Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ash vs. Evil Dead - Unfinished Business

Ash is a perverted drunk, but he has his moments.

After back-to-back episodes that featured a splooge-coated fight in a sperm bank, the desecration of a corpse at a funeral, and patricide, Ash vs. Evil Dead cooled it down a bit with the fourth episode of its third season, which was directed by prolific television director Daniel Nettheim (he even has some episodes of Doctor Who to his name) from a script by supervising producer Nicki Paluga. There's nothing overly disgusting or offensive in this one. In fact, it kind of has a soft-hearted center, with our chainsaw-wielding hero Ash J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) being visited by the ghost of his father Brock (Lee Majors) and joining him on a journey that literally goes into the man's memories, to a winter day in 2012... and in this trip down memory, we hear a bit of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Sure, Ash hacked his father to pieces in the previous episode, but that wasn't really Brock. That was a demonic Deadite inhabiting Brock's body. Brock died back in the season 2 episode 'Last Call', getting run down by Ash's beloved car, which was under the influence of a demonic entity itself. Since his grave was disturbed to create the Deadite version of him, Brock's spirit is able to reach out to Ash for a brief time. And during this time, he shares an important piece of information with him.

Brock was in the middle of telling Ash a vital secret when the car hit him and splattered his brains in the street. I don't know what former showrunner Craig DiGregorio intended that secret to be, and with how goofy this show is I wouldn't have been surprised if it Brock's "I've got a secret" moment was just intended to be a joke, with no substance behind it, no real secret ever to be revealed. But new showrunner Mark Verheiden has latched on to that moment and given it closure - finishing Brock's unfinished business.

I was glad to see that dangling thread get taken care of, especially since it meant more screen time for Lee Majors on this show.

Of course, the secret does have a touch to the absurd to it. We find out that Brock had been visited in his hardware store (a store Ash has since inherited) by a representative of the evil-fighting Knights of Sumeria, who had in his possession missing pages from the Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead. The guy ended up taking a tumble into the basement of the hardware store and appeared to be dead, so rather than deal with it Brock just had the basement sealed off. Ash didn't even know his store had a basement.

To get those Necronomicon pages, Ash has to venture down into the basement, where he makes a surprising discovery..One that might cause an inconvenience for the villainous Ruby (Lucy Lawless), although she doesn't seem to be too concerned, because she is planning to gain a whole lot of power soon. After she orchestrates the murder of Ash at the hands of his own offspring. I'm not sure if the monstrous little kid Ruby recently brought into existence counts as his offspring and is the one meant to kill Ash, or if it's the teenage daughter named Brandy (Arielle Carver-O'Neill) Ash just found out he has, but her plan would probably work either way. We know she has been in contact with Brandy, going undercover as her high school guidance counselor, she maybe she will manipulate the girl into turning homicidal at some point.

Right now, Brandy is with Ash's sidekick Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), trying to survive an attack by Ash's other sidekick Pablo (Ray Santiago), who has been taken over by the forces of evil. Ash vs. Evil Dead season three chalks up another excellent use of music during this secondary plot, this time having Air Supply's "I'm All Out of Love" play during a demon attack, and the action builds up to a hell of a sight gag I look forward to seeing more of in the next episode.

Verheiden's intention when he came on board Ash vs. Evil Dead was to dig deeper into the Evil Dead franchise's mythology, which has established that Ash was prophesied to be an evil-conquering hero in the Necronomicon. While that has basically only amounted to Ash kicking a lot of Deadite ass up to this point, Verheiden wanted to explore the prophecy and what it means for the character. That intention has been evident in the season so far, and it's very clear in 'Unfinished Business'. We're learning more about the Necronomicon and Ash's role in this evil dead business all the time, and I'm very interested to see where Verheiden is taking this story. While the season is still delivering the hysterical mayhem, there's also a bit of added depth here.

Among the things we learn in this episode is Ash's full name. "Ash" is a cool name, but it's short for "Ashley", which is generally more fitting for a girl. Now we find out that this is a "Boy Named Sue" sort of situation, as the middle initial in Ashley J. Williams is revealed to stand for Joanna. Our male hero's name is Ashley Joanna Williams.

But he makes it work.

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