It’s easy to forget the gory roots of Ash Vs. Evil Dead. Back in the ‘80s, Sam Raimi’s little splatter-film-that-could initially received an X-rating and was considered a “video nasty” or a “number one nasty,” and for all the right reasons: blood, guts, and pus spray everywhere; body parts are smashed or lopped off with ease; and, well, a woman is raped by a tree. No, Ash didn’t sell The Evil Dead, the violence did. So, following a handful of episodes that thrived from much-needed character development, it’s a relief to stumble into a messy half hour like “The Killer of Killers”, where the series revisits its murderous alma mater at an unfortunate roadside diner.
No kidding. Within minutes, an ice skate bludgeons a teenager, a child gets lodged into a ceiling fan, a wooden spike slams straight into a chef’s skull, and Kelly goes to town on a Deadite with a meat slicer. That’s not all: Ash proves he’s a fully articulated action figure, using his new glove’s screwdriver app to shred a gnarly waitress, before he’s tossed his trusty chainsaw hand and boomstick, all of which do a real number on the easily possessed Lieutenant Boyle. To top it off, Pablo heroically slides across the floor as if he’s slipping down an ol’ Wet Banana, while Fisher finally (hopefully) realizes guns hardly do shit to Deadites. The least she could do is go for a head shot.
Goddamn is there a lot to unpack from “The Killer of Killers”, specifically whatever happened to Ruby Knowby. The episode’s hefty cold opening shook her character around, leaving us stranded with a few questions, namely: What the hell was that creepy, Tooth Fairy-looking ghost behind her in the ranch house? Why did the Ray Harryhausen skeleton call her a “double crosser”? And finally, where did she go? There’s no way they killed off Lucy Lawless, so she had to be taken somewhere. As many of you readers have already speculated over the past couple of weeks, there’s something off about Knowby’s character, and the Brujo bones’ taunting only adds fuel to that fire, as it warned: “We’ll never let you get the book for yourself.”
Does this mean she’s been evil all along? If so, was she taken back into, let’s call it, the Kandarian underworld? Could this then hint at possible alternate dimensions in future episodes? It’s exciting stuff, but also anyone’s guess at the moment, even for those who caught the polarizing clip from Lawless and Bruce Campbell’s Late Show appearance weeks ago. But let’s say she isn’t dead--because, c’mon, she totally isn’t--and that she’s going to serve as the playful antagonist a la Evil Ash in Army of Darkness. Would this imply that she has always been a design of the demons? Or was she simply a naive sibling, who was unfortunately possessed somewhere along the way?
Again, there are so many questions to consider, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The two storylines are finally merging, and the prospects look very good. In fact, the idea of having Ruby serve as an anti-Ash would be ideal, especially now that Fisher has joined the wolf pack and appears to be a true believer in Ash, despite his sleazy come-ons and the whole shoving-his-face-in-a-urinal-trough bit. Oh, but wasn’t it deserved? Ash’s sleaze levels were at an all-time high in this episode, from the way he propositioned his five-star waitress in lieu of paying $22.89 (“Nancy, would you like me to string your racket?”) to how he glared at Fisher’s bustline (“Is that lavender?”). But hey, the red mints and sinkwater was a solid TIL for cheap men everywhere.
What’s more, we get to meet one of Ash’s old pals! Oh, this Lem’s a real winner, though. He cleverly attempts to score a deal on “toilet paper and ammo” from his Value Stop insider and proudly declares that he’s been sober for nine whole days. Joking aside, his disheveled military fatigues, use of “militia,” and teasing of “really cool toys” suggest that he’s a doomsday prepper. It was only a matter of a time before this series tackled that culture, which entertained millions through the National Geographic Channel for about two years and 54 episodes, but it makes sense for Ash’s story. He’s a god to someone like Lem, who probably bought him way too many drinks over the years. Sadly, it appears The Force has other plans for Lem by the end of this episode, but whoever’s on the other side of his phone call could prove useful.
Now that David Frazee’s two-episode run is complete, veteran TV director and Renaissance Pictures alumni Michael Hurst (Xena: The Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) kicks off his own two with wild results. Similar to Frazee’s entries, there’s a lot of eye candy in “The Killer of Killers”. Towards the end, when Lem races off into the woods, an assembly of gorgeous wide shots capitalize on the gloomy patches of sunlight that drift through the branches. Given their storied history, there are also expectedly strong glimmers of Raimi’s own trademarks in Hurst’s work--the way he speeds up the framing during the “food fight”, the not-so-subtle foreshadowing of the fan, meat slicer, and ice skates--that once again neutralize any fears that this show will ever stray from the original vision.
Which is something few fans, if any, should really worry about anymore. We’re now six episodes deep and it’s fairly obvious that Ash Vs. Evil Dead knows what it’s doing. Look no further than the series’ athletic pacing, which hasn’t been too fast or too slow, even if “Books From Beyond” was kind of a mess. “The Killer of Killers” is a total rollercoaster, but it’s also a filler episode, a bridge between two major points, when you boil it down. Why it works speaks to the strengths of writer Nate Crocker, who hilariously turns an unpaid breakfast bill into an unlikely plot device, but at least part of that success also belongs to showrunner Craig DiGregorio. In less than a full season, he’s managed to distract us from why we worship the Evil Dead name in the first place yet still honor that relationship as he carves it into something bigger.
This was one of those moments.
- Looks like Ash’s red right hand hit the road. Maybe it’s hitchhiking?
- Pablo: “If I was a Deadite, I’d be honored to have you chop my head off.”
- “I want payback. You don’t get to take that away from me.” Should we be worried about Kelly? Not yet. If you recall, she actually hasn’t seen a Deadite since her mother four episodes back. Her “thin-sliced” revenge was well deserved, and will undoubtedly keep coming.
- Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo’s chemistry remains stable post-exorcism, if not incredibly awkward. “When you were possessed, you tried to fuck me and kill me.” I love how blunt the dialogue gets in this show.
- ICYMI: The Necronomicon has “serious beef” with Pablo’s medallion.
- The interior of Ash’s trailer has become a Loaded Weapon 1 parody:
- This week’s Top Deadite goes to Nancy, if only for her ghastly death. I rewound that meat slicer scene way too many times for my own sanity.
- Campbell works well with everyone on this show, but I’m interested to see how he pairs with Jill Marie Jones now that they’re on the same team. There’s an implied and truly perverted Sam and Diane thing going on between the two, but it’s offering some genuine laughs. Should be fun.
- I could never hear Styx’s “Renegade” without seeing the drunken montage from Billy Madison. Finally, that’s changed. What a bad ass closer.
- It’s officially official: We’re going back to the cabin, where it all began, but will there be any more stops along the way? We’ll see next week, hotcakes.
- In the meantime, here’s some more weekend reading...