Thursday, September 6, 2018

Ash vs Evil Dead Season Three- the Big Fin-Ash

The third and final season of this continually fun, scary and insane show has reached home release.

I’m sad to see it end, but I’d rather see it go out in top form than dwindle or repeat itself.  

Not that the series was anywhere near that point yet.  They have been good about varying the methods of main character death, return and possession to keep it fresh.  But with the balance of tones they maintain, there has to be a limit they’d reach eventually.

Quality held up this season, and this series remained the only one I binge watch.  I think its because the main plot line would work as a really well executed horror short story.  Then it gets stretched to season length, not via padding, but by unstopping lunacy and carnage.  

Once again, the show mixed opposites:

Comedy and horror were both increased in strength, while often being reduced in length to switch back and forth in the same scene well before the viewer could recover.  The action scenes left one in a constant divided state of screaming, laughing and going “ew” near simultaneously.  The music selections were perfect once again, and Ash and Ruby's duet of "Kids" from Bye Bye Birdie at the end of Episode 3 makes me wish even harder for a song filled soundtrack release, to go with LoDuca's excellent score.

There were expanded back stories for characters and artifacts, almost all with call backs to the original films. (Including the Greatest Film in the History of the CinemaIt’s remarkable how well this was executed.  The three seasons of the show now provide more than triple the amount of viewing time as the films, and technically it’s more like five times, since Army of Darkness references have to be veiled or oblique.  Yet almost every expansion of the mythology ties back to the first two Evil Dead movies in some small way. Hints at rifts, the books creation and other items are expanded, and the meaning of “I’ll swallow your soul” is terrifyingly revealed.

The main reason the ending was bittersweet was that although I’m sad it’s over; I’m still amazed it got produced in the first place.  Never before has the phrase, “Made for the fans,” totally encompassed the existence of a series to this extent.  Thirty episodes were churned out specifically for me, and my fellow Deadites.  That “amazement” factor may have been shared by the creators behind the show as this season left space to continue, but also provided a highly satisfying conclusion for the story and characters.

As the entire series is one long string of moments best described as, “That is so wrong in so many ways…but it’s hysterical,” any description will spoil some surprises.  You have been warned. 

The mostly practical effects are up to the task once again, and the “blood cannon” gushed frequently.  
I’d have to say the signature scene this season for the show’s unique mix of horror, comedy and grossness was Ash using his chainsaw and bowling balls to battle a demon baby who was crawling around inside the headless corpse of a large foreign woman and using it as a puppet.  Although Deadite Pablo’s mouth growing out of Kelly’s leg was a close second.

Try finding sentences like that to describe something on the Hallmark channel.

It might have been the funeral scene too.  Come to think of it, it's pretty much whatever scene my wife walks into the room just in time for and says, "What the hell are you watching?"

A key advantage of this franchise is that character death doesn’t necessarily mean losing them.  Plus, the deceased can return as allies, enemies, guides or monsters…and frequently a combination.  I wonder if they were certain this was the final season, more actors would have returned.  At least we got to see photos of Ellen Sandweiss as Cheryl.

In a season focused on Ash discovering a daughter he never had, bringing back his dad Brock was a necessity.  Lee Majors returned to action as both the perfect foil and insult fueled mentor to his, and our, boy Ash.  It was cool hearing everyone praise his coolness and professionalism in the commentary, and it came through on screen.

Lucy Lawless returned as well, as a deliciously and unabashedly evil version of Ruby.  Whether that malevolence was in full on monster mode, or in the subtle manipulations of Ash’s daughter, she clearly had a blast, as evidenced by her laughing uncontrollably in the commentary at Ruby’s most horrible acts.

That daughter, Brandy, was played by outstanding newcomer to the wild world of Evil Dead, Arielle Carver-O'Neill.  Her inclusion served two functions. The first was allowing the classic horror setting of high school to be featured in this final season.  The second was to provide and unjaded member of the heroes to react to how horrific and disgusting most of what’s occurring actually is.  She gets a full character arc throughout the ten episodes, though. By the time she’s passed through her own “workshed” experience, she’s become truly worthy of the Williams name. 

Her journey wasn’t the only one.  Kelly and Pablo have reached the point that they could carry the franchise on their own if the story line was to continue into a Ghostbeaters series/film/stage improvisation beyond Bruce Campbell’s published retirement from Ash.

We now pause for a moment of silence.

Or would a moment of screaming and gurgling be more appropriate?

The proof of their worthiness?  In the entire franchise, only Ash, Kelly and Pablo have been possessed, gotten better and survived.  There's a "complete series" set coming out for Halloween.  Show 'em ya love 'em and buy it, maybe we can get them back!

The reversal of usual horror gender roles continued to their epic conclusions.  Ray Santiago grew into the spiritual and emotional focus of the group as El Brujo Especial. He was really the glue holding the Ghostbeaters together, and remained the most optimistic and innocent of the bunch.  Not a bad trick considering everything he’s been through and his connection to the Necronomicon Ex Mortis itself.

Dana Delorenzo proved she was the perfect choice to be the most violent and foul mouthed classic action hero of the group by beginning every season three commentary track she’s on with “Heidy f***ing ho boys!”  Kelly was always ready to charge into battle, but her transition from being fully focus on revenge to being a capable leader came from the path she was dragged through this time around.

Note, there was one exception to Kelly’s greeting, when Arielle Carver-O'Neill borrowed it for one episode.  (She fits in great.) Then Dana had an entertaining try at an Australian accent to return the favor.  Ray, as usual, sounded like he was having far too much fun from hearing them and watching the show.  The commentaries are just as much of an entertaining ride as the series itself.  This crew clearly enjoyed each other and their work, and it shows.

I thought it was fantastic that the "consummation" Kelly and Pablo had was through big ole kisses.  There was something overwhelmingly innocent and sweet about their relationship...if you ignore the fact they were heavily armed and covered in blood for most of it.

Oh yeah, there was Dalton (Lindsay Farris)- the (as Ash called him) "new guy."   He survuived as well as one would expect with that nickname and probably set the record for the number of times a single character died in one live action season. (Oddly his only possible competition in this category would be Peter Leviticus Hutter from Bruce's past - and criminally short lived- show, The Adventures of Brisco County Junior.) His membership in the Knights of Sumeria did add considerably to the Evil Dead mythology, however.

Finally there was Bruce Campbell as Ashley Joanne Williams exhibiting the first character development we've seen since he came out of the root cellar to face Henrietta.  Don’t worry, his classic definition holds: he’s still a complete dangerous idiot, while being the one person you want to defend you when the Deadites attack.  Pablo and Kelly always demonstrate more intelligence, wisdom, common sense and practicality.  Yet when the monsters show up, Ash is the one who ends up saving the day.

Bruce has shown his acting ability throughout the series by playing multiple versions of Ash, and this season was no exception. 
It’s pretty cool how they’ve had a different “Bad Ash” in each season and the films, yet their creation and personalities were different enough to keep it from feeling like a retread.  What's even cooler is that with all the possessions and doppelgangers in this show, the main characters are shown to understand both their friends and the universe they inhabit, and are never fooled for long.

Through connecting with Brandy, and also the Ghostbeaters as surrogate kids, Ash evolves…a smidgen.  In the final episodes Bruce lets loose with some impressive low and high moment speeches showcasing more of his performing ability while he illustrates the weight and impact of the decades of horror, loss and responsibility have had on Ash. 

Ash’s final scene could easily translate into further series, and cemented the importance of "The Classic" in the franchise (similar to its role in the Deadlands) yet again.  The scene also functioned just as well as a “The Adventure Continues” ending for our time spent with the character.  It’s an homage to the original ending of Army of Darkness that Sam, Rob and Bruce wanted, but much more uplifting and satisfying. (Sorry for being familiar and using first names. but since they made this series for me, I feel I know them.)  Fortunately the studio did force the S-mart ending on them in that film, because it let us have three wonderfully gross, terrifying and silly seasons of Ash vs. Evil Dead.


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