I said this back when I finished watching the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, but really, there was no reason to have high hopes for this show. And yet, despite all expectations, it worked, delivering a show that was equal parts genuinely scary, genuinely funny, and genuinely gory. It was splattery, comical, really creepy, and just plain fun. And so, there was no way I wasn’t going to watch season two of the show, period.
And for 9 episodes, I had a blast. For most of the second season, Ash vs. Evil Dead was on a par with the first, and maybe even better. It made better use of its cast, letting Lucy Lawless occupy a more interesting morally gray zone, giving Dana DeLorenzo more chances to shine and bring Kelly to life as more than just the girl sidekick, and letting Bruce Campbell and Ray Santiago just talk back and forth and joke. More than that, the show started really enjoying itself in, playing around in the backstory of the movies and getting to cut loose a little more. We went back to Ash’s hometown, where, as you might imagine, he’s not viewed as a hero so much as “that guy who went out to a cabin with friends and came back alone”. We met his dad, which answered all kinds of questions about how Ash turned out the way he did. And, more than that, in the final few episodes, we started to literally dive back into the films themselves, as the timeline got awfully trippy and fun.
Not enough for you? The show’s not dumb, and it delivered on its promises of gore, horror, and comedy, mixing them together effortlessly and delivering some truly memorable sequences. There’s a car accident that is a brilliant moment of pitch-black comedy, a long ongoing duel with an unexpected cast member from all three films that just made me laugh, and a fight in a morgue that goes to some unspeakably gross places. So, yeah – it’s everything you’d hope for.
For nine episodes.
But the season ran ten, and it’s the finale that keeps me from being able to rate this season in any meaningful way.
If you weren’t aware that there was drama behind the scenes of the show, or that the showrunner quit while making the finale, well, you sure would be after watching the finale, which scrapped just about every major thread of storytelling the season had been setting up, delivered a bizarre, off-kilter final conflict, and wrapped everything up in a way that felt more baffling than cohesive. And sure enough, within the next day, departing showrunner Craig DiGregorio gave a blistering, name-naming interview that made his case for why the show was going down the wrong path, and explaining what he had planned for that finale.
Now, you can argue all you want about that interview – that DiGregorio is being unprofessional (probably true, though I admire his honesty), or that we’re only seeing one side of the story (true), or that he’s being a bit of a diva (probably true). And yet, none of those (valid) points detract from the fact that the finale is a complete letdown, a fizzle that feels out of step from the rest of the series, the story DiGregorio had been spinning, and the general tenor of the series. It’s doubly disappointing, because the finale for season 1 was absolutely perfect, and clinched my love for the series; more than that, DiGregorio’s plan for the finale sounds fascinating, and would definitely have intrigued me about where we were going from there.
Whatever the case, what we ended up with is a bizarre, odd season, something that was so, so good until it wasn’t, and left me wondering what kind of show I’m going to get in the next season. Will a season without conflict behind the scenes be more coherent and focused? Will the new showrunner have a vision that’s as good as DiGregorio’s was, or was the weak finale a sign of things to come? I don’t know, but I’d be lying if I was completely optimistic. And that’s a shame, because up until that finale, this was one of the most purely enjoyable series around right now, especially as a horror fan.