t you get it? Everybody dies here—it’s just a rule! Death, taxes, more death, and I don’t pay taxes, so all I know is death!”
“Last time I was here with a girl, I was hoping to get laid. Didn’t quite work out that way. I did cut my own hand off with chainsaw, though. It was a fun weekend.”
Loved Kelly getting a teensy bit jealous when the hot blonde hiker took a shine to Pablo. I’m glad the series is taking its time with their relationship.
Pablo (about the hikers): “Man, I really hope they don’t end up dead.”
Kelly: “They have pepper spray.” I’d like to see what happens to a Deadite who gets a faceful of that stuff.
*I haven’t read the comic book story of “Ashes 2 Ashes,” so not sure if there are references to it in the episode. Let me know in the comments if you have and if there’s anything in the show pointing to that story.