To say there are skeletons in the closet for Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is an understatement. The guy has so many ancient demons lingering around that it’s almost impossible for him to finish a can of Shemp’s without having to reach for his chainsaw. But, the same could be said of Ash Vs. Evil Dead, too, especially given that we still don’t exactly know what the hell happened at the end of season two and that so many loose ends remain dangling about.
In the past, this hasn’t mattered much because The Evil Dead franchise is mired in narrative hiccups, the likes of which have all too often been glossed over without much concern. Christ, the fact that Campbell has gone on record to explain the transition from the first film into the 1987 sequel, thanks to all the behind-the-scenes legal mumbo jumbo, is partly the charm of the series.
Television demands consistency, though, which is why a franchise as gnarled as The Evil Dead was always going to struggle in that area. To their credit, showrunners Craig DiGregorio and Mark Verheiden have done a remarkable job parsing through the Jerry-rigged mythology, enough that it’s still uncanny anyone can watch Ash Vs. Evil Dead without consulting a wiki or subreddit.
Having said that, the series still finds itself creating the same knots the films did, namely in the way it draws out the narrative while paying respect to the past. Which is why you get an episode like “Unfinished Business” every once in awhile, the type of clean-up chapter that not only clarifies previously outstanding elements but also greases the wheels to get things moving. Because by the end of this episode, things are starting to feel consistent again.
Of course, the big revelation is that we finally know what Brock Williams (Lee Majors) promised his son at the end of “Last Call” from season two. To recap, the former Six Million Dollar Man had finally warmed up to his son, and as he confessed that “There’s something I’ve kept from you, something so vital that the future of your life may—” ...well, he was run down by the possessed Delta, splattering our hero with blood and guts and everything in between.
Writer Nicki Paluga takes this mystery to the tool shed by leaning on the age-old It’s a Wonderful Life/A Christmas Carol trope, resurrecting Brock for the second time this season, though as a not-so-saintly ghost. “Well, it’s nice to see you,” Ash tells his real father, “even if I’m looking right through you.” Yes, it’s a hackneyed medium at this point, but hey, Paluga’s at least a little self aware about it, as Brock references the old Frank Capra flick to his confused son.
True to the Williams’ brand of idiocy, it’s an incredibly uneventful and dubious setup that finds Brock being visited by a Sumerian knight around Christmas of 2012. Naturally, he has the key to solving all of Ash’s problems—lost pages of the Necromonicon—but Brock doesn’t give a shit and winds up killing the guy by kicking him in the groin and locking him up with his stash of Spam. The good news is that it’s all still down there, and Ash now has an upper hand on Ruby.
But, here’s the other big revelation: Remember when Dalton talked about that evil sorceress Kaya two episodes back? (Ahem, the sperm bank episode?) Well, she’s back and FaceTimes Ruby through the Necronomicon, informing her that, “The portal to the Netherworld has been established. It’s only a matter of time before the dark ones break free.” Angered and bewildered, Ruby insists she’ll set Kaya free once she finds “a suitable host.” In other words, start guessing who’s going to be the lucky contestant there. Kelly? Brandy? The demon baby?
Speaking of which, Ruby’s latest offspring is a hell of a lot worse than those creeps we saw at the end of season one—something Ash realizes real fast when he makes his way to the Prevett estate toward the end. “Huge foreign person—relax,” he stubbornly tells Natalie (Samantha Young). “I’ve dealt with kids like this before.” Then comes that scream that could send Donald Sutherland to the hills and he realizes he’s totally out of his element.
Also out of her league is Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo). After playing older sister to Brandy, whipping Ash’s daughter into a true believer (“Everything he’s done since he knew you existed is to protect you”) with her signature tough love (“You are as stubborn as your old man”), she succumbs to a nasty wound from a possessed Pablo that’s straight out of The Book of David Cronenberg. Let’s just say, the two have never been closer, as her would-be partner-in-crime is literally growing out of her leg. It’s nasty, it’s ludicrous, and it’s arguably the craziest thing that happens in an episode littered with batshit.
Yet despite being an episode chock full of whoppers, “Unfinished Business” comes off as a little redundant. So much so that Paluga appears inclined to sprinkle the action with lines that speak to that notion. “I’ve had a little experience with dead bodies and cellars, Dad,” Ash says to Brock, their rapport recalling Ford and Connery via The Last Crusade. He’s not wrong, but we’ve also seen stand-offs in Ash’s trailer—hence, why he’s opted for bulletproof glass—and eerie demon babies. So, in that light, it’s not a very compelling half hour.
On the other hand, “Unfinished Business” accomplishes exactly what its title suggests, sawing through the nasty weeds so that we can focus on the greener grass ahead. Sure, Paluga could have shaken things up a little, but the actual execution—particularly, Daniel Nettheim’s stylish direction and DeLorenzo’s emphatic defense for Ash (“Ash may be a perverted drunk with racial tendencies, but he has his moments”)—makes for an engaging purge. Besides, it’s not like any of us are going to get that Pablo wound out of our heads, especially those of you who suffer from trypophobia. Good god no.
- Brock: “Damn, you miss a lot when you’re dead.” Did that line sting for anyone else? Majors has been such a win for this series, and his chemistry with Campbell is one of the reasons why I’m always game for his return.
- Let it be known that Ash spent more money on repairing the Delta than burying his pops. What a schmuck.
- Kelly with the line of the episode: “Hold up, Daria.”
- That entire Air Supply sequence is why we keep tuning in.
- Love, love, love that they finally addressed the “Ashley” name. Perhaps the show will go the Defending Your Life route in the future and we’ll see some of those “playground beatings” that Ash talks about.
- Too Hot to Brock: “I’m gonna let you have one of Ike and Tina Turner’s greatest hits.” Ouch.
- Anyone else chuckle at all the Stooges sound effects in the cellar? That whole tentacle sequence was very Raimi-esque—like a symbiote or something?
- It’s official: The Necronomicon traps souls like Freddy’s chest, which means Scotty is somewhere in there. Oh god, how I love (and miss) Scotty.
- This week’s Top Deadite obviously goes to Pablo, but hardly by default. It’s impossible to sleep on Ray Santiago’s physical performances and this episode finds him going Full Balboa.
- Farewell, Dalton. You served a purpose, albeit rather small, but as we know in this series, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Okay, quit it with the Rocky bits, Mike.
- Next week we’re baby proofing and things get even more ridiculous for Ash. Without spoiling much, expect another sequence that’ll leave you in stitches.
- Let’s say it together: Catch you on the flip-flop.