When we last left our lovable band of misfits, Ashley Williams (Bruce Campbell) had made an unsatisfying but necessary decision – he’d grant Ruby (Lucy Lawless) the Necronomicon as long as she’d allow Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), Pablo (Ray Santiago), and him a chance to live happily in their version of paradise in Jacksonville, Florida. Yes, it was probably a horrible idea for Ash to let Ruby go with her demented evil children, but at the same time, he didn’t have much choice: it was a somewhat selfless decision to ensure Pablo and Kelly weren’t harmed in a lifestyle they couldn’t continue, and it meshed well with some of Ash’s other bad decisions throughout his film history. Season 2 picks up at a party in Jacksonville, where Kelly, Pablo, and Ash have settled into a comfortable life despite the impending destruction of the world. At least Ash gets to use his chainsaw arm to open up a beer keg, right?
But things quickly go south (no pun intended) as things so often do in Ash vs Evil Dead once Ruby summons Ash and his pals to her aid – her demon children have rebelled against her, hoping to use the Necronomicon to do something, well, evil. And so the three soldiers against the Army of Darkness are yet again pushed into something terrifying, although based on part of “Home”‘s subplot, the Evil Dead may not be the scariest thing in Ash’s life.
That’s because “Home” literally brings the viewer to Ash’s old stomping grounds in Elk Grove, Michigan, tracking Ruby by an old rhyme that one of the Evil Dead sings to him during their attack in Jacksonville. They refer to him as Ashy Slashy, and as Ash pulls into town searching for Ruby, most of the residents recoil from him (and the kids still sing the song like “London Bridge”). Ash’s legacy from The Evil Dead lives on, and most people in Elk Grove simply know him as the guy that cut up all of his friends. He’s been the source of derision for the townspeople, and it becomes clear that he’s never lived it down – he’s simply put it aside and cut all ties to his home, even to his father (expertly played by Lee Majors, who gives Campbell a run for his money in this first episode).
Ash’s return to Elk Grove is a great sequence of scenes in “Home,” bookended by some intense conflicts that feel authentic to what the series did in its first season as well as inspired by the original film series. Most of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films did very little with Ash’s character outside of his raucous personality, so Ash vs Evil Dead benefits from being able to use some of its length to flesh out his backstory. While we don’t get much more about Ash than what’s been documented above, it’s clear that this humility has come to define the Ash that we know and love; he’s battled his personal demons like a soldier coming back from war, and now he’s still willing to kick evil’s ass for a bunch of people that don’t really like him that much.
It seems like Ash’s personal life and his family issues with his father are going to be a bigger part of the show this season, and if “Home” is any indication of what we can expect from Majors, count me in. But the rest of the cast is doing good work here too, including both Santiago and DeLorenzo, whose character beats have changed very little from last season. Here’s hoping they get a bit more to do in subsequent episodes, though; “Home” features a few fight scenes with them, and a bunch of hallucinations now that Pablo has worn the Necronomicon’s skin as a mask, but ultimately the episode doesn’t spend too much quality time with them. Lawless seems to be getting more screentime now that she’s become an integral part of the battle against evil, and her rapport with Campbell is refreshing. They both can give it to the other, and I’m loving their interplay.
The overarching enemy for this season I’m not quite sold on just yet, however, and I think that Ash vs Evil Dead has some work to do to explain these shadow creatures. Still, their involvement is very much akin to Army of Darkness‘ tone, even referencing that film with similar stylistic choices. Overall, “Home” has a lot of fun running with the inherent humor in its approach to gory, ultrastylized thrills, and it is certainly carrying over the things that made the first season such a success.
It’s hard to see much wrong with what this second season is doing despite delivering much of the same stuff content-wise – meaning no changes to the creatures that we see, the Deadites that attack Ash and his friends, or the emphasis on boomstick and chainsaw action. “Home” feels like a direct continuation of the show, and that’s probably one of the finest compliments one can give considering how successful the first season became. With Ash vs Evil Dead prying into Ash’s past life and involving Lawless more than the first season, the show feels both familiar and thrilling at the same time. Ash’s back, baby.