In the 23 years since the final Evil Dead installment, Army of Darkness, countless rumors and fan-fueled speculation of a fourth entry has enveloped the franchise. While that news may never come to fruition, on Halloween night devoted fans of Sam Raimi's body horror creation were treated to the pilot episode of Ash vs Evil Dead (Currently airing on Starz). With Sam Raimi and his brother Ivan directing, producing, and penning the script, this first episode was everything an Evil Dead television show should be: darkly comedic and humorously scary. Best of all, Bruce Campbell returns as Ash Williams in the character of a lifetime, as both are synonymous.
El Jefe is the introductory episode which promotes Ash Williams to an audience of the 21st century, 30 years after the initial events of 1981's The Evil Dead. In the span of three decades not much has changed, save for Ash's "rosewood" hand, but the titular character is still as unstoppable and as lovingly petulant as ever. He works as a senior sales clerk at the local Value Stop, and has no defined ambition other than to have grimy, groovy sex with whorish townies in dive bars. These characteristic traits have served the franchise as a whole, but are a complete departure from his quiet personality in The Evil Dead. Regardless, in a genre where the serial killers are the ones to be feared, it is highly refreshing to have a human with as much capacity to kick undead ass.
The frenetic 40 minute pilot exceeds with establishing a balanced pace that allows for ample character development and proceeds manically in introducing the evil unleashed by the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. And just how were the deadites brought back from the grave? Well, in the most Evil Dead fashion: Ash, attempting to impress a one-night stand with poetry, reads from the book of the undead while high on marijuana. Yes, it is as simple as that, but somehow it works and that's wonderful. Nowadays too many shows devote a lot of time explaining the mythology behind their source material, but the Evil Dead franchise has never had to rely on such a burden.
Ash's nimble idiocy is matched by the bravado of his fellow co-worker, Pablo Simon Bolivar, and the cynicism of his possible future love interest, Kelly Maxwell. By the end of the episode it is clear that this Scooby gang is going to have their hands (and chainsaws) full with The Force and Kandarian demons. Elsewhere, Michigan State Police Officer Amanda Fisher tackles the first deadite attack when she responds to a distress call from a cabin in the woods containing Ash's possessed hook-up. This set piece establishes the standard for future, wildly fun encounters to come, including the most stylish, tense, and expertly executed scenes in the pilot. I am referring to the instance where a rotating flashlight provides an ominous reveal for Officer Fisher. It is not explained yet, but somehow these characters are going to come together, and I'm certain Fisher is going to provide Ash with some material to think on.
There are still 360 more minutes left of the first season, not including the already ordered season two, and this new chapter in Ash's saga is going to outrun (in length) the feature film portion of the franchise. Will this prove beneficial? All signs point to yes. There is much mythology to be explored, and Evil Dead has never committed to one specific genre, as 1992's Army of Darkness saw Ash Williams traveling back to medieval times. More than horror and comedy, Ash vs Evil Dead is a work of fantasy that knows no bounds. There are no limitations to the characters or stories, and this season we finally see Ash and his counterparts in a suburban setting far from the cabin in the woods. Many thrilling adventures are yet to come, there are many gory special effects left to be seen, and it truly is a glorious time to be dead alive.