Spoilers for the Ash vs Evil Dead finale to follow
It was only a week ago when the news dropped that the beloved The Evil Dead (1981) followup series Ash vs Evil Dead would not be returning for a season 4 and this season 3 finale all of a sudden became the series finale. As heartbreaking as this news was I had all the faith in the world that the talented creators and writers of this incredible series would be able to finish it off right and boy do they! This review will be doubling as a celebration of the season and series as a whole as well as going into the finale and what that ending could mean for the future of the Evil Dead franchise… if there is one.
From the very first episode this series managed to perfectly capture the tone of the original Evil Dead films and it carried that right through to the last. It still retains and flawlessly executes that perfect blend of comedy and horror with that familiar Evil Dead absurdity lining each and every scene. But most importantly it reintroduced us to one of the most iconic horror protagonists in history still played phenomenally by the best B-movie actor to ever walk the planet. Ashley J Williams played by the wonderful Bruce Campbell is one of the best pop culture characters and one that has graced our screens for the last 37 years… with a bit of gap in there. To see Ash return after so long and to know the deadite killing, chainsaw wielding sarcastic badass is the same so long ago is amazing. Bruce Campbell after all this time still has such a tight grip on the character of Ash that it’s as if no time has past since his last proper appearance in Army of Darkness (1992). I could watch Bruce as Ash all day every day and never get bored but all good things must come to an end at some point including Bruce’s portrayal of his most iconic role.
He announced earlier in the week that he would be retiring from portraying the character of Ash after having bought the character to life from his early deadite fighting days right through to his time on the brink of retirement. We very well may never see Ash fire his boomstick or utter his classic lines ever again but it has been the best of rides and Bruce, I salute you.
Each season of Ash vs Evil Dead offered a tonne of hilariously memorable quotes and action sequences that somehow managed to go to places you never thought possible. Season 2 may have had the morgue sequence as well as the introduction of the Ashy Slashy puppet but season 3 had its fair share of epic moments all leading to that remarkable ending. Whether it be the brutal early fight sequence in Elk Grove High’s music room, or my personal favourite fight sequence in the sperm bank with Take on Me by A-ha playing over the top there was not a dull moment in the entire season. Each and every episode had something fantastic to offer and developed a story that was entirely unpredictable right down to the final scene. Speculating and being wrong each and every week was half of the fun as I couldn’t wait to see which direction the creative minds behind the show would take things and I was never disappointed. But where the hilarious one-liners and blood spattering action is at the forefront of the series there is actually quite a bit of heart present and even Ash catches feels.
We’ve spent three seasons along this journey with The Ghostbeaters and at this point it’s like saying goodbye to a family you may never see again. Ash’s crew made up of Kelly and Pablo played remarkably by Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago respectively have grown so much with each and every episode that it’s just as hard to say goodbye to them as it is to Ash. To see how much they’ve grown into the world of Evil Dead is amazing and how they’ve embraced the craziness of everything going on is just great to see. They both had their own journeys throughout the series that saw them go from Ash’s sidekicks to the ones who would be responsible for the protection of the world once Ash is gone. Pablo became more and more of a leader to where he is now El Jefe in Ash’s absence and Kelly has gradually turned into an ass-kicking badass who ain’t afraid of jack shit. So really, Ash lives on in those two and the legend will truly never die.
Season 3 also introduced us to a key new character and a new (or old) organisation who were both integral to the story and connected in some way to Ash. This season introduced us to Ash’s daughter Brandy played by Arielle Carver-O’Neill and we were all just as surprised by this revelation as Ash was at the beginning of the season. This bought a very interesting dynamic to the season because for the first time in this series it gave Ash something else to fight for other than himself and gave the series a bit more heart. Brandy really did slide into our group of heroes very easily and even though the world of the dead was completely new to her, being Ashy Slashy’s daughter meant that it didn’t take too long for her to adjust. She has her own little arc throughout the season which was a lot of fun to watch and she even participates in her own absurd deadite action sequence in which she fights off her possessed phone. On top of Brandy this season introduced us to the Knights of Sumeria, an ancient group of people whose purpose is to protect the world from the deadites and follow the prophesied one who in this case happens to be Ash.
In the season we are introduced to a couple of members of the organisation including Dalton (Lindsay Farris) and Zoe (Emilia Burns) but neither one really sticks around for too long. Dalton has a couple of funny moments and Zoe is introduced as a very intriguing character but unfortunately they both end up being killed off before we really get to know any of them. But nonetheless I loved the introduction of this organisation to the lore of Evil Dead and with the way the series ends it further proves their overall importance in the story being told here and going forward (maybe, who knows…).
Now lets discuss the season and series finale because it really does go BIG, is absolutely phenomenal, and ends the series on a perfect note in the most heartbreaking yet most Evil Dead way. The finale sees The Ghostbeaters going up against the Kandarian Demon in its monstrous true form in one final attempt to rid the world of evil. This episode had a lot going on and was entertaining right to the very last. This was absolutely Bruce Campbell at his very best, in one final bout he put his all into giving the character of Ash a fitting end and he showed the true range of his talents in here. In this episode we see a change in Ash, he is still the same Ash we love as he decapitates a deadite beneath his hardware store and goes toe to toe with the Kandarian Demon all whilst uttering smart-ass comments and flipping the bird but his relationship with Brandy plays a key part here. As far as heart and emotional content goes this episode takes the cake and eats it all whilst sobbing in bed.
Not only do we see Kelly and Pablo finally reunited and share a kiss even Ash is excited about but we get a number of great moments between Ash and Brandy. Bruce Campbell is incredible in the scene in his house where we see Ash break down and almost give up after succumbing to the weight of being the protector of the world from evil for 37 years. And when Brandy gives him that motivational speech to get him to continue the fight you believe it and buy it as a strong emotional moment because of Arielle’s great work in the scene. And then in the scene where Ash is saying his goodbyes to Pablo, Kelly, and Brandy that was such a strongly emotional moment that I borderline shed a tear. Knowing this is the end of the series and the end of Bruce Campbell as Ash it made the moment so damn effective and I never thought an episode of Ash vs Evil Dead would have me shed a tear of all things. And then it’s followed by Ash’s fight with the demon which is the most Evil Dead sequence in the entire series, I know I’ve probably said that about a number of scenes over the three seasons but this really is the pinnacle for Ash’s character.
But it’s not over yet… after Ash defeats the Kandarian Demon with the kandarian dagger he becomes trapped under the dead demon inside his tank. The next thing we see is blurry POV footage of a member of the Knights of Sumeria dragging Ash away from the wreckage and placing him inside some sort of box. Cut to the next scene and Ash wakes up in presumably the same box, in a white room, in some white clothing, and with not one but two hands. His hand seems to have been reattached using some sort of future technology, then he exits the room where he comes across a bombshell of a woman who definitely catches his eye. As he follows her outside we see he has awoken far into the post-apocalyptic future as a nice callback to the alternate/originally planned ending of Army of Darkness. At first it looks like everything is gone but it is revealed that his trusty old Delta has survived the test of time and is heavily armoured like something straight out of Mad Max (2015). The last we see of Ash, he suits up, hops in his car, and utters his trademark line “Groovy” before speeding off into the wasteland to continue his fight against the Dark Ones.
Personally I love this ending because it puts a nice cap on Ash’s story to where even though I’d absolutely love to see how he goes about fighting evil in this post-apocalyptic world I don’t think we really need to. Ash’s journey is done and in his final moments in the present he passed the deadite-killing torch over to Kelly, Pablo, and Brandy. So now comes the big question… is this really the last we will ever see of the Evil Dead universe? Or will we see a continuation of sorts in the near future? Personally I do think Bruce Campbell really is done with the character of Ash in a starring or supporting role. I wouldn’t rule out a cameo appearance in a future Evil Dead property but as for seeing him in the forefront of more Evil Dead content I doubt it’ll happen. If anything does happen with the Evil Dead franchise going forward I could see Pablo and Kelly returning and taking up the mantle of protecting the Earth from evil but even then we’d have to just wait and see.
In the end I had the most fun with the 15 hours of Ash vs Evil Dead we’ve gotten over the last few years and it’s sad to see it go but it has gone out in one of the best ways possible. We say goodbye to these characters, and we say goodbye to this world that will forever live on as one of the greatest franchises in horror history. It was a nice touch to see everything come full circle with Ash giving Brandy the same necklace he had given Linda in the original Evil Dead film. This finale deserves nothing less than a groovy;
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Ash vs Evil Dead streams on Stan Australia