Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ash vs. Evil Dead - Home Again

Ash goes back to the year of Friday the 13th Part III.

Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago), sidekick to our hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), is dead. If you're taking this hard as a viewer, it's clear that Ash is taking it even harder. With Pablo's corpse propped up and riding shotgun in his Oldsmobile (restored after being inhabited by evil spirits earlier in the season - everything and everyone gets possessed on this show), Ash is spinning donuts and getting wasted on alcohol and weed laced with angel dust when this episode catches up with him.

When Pablo died at the end of the previous episode, I asked for some kind of magical reset button to fix this, and Ash realizes what that button is within the first five minutes of 'Home Again': time travel. In addition to funerary incantations and demon resurrection spells, the Book of the Dead that is the source for all of the demonic mayhem in the Evil Dead franchise also contains passages that can send the reader through time. Ash knows this because he has been sent to the Middle Ages before. And Evil Dead fans who have been concerned about the rights issues that have kept Ash's adventure in the Middle Ages in the film Army of Darkness from being mentioned on this television show should be happy to hear that he does directly reference the events of Army of Darkness here.

Sure, we've known that Ash travelled through time before, but that wasn't intentional. If time travel has always been an option that's just a passage from the book away, why did it take until the nineteenth episode of this show for someone to realize it? Ash is dense, but is he truly that dense?

Once Ash gets it in his head that he wants to travel through time with Pablo's corpse and his surviving sidekicks Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) and Ruby the former Dark One (Lucy Lawless), he doesn't just choose to go back to before Pablo died or before he read the book in the first episode of this series, he wants to go back all the way to a time that will ensure that he never sees the book or has to fight a Deadite at all. 1982. The year when The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II took place has now been officially established.

Our heroic Ghost Beaters travel back to '82 in Ash's Oldsmobile, and among the sights that confirm the year is a movie theatre showing a double feature of Friday the 13th Part III and Poltergeist. Not only is that a double feature I would love to go to, as a Friday the 13th fan I'm also overjoyed to see the franchise get a nod in the world of Evil Dead. Evil Dead has referenced Nightmare on Elm Street before, Freddy Krueger's glove even hangs in the Evil Dead cabin (and The Evil Dead was on a TV in the original Nightmare on Elm Street), so it's good to see Jason Voorhees getting some love as well. In a perfect world, we would have seen Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash back in 2005 or '06. New Line Cinema tried to make it happen. If only...

The theatre also displays posters for Stripes, E.T., and since the poster was seen in the original Evil Dead, The Hills Have Eyes.

Once again, Ash heads back to that happy little cabin in the woods where all this horror began, and once again he goes through some terrible things while he's there. He hasn't given himself much leeway on this mission, arriving at the cabin on the same day his '82 self will be arriving with his sister and friends, and he didn't take into account that there were already evil forces loose in the woods when they got there. Forces that were accidentally unleashed by Professor Raymond Knowby, who went to the cabin with his wife Henrietta to translate the long-lost Book of the Dead that they had found.

Raymond and Henrietta were dead by the time Ash got to the cabin before, but they're still alive this time around, played by Nicholas Hope and Alison Quigan. We get to see part of what their experience with the evil is like, and as it turns out their story was much darker than I would have imagined. I always pictured Raymond as a kind, well-intentioned man, but this episode shows that he could make some twisted decisions when push came to shove. I'm not really sure I like how Raymond is portrayed here, but his choices do add another fodder character into the mix - Sara West as college girl Tanya.

There are some wonderful callbacks to the original trilogy of films in 'Home Again', from the look of the cabin and the set decoration, which includes a picture of actress Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby from Evil Dead II (and yes, Freddy Krueger's glove is still hanging in there as well), to a moment in which Ash's right leg becomes infected by the evil just like his right hand was in Evil Dead II. He cut his hand off when it was infected, but he takes another approach to dealing with his leg, leading to a scene that is both reminiscent of his dealings with his possessed hand in II and his fight with miniature versions of himself in Army of Darkness. This culminates with the viewer getting a glimpse at a physical manifestation of the infection, and it's a nasty, ugly, vulgar little thing.

While Ash is having déjà vu, Kelly and Ruby are off getting attacked by living trees, much like characters in the movies were.

The ultimate callback happens in the final moments, and it is an incredible turn of events... But since it carries over into the next episode, I'll hold off on discussing it until my write-up on that one.

Directed by Rick Jacobson, who previously directed the episodes 'The Dark One' and 'Home', from a script by Steve Turner and Jennifer Ames, making their Ash vs. Evil Dead writing debut after working on shows like Boardwalk Empire and Banshee, 'Home Again' is a highly entertaining episode that delivers as much fun as you could possibly ask for from this show. It's an excellent penultimate episode that leads into a finale that, unfortunately, I've heard a lot of fans were disappointed by. We'll see what my reaction to the finale is in a few days.

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