Series Finale: “The Mettle of Man”
Director/Writer: Rick Jacobson
This is it. The end of the road. The last-ever episode of my favorite crazy horror show, Ash Vs. Evil Dead. The hardest recap I’ve ever had to do. I may cry. Somebody hold me!
Ahem. Ash Vs. Evil Dead goes out with a bang and a helluva cliffhanger, stranding Ash (Bruce Campbell) in a post-apocalyptic world with a beautiful cyborg, Lexx (Jessica Green), by his side, his Delta ’88 souped-up like a Mad Max road champion, ready to head out for more adventure. It also goes out leaving me with so many questions, including: What year is it? Where is he? How did he survive? Where did that Army of Darkness white streak in his hair come from? Was the next season going to be the continuation of AOD’s alternate ending (Ash goes too far into the future, stranding himself in a post-apocalyptic nightmare)? If Ash has defeated Kandar, the apparent leader of all the demons, why are The Dark Ones still kicking around? What is going on? SOMEBODY TELL ME!
The show also ends with scenes with a surprising amount of emotion—well, surprising for a show that’s been a steady mix of horror and slapstick with a few occasional flashes of deeper sentiment. Ash spends a lot of time before the big battle bonding with his daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill), gifting her with the precious memento he’s been keeping in his pocket all these years—the necklace he gave the first Linda (Betsy Baker) in the film that started it all, The Evil Dead. Ash even cries when he thinks about fighting Kandar the Destroyer, alternating between cowardice and fear. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that gigantic spiked spindly creature?
Ash cries also when talking with Brandy in scenes that are nicely played by Campbell and Carver-O’Neill. Campbell doesn’t always get to show this much range playing Ash because Ash’s predominant characteristics are sarcasm and irresponsibility. However here, he’s allowed to open up Ash’s inner life more than ever. Ash not only shows tenderness towards Brandy, but parents her like he’s been her dad all her life. He scolds her when she reaches for a bong he’s taking a hit off because he doesn’t want her to make his same mistakes. He’s been protecting her since he first became aware of her, but now there’s an actual familial bond of love between them. She’s also got his warped sense of humor, high-fiving him after making a joke at a resurrected Kelly’s (Dana DeLorenzo) expense. As Pablo (Ray Santiago) says with exasperation, “Now there’s two of them.” Ash & Daughter Vs. The Evil Dead—what could have been.
Director/Writer Rick Jacobson does a good job juggling all the dangling plot threads, bringing as much closure as possible to the series as whole, while leaving that little bit of hope for a future season (which won’t happen, given that Campbell has officially retired from playing Ash). That little bit of hope, bittersweet though it is now, is greatly appreciated. I would’ve really hated it if Ash had died for good.
There are a few nitpicks I have with the season as a whole (such as, what other powers does being El Brujo Especial confer on Pablo, and where the hell is Linda B.), but overall, I’m pleased with how Ash Vs. Evil Dead has ended: Ash takes responsibility for the Deadite menace and saves the world, Kelly and Pablo are in love, Brandy’s all grown up, and mostly importantly, Ash is alive, still sarcastic, still a bit of a lech, and ready to take on whatever’s out there in that wrecked world he and Lexx (Jessica Green) drive toward. As Ash says one last time at the very end, “Groovy.”
Previously on Ash Vs. Evil Dead: The Dark Ones come out of The Rift and take the lost pages of the Necronomicon from Pablo (Ray Santiago), but don’t kill him. Pablo figures out that his Brujo powers mean he has one foot in both worlds, good and evil, and that The Dark Ones, seeing his evil side, disregard him as a threat. Evil begins attacking the citizens of Elk Grove, including Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill), who manages to escape her Deadite-ified cell phone. Ash (Bruce Campbell) shows up at Ruby’s (Lucy Lawless) and sees her and Kelly/Kaya (Dana DeLorenzo) trying to create a fake page in the Necronomicon to mask it from The Dark Ones. Ruby and Ash have a vicious fight, which allows enough distraction for The Dark Ones to show up, force Kaya’s soul out of Kelly’s body and into her own, which they then immolate. They also destroy Ruby for good measure. Ash grabs Kelly’s limp body and the Kandarian dagger and hightails it out of there. He meets up with Pablo, who’s already caught up with Brandy; they head to town and see everything is in chaos. Suddenly, an enormous arm comes shooting out of the ground. This cannot be a good development.
The giant creature continues to dig out of the ground into the streets of Elk Grove. Ash tells everyone to run, then tells Pablo to get Kelly’s body and Brandy to get the dagger. The bartender (Shayne Blaikie) appears and attacks, yelling “Dead by dawn” twice; Brandy stabs him in the mouth. “I’ve never been so proud of you,” Ash laughs.
Some Elk Grovians are cowering in an alley. Pablo relays that the monster is Kandar the Destroyer; he says this is the “final test” of humanity that was prophesied. Deputy Masters (Colin Garlick) tells Ash to go kill it, but Ash won’t because he’s justifiably scared. I mean, have you seen Kandar? He’s ginormous! Masters runs out in the street and yells for Kandar to come get Ash, which attracts the Deadite Force to come get him instead. We see him from behind as he’s lifted in the air, then turn to reveal he’s been possessed. Deadite Masters attacks a man in a wheelchair. Bloody opening credits!
Ash and the gang arrive at his house and he tells Brandy, “This is…a bit worse than usual.” Big understatement. A news report on the TV shows similar events happening in New York and other cities. Deadites are seen attacking people, including the cameraman. The problem, we learn, is global. “Oh, great! I’ve doomed humanity!” a saddened Ash says, reverting to self-pity mode. He sits down, grabs a six-pack, and starts drinking and ranting about how he never wanted this to be his life.
Pablo is un-moved by Ash’s speech, reminding him that they still have to save Kelly. Ash whines why they should bother when she’ll just die with the rest of humanity. Brandy can’t take his self-pity anymore and slaps the beer out of Ash’s face, telling him he has to “own up” to who he is and save the world. She begs him not to let her down. Ash’s eyes are filled with tears. He has trouble getting up because his knees are crunchy, but Pablo and Brandy give him an assist. He grabs a bong made of beer cans and tokes, much to Brandy’s chagrin, but when she reaches for it herself, he turns full-on dad and says she’s not going to repeat his bad habits. Ash wants Brandy to get out of town because he can’t stand to see her die again, but she refuses to leave because she’d rather die with her dad. Ash reluctantly agrees to let his daughter help.
Meanwhile, Kelly’s dead body is getting stinky, so they make a plan to head to the hardware store cellar. Pablo says he’ll take her straight there because Evil thinks he’s one of them. Ash and Brandy take to the sewers to travel unseen while military jets fly overhead. “Let’s dance,” Brandy says. It turns out the sewer is part of an abandoned mine; also, there’s something nasty already down there in the shadows.
In town, people are possessed and eating each other. Deadites run rampant. Pablo sees the jets attack Kandar, but it only makes the demon more powerful. The demon belches fire at the planes. Kandar is very large, spindly, and spiky, and he roars like a T-Rex. He’s a perfectly grotesque abomination. No wonder Ash was so scared.
Brandy tells Ash she’d like to know more about him when this ends. He pulls out the original Linda’s necklace; he always carried it, he says, because he thought it might keep him safe. Ash gives it to Brandy. “I can’t keep doing this shit forever,” he says. The two share a tender moment, then hear something skittering in the dark. It’s a Deadite—actually, it’s a mob of Deadites—and they’re everywhere, even on the ceiling. Ash starts shooting them while Brandy uses the dagger, stabbing one Deadite square in the junk. They escape by crawling through a sewer pipe.
Pablo arrives at the open portal in the cellar with Kelly’s decomposing body just as Ash and Brandy show up. Ash immediately asks Pablo to kill him, but Pablo says he can enter The Rift without dying because of his dual nature. Some of the Deadites show up and start attacking. Pablo jumps through the portal while Ash and Brandy battle the Deadites. “Your mama shoulda taught you not to speak with your mouth full!” Ash quips as he jams his boomstick in one possessed man’s mouth and pulls the trigger. Ash and Brandy kill the Deadites, getting covered in blood in the process.
Pablo comes back through the portal, seemingly alone, and Kelly’s body stays limp. Pablo says he brought her through, and can’t understand why she hasn’t revived. He caresses Kelly’s face and calls her “mi amor.” Kelly suddenly breathes. “Am I alive?” she asks. Pablo says yes and kisses her. Romantic music swells in the background, then sounds skewed and slow as Kelly looks in the mirror and sees her ashen face. “Fuck me! Ohh, I look like Keith Richards,” she laments. Brandy says, “I was thinking more Iggy Pop,” and Ash adds, “Filthy and not fine.” They high-five. Pablo comments, “Yep, there’s two of them now.” Kelly apologizes for thinking she was like Ash and could take Ruby on her own. “Fucking A right you were!” Ash gloats. He’s all heart, our Ash.
Evil starts coming for them in the cellar and they flee. Ash makes sure he gets his boomstick before the ceiling collapses. Up top, the military is fighting Kandar with tanks and rockets and guns, but the demon is destroying them. The Ghostbeaters hide behind a car; Pablo sees a little girl alone and goes to help her. Yay, Pablito! The military folks get the news that a nuke is going to be used on Kandar and they need to evacuate. The Deadite Force comes for one of the military men; Kelly grabs a gun and shoots its head to pulp. Kelly helps the sarge who was hurt, too. Ash tells the military not to nuke Kandar because he will only get stronger, but they won’t listen. Brandy tells Ash to get in the truck with them to evacuate, but he grabs the dagger and locks everyone in, saying he’s not going to run. He tells Kelly she’s the strong leader that people will need, and that Pablo is now the Jefe. He tells Pablo to save Brandy, Kelly, and everyone else in the truck. “I gotta finally, for once, own up to who the hell I am,” he tells a crying Brandy. Ash looks at her and at Linda’s necklace around her neck. He’s determined to save them all.
After the truck pulls out, Ash tears up a little, then hoists the dagger and says, “Come get some.” He jumps inside an abandoned tank, finally gets it mobile, and accidentally crushes Pablito’s food truck, ha! He heads toward Kandar. Ash takes an artillery shell apart and puts the dagger in it like a bayonet, binding it to the shell with duct tape. Wow, tanks have everything! He then whistles to get the creature’s attention. “Hey, you bag of assholes, you looking for me?” he asks as he flips off Kandar. Kandar is pissed and heads right for him. Ash preps to shoot the dagger. “You want to test the mettle of man, huh? How ‘bout if you taste the metal of man!” The tank, however, won’t fire. Kandar picks the tank up like it’s a toy and looks like he’s going to eat it or fry it with his fire-breath. Fortunately, Ash finds an override button and launches the dagger right into Kandar’s mouth. Kandar spews black blood and drops the tank. Ash crawls out the top in time to watch Kandar dying, but has to go right back down into the tank because Kandar’s body is falling toward him. Kandar’s head lands right on the tank.
Ash wakes up in a haze. We see everything from his point-of-view and it’s all fuzzy and incomplete. Someone drags him out of the tank and bandages him. We see through Ash’s eyes that the person has a KOS ring. The unknown person puts him into some kind of compartment. Ash wakes up in barren room in a medical contraption. He’s wearing a futuristic medical suit that kind of looks like pajamas, and he appears to have both his hands, but his metal hand has been replaced with a bionic one. Ash also has a wide streak of white hair, just like the one he got fighting evil in Army of Darkness. Ash lets himself out of the room, meeting up with a female cyborg (Jessica Green) who immediately takes a knee and says, “The savior is awake.” She opens up the doors to the underground bunker and the outside world is in ruins. Ash wants to know where his daughter is, and the cyborg says she’ll explain as they drive; The Dark Ones are back and they need to get moving. She reveals the Delta ’88, which is tricked out for the apocalypse (kind of like it was in AOD but with a rocket jet on it). The wings attached to the grill say “Hail to the King.” Ash, ever the hound, checks out the cyborg’s behind as she gets in the gunner position of the car. “How do you feel sire?” she asks him.
“Groovy,” he says for the last time of the series.
Ash yells as he guns the engines. THE END.
This week in Ash (and other) one-liners (plus other stuff I liked):
“Well, you know what? Not like I didn’t tell ‘em! Pablo, how many times have you heard me say this, huh? Why me? Who am I? Nobody! Nobody! A guy from Elk Grove, Michigan! Where the fuck is that? The middle of jack-shit nowhere, that’s where! You know what, I got news for you! I didn’t ask for this! You think I want this horseshit, be covered in blood 24/7? Who the fuck would want that!? Savior my ass! I’m a goddamn failure!” He cries. Again, great acting from Bruce. Kinda feel like he might not want to be covered in blood so much any more.
Ash, grabbing a bong: “I’m gonna show the world what a Williams can do. But first things first!”
Brandy: “Is this really the best time to be getting baked?
Ash: “I’m not gonna fight that thing with a clear head!”
“Okay, Ash, just like Battlezone the arcade game. How hard can it be, right?”
Linda B. Watch: I wasn’t really looking for her to return. We’ll just say she died on the way to her home planet. That weird off-ness I felt all season was probably my brain’s way of telling me this was the final season.
This week in AvED music: A reprise of Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer” (Ash in the tank), followed by more Deep Purple as “Space Truckin’” plays while Ash drives out into the unknown with his new KOS cyber-buddy.
All photos courtesy of Starz